Meet

Amelia Briggs

Where are you from and where do you reside?
I grew up in Northern Indiana, from there I moved to Indianapolis, Michigan, Memphis and eventually Nashville, Tennessee, where I currently live.
When did you begin your current practice?
I started making this series about two years ago as a way to break down the imagery I had been working with for a while. I really enjoyed the minimalism and sense of play. I liked the fact that each composition generated the sense of a beginning with endless possibility.
You have a particularly unique process for creating your artwork. What led you to this process and how did you know it was the right one to pursue?
I don’t think I realized it was the right one to pursue at first. When I first began I saw it as more of an exercise, a way to generate ideas for something else. Yet over time it started to take over my practice. When I had the first drawing printed onto fabric I just knew I needed to keep moving in this direction.
When did you start working with fabric, and why?
I started working with fabric about three year ago, incorporating them onto the surfaces of my paintings. Then, when I started making the drawings for this series I began experimenting with print options. Eventually, through trial and error, I fell in love with the way my drawings transferred onto delicate surfaces like silk and crepe.
What are some themes you find recurring in your pieces, intentional or not?
I have always been interested in capturing a sense of mystery in my work. I have often compared making two-dimensional work with poetry or filmmaking. I like to think of the images I generate as the setting of a stage for a viewer. I present clues and the viewer takes it from there.
How do you choose your source material?
My source material is inspired by coloring books, cartoons, and comics I select through instinct. I usually know immediately when I am drawn to a certain line or shape, something just clicks and I know that I need to incorporate it into my work in some way.
Slant
"I like to think of the images I generate as the setting of a stage for a viewer. I present clues and the viewer takes it from there." — Amelia Briggs
What tangible objects or intangible moments are you most interested in representing through your works?
I am always looking to present some sort of visual connection to a viewer’s relationship with cartoons or coloring books, whatever that may be. I am interested in these lines and shapes as a shared language that many people might relate back to their youth. I like to present a fragmented version of that narrative, one that has been emptied of specificity.
Where do you find your inspiration day-to-day?
Since we live in such a digital age I find a lot of inspiration online. For example, fashion can inspire me to use certain colors or shapes, and Instagram is a wealth of creative imagery. I also often buy coloring books and flip through them.
How has your work developed in the past few years?
Over the past few years I developed a better sense of instinct in the studio. This has led me to make work that is more minimal. In the past, I questioned myself too much and would often overwork or make things too complicated.
Slant
"I like to present a fragmented version of that narrative, one that has been emptied of specificity." — Amelia Briggs
How solitary is your art-making process?
I gather inspiration from many of my peers. It is hard to name just a few. There are so many talented artists working in Memphis and Nashville that I have had the pleasure of getting to know over the past few years. I have never done much collaborative work. Currently my practice is very solitary, however I would not be opposed to collaborating in the future.
How do your surroundings direct your approach to your work?
In the past I have tried to keep my home and work life separate, maintaining a studio away from where I live. However, now that I’ve been working from home for almost two years I have found that it helps me a great deal. I have dedicated our third bedroom to my studio, filling it with the books and objects that inspire me most. I make my best work when I am relaxed and uninterrupted. I find it easier to accomplish this at home.
Describe a typical day in the studio for you.
I usually start by reading a bit or flipping through some art books. I keep a large binder full of coloring book scraps and old pieces of fabric that I will sift through to generate ideas for new compositions. I will find a fragment or shape that interests me and use that as a starting point. I often have a few things in progress at the same time so I can move from one to the other.
How important is spontaneity in your art?
When I am working in the studio I try very hard to remain open to new possibilities. While I have specific parameters I work within, I don’t ever want to become to rigid or repetitive in my process.
What is the most difficult part of the artistic process for you?
Knowing when a piece is finished. I will often set something aside for a while when I can sense it getting close to being complete, so that I don’t over work it too much.
Are there any aspects of your process that are left to chance?
Nothing is planned out when I begin a new piece. I start with a simple line or shape and allow the process to lead my decision making. However, while this process can lead to unexpected outcomes, editing out what doesn’t work is equally important.
Did you go to art school? Did you have a mentor?
Yes, I received my BFA from Indiana University and my MFA from the University of Memphis. The painter Beth Edwards has been an important mentor for me. She really challenged me in the studio and helped me to develop confidence as an artist.
Is there any artwork on display in your home or studio? Whose is it?
I currently have several artists that I admire on display including, Kit Reuther, Holt Brasher, Rob Matthews, Ellen Dempsey, Caitlin Hettich, Hamlett Dobbins, Beth Edwards, Jodi Hays, Tad Lauritzen Wright, Tim Crowder, April Pierce, Anna Irace, Sarah Best Johnson, Peter Hoffecker Mejia, Gregory Allen Smith and Greely Myatt.
Do you remember the first work of art that captured your attention?
It is hard to name the first, however I fell hard for Philip Guston’s work in graduate school. I think I read every book I could find on him. I eventually got to see some of his work in person at the Art Institute of Chicago and I remember feeling so excited and overwhelmed at the same time.
Slant
"I like to think of this work as visual poems, mostly because when I am making them I think about visual rhythm and the importance of negative space–much like a poet thinks about the rhythm of words and what they choose to leave unsaid." — Amelia Briggs
Are you influenced by any author or non-visual artist?
I love the poems of Marie Howe, sometimes I read her work before entering the studio. This may sound cheesy but I like to think of this work as visual poems, mostly because when I am making them I think about visual rhythm and the importance of negative space–much like a poet thinks about the rhythm of words and what they choose to leave unsaid.
What’s one of your favorite objects you own? What’s the story?
It’s hard to name just one! I have a very old Grateful Dead t-shirt that used to be my father’s. It is so ripped and worn that it can hardly be worn, however I keep it hanging in my closet. I either stole it from him or he gave it to me, I can’t remember, but for some reason I am drawn to the worn greyed out fabric and ripped lettering. I also like the sense of history it holds.
Is there something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I have a Ronald McDonald glass collection. I don’t even like McDonalds or eat there but for some reason I collect the glassware.
What’s next for you?
I am not sure yet. I am excited about this series and look forward to seeing where it takes me.

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