56Bogart: Would you like to introduce yourself?
Amanda Browder: Yeah, sure. My name is Amanda Browder.
56B: And you’re a relative new-comer to New York?
AB: I moved out here because I wanted to live here and find out what it was all about. I grew up in the west and the west is very different from the east. I honestly was very scared of New York and didn’t know what to expect when I moved here. It was difficult for the first two years, but after a little while I settled in. I had a studio in Greenpoint, but had to move out. I found this place and moved in about a year ago.
56B: Where did you study?
AB: I went to undergrad at Beloit College and it was just a fluke. I was really bad at applying and Missoula is such a small and isolated town that I thought that I’d just go to the University of Montana, but my parents convinced me to apply somewhere else too. So I applied to Beloit College, got in and decided to go. Didn’t even visit it before I went, I just left. And after that I realized that I wanted to be an artist after being a math major for two years. I then went to the University of Wisconsin at Madison for graduate school. Again, I knew I would get in so that’s why I only applied there and it ended up being a great school. I taught in the grad program for two years. Right after grad school I moved to Chicago because I got a part time job teaching at the Art Institute of Chicago in the first year program and fibers department. That’s where I started [the] Bad At Sports [podcast] with my friends Duncan MacKenzie and Richard Holland. Then I decided to move to New York for a change.
56B: I was looking at your website and you write that you’re interested in the “transformative nature of materials.” I was wondering if you could speak on this a bit. Your work is very tactile and you use very particular materials…
AB: Sure. I use fabric because it is a familiar thing that you would see at home and we don’t always relate it to contemporary art. Paint has the traditions in contemporary art or art history and fabric does too, but it also connects with the private space of the home. So, for me I always felt that the transformative nature of fabric is taking all of the awesome qualities of the fabric that we recognize, say, if we were going to a second-hand store and then using them in contemporary art sense. So, it is that high - low conversation of course, but, you know how people explain words, like they have have different definitions? Well I think of objects as having different definitions and whatever thing you place upon it or whatever everybody’s objective understanding of that object changes the meaning. So I combine different characteristics of certain fabrics. We understand the origins of the object because we understand the fabric as fabric and whatever object I’m constructing has its own meaning as well. And the conversation between these meanings is what interests me; the vibration and awkward conversation.
In Japan I built a giant cave. A lot of the fabric and detritus [I used] was donated by members of the local community and I liked that conceptual background as well; the conversation beyond the one between the material and the object constructed.
56B: Speaking of transformative materials and experiences, I find that some of the most transformative experiences are conversations. It doesn’t surprise me that you are interested in inspiring conversations, interacting with communities directly and, of course, Bad At Sports… conversations!
AB: Yea, that’s true. In Chicago a long time ago we had only one art magazine called the New Art Examiner. It was the only art magazine that was coming out of Chicago. It closed and we (Chicago) sort of lost our voice in the contemporary art world. So, Bad At Sports was in response to that. With Bad At Sports we wanted to create a conversational, relaxed environment while talking about art and we wanted to be able to say dumb words. I mean, all three of us went to grad school. We were smart people and it wasn’t as if we didn’t know what was going on, but we wanted to have recorded conversations where it was like you were having a beer with the artist and laughing and making jokes about stuff; making it funny and entertaining versus too serious and over thought. And, yea, my work kind of connects that too.
56B: Talk to me about your palette; color seems vital to your work and your palette is consistently bright and fun.
AB: I just like bright colors! It is just part of the world that I enjoy. [My work] needs to be vibrant and exciting. The Rapunzel piece that I made, a huge waterfall of fabric coming out of my apartment, was in response to living in Chicago which is the coldest place in the world, colder than Montana. It is grey for a really long time. I took all of the fabric I had collected over five years, sewed it all together into one huge waterfall and threw it out my window. Kind of just like a release, like, “Oh my god, I need color in my life!”
One thing that was great about living in Montana was the connection with the earth. When you live in Missoula there are mountains everywhere around you. You have a comfortable understanding that there is me as a human and there is a larger scale of the earth that’s out there. One of the reasons that I make big work is to remind people of the intensity of the space that we live in, not be so insular, and that the bigger picture can be awe-inspiring.
56B: Has your practice changed at all since you moved to New York?
AB: I don’t know if it’s changed, but it progresses. I’ve noticed that my work is getting more complex and bigger. In Chicago I had a much smaller space. I think one thing I really love about New York, and that I didn’t expect when I moved here, is the openness that people have to either sharing spaces or helping out with projects. I think that a lot of people think that it is wildly difficult [here] and you can’t connect with people in a neighborhood, but I think the opposite. People are very open if you talk to the right people. Respect is very important, always giving back. For example, I cleaned a gymnasium in return for time to set up a piece. Not giving up on people, too. There is a family I worked with from Coney Island on a project a while ago and they are still donating fabric to me. We still keep in contact and I appreciate that. If you give people an opportunity to try something different it sometimes can be very positive.