“I like bringing art outside of the traditional gallery and museum spaces and making it more accessible.”–Amanda Browder
On September 28th, the 10th Annual FAB Festival in NYC will take place and artist Amanda Browder will be there to wish everyone a bright and cheery good morning. Commissioned by FABnyc, Browder’s fabric sculpture entitled “Good Morning!” will cover the 70 East 4th Street Cultural Center from top to bottom. Produced from repurposed fabric as part of FABnyc’s SUSTAIN project, the installation was realized with generous support from the Rockefeller Cultural Innovation Fund. Through a series of public sewing days, Browder has been collaborating all summer with the public at nearby venues like the Jasa Center in order to complete the project.
Browder is a sculptor whose works occupy “a state of betweenness”– a place that is cushioned between soft sculpture and public object installations. The Brooklyn-based artist works with soft fabric and hard angles, creating pieces that possess an abstracted minimalism punctuated with color. Through geometric patterning, Browder’s works explore shifts in scale and sculptural perceptions. Browder has a BA from Beloit College and an MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
RANY’s Heather Zises recently stopped by the Jasa Center on a public sewing day to speak with Browder about her work:
HZ: Hi Amanda! Tell me about your upcoming project, Good Morning!
AB: Good Morning! was made possible by FABnyc. They sponsor all types of artists who make public art. FABnyc approached me because they saw my installation Hello Niagara! at the Dumbo Arts Festival last year. They helped me get generous support from the Rockefeller Cultural Innovation Fund and then commissioned me to create my fabric sculpture that will cover the 70 East 4th Street Cultural Center from top to bottom. It will be installed for two days. The title of the piece comes from the idea that “Good Morning!” is what you say on street when passing by a neighbor or a store owner. Like bright sunlight, it can be initially a shock to wake up to, but simultaneously pleasant. The expression “Good morning!” is also a transient thing you say when passing on the street and i feel that this sentiment aligns with the original intention behind all the works i create. My installations embody feelings of presence and loss. They are projects that require lots of planning but have a short presentation. Therefore as the viewer its important to acknowledge them right away.
HZ: Where do you source all your fabric? Have you always held “public sewing days”?
AB: I source fabric from all over the place! Industrial businesses and friends have donated quite a bit. One time I received amazing vintage fabric from Coney Island. Really amazing patterns and colors come in. Meanwhile, public sewing days are one of my favorite parts of my process; I like the communal sense that it brings to my art. I also feel that the sewing days make my art approachable because no sewing skills are necessary. We sort, cut, and measure fabric but we also just have fun! People can drop in for two minutes or two hours. I like bringing art outside of the traditional gallery and museum space and making it more accessible. When I moved to Greenpoint from Chicago in 2007, I didn’t want to feel like a “transplant” artist. So I took it upon myself to learn about my new neighborhood and get to know my community. One way for me to do this was to use my art as a social tool and conduct public sewing days. Over the years I’ve held these friendly gatherings in churches and local community centers. They became quite popular; The Daily News even featured an article about them in 2010!
HZ: What is the process behind creating your installations?
AB: I realized early on that my practice was multidisciplinary–I wasn’t strictly a sculptor nor was I strictly a painter–I was hovering somewhere between 2D and 3D. In order to fit my work into spaces (and how it will translate to the environment), I think in 3D like a sculptor. Yet when assembling my fabrics I think in 2D like a painter–I consider color and pattern contrasts between columns of fabric. I also approach my works like a mathematician. When I was an undergrad at Beloit, I was actually a math major for two years before switching over to fine art. Once you get past the basics, math can be very abstract! Therefore I enjoy incorporating geometry into my installations. I carefully consider stripes, diagonals, angles and the uniformity of sections. When creating a soft sculpture design, I tape lines directly onto the fabric to create patterns so I know where to cut. Fabrics have different levels of flexibility so Its helpful to keep that in mind during the assembly process. Good Morning! has a trapezoidal scheme. I have rendered several schematics that outline the dimensions of the fabric and the overall design. I’ve also enlisted a few architects to help with the installation of the work so it will stay fastened to the building.
HZ: What were you doing in Chicago after grad school and before you moved to Greenpoint?
AB: I was teaching Art Foundations and Fibers at the Art Institute of Chicago. That subject incorporates knitting, crochet and fabric dyeing. I also started my Bad at Sports (B@S) podcast with Richard Holland and Duncan McKenzie. (B@S) is a weekly podcast, a series of objects, events, and a daily blog produced in Chicago, San Francisco, Detroit and New York City that features artists and curators talking about art and the community that makes, reviews and participates in it. We produce content that lies somewhere on the venn diagram of art, journalism, media, intellectualism, and “the naughty bits.” (B@S) has collaborated with Apexart, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Baer Ridgeway, NADA Art Fair, Open Engagement and we share collaborators with Art Forum, Art Practical, The Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine, Art21, BUST magazine, Proximity Magazine, Modern Painters, Beautiful Decay Magazine, Art in America and numerous other publications.
HZ: Lots of luck to you with Good Morning!
AB: Thanks! I hope that everyone can come visit the FAB festival and enjoy a day of art and culture!
Fourth Arts Block (FABnyc) is a non-profit organization founded in 2001 by cultural and community groups to establish and advance the East 4th Street Cultural District, between 2nd Avenue and Bowery. FABnyc provides a variety of services to its member organizations including leading the development and conversion of 100,000 square feet of cultural space, marketing and promotion of the district, as well as offering discount ticketing and other community events and programs. Over the years East 4th Street has become a cultural destination supporting artists through grants and training. For a decade, East 4th Street has been hosting their annual block party–FAB Festival–on their historic city corridor. This one-day-only arts explosion features free performances by artists from across the Lower East Side, exhibits, and activities. In addition to 50+ performing artists, FABnyc presents numerous visual art projects to the block, including large scale installations by local artists.