Amber Maida does not simply enter a room. Fully aware of her surroundings and sensitive to the energy found there, she moves like the dancer she was trained to be. As an artist, her work is fully reflective of her spiritual and physical journeys, the triumph she had over what could have been debilitating disease and an intense connection with her Native American heritage.
The rhythm of routine
“My work begins with a spiritual ritual of Chi-cultivation, grounding me deeply into the earth; embodying its energy and guiding my hands like a dance, while simultaneously building the story that connects with the practices of my Native American ancestors.”
Every day spent in her studio begins with ritual that gives her focus and allows her to honor both the space and her work. “I use white sage to purify and follow that with burning of palo santo woods. I meditate. Then I can begin to allow the work to truly begin. This symbolic connection with my heritage charges the canvas with positive energy, preserving a storied past.”
If that fusion of heritage and awareness appears complex, then viewing her work, currently on display at the Souterrain Gallery in West Cornwall, CT, creates a powerful attraction for the viewer that unifies the experience. Bianka Langner-Griggs who with her husband, Richard Griggs owns the gallery said of Amber’s work, “These primarily abstract artworks give life to found and discarded objects that are both rich in symbolism and texture.” The solo exhibit, quizzically named Oubliette, will be on display through Sunday, November 21. The French word describes a dungeon accessible only through an entrance at the top.
In the eye of the beholder
“Not everyone sees my work in the same way,” she readily admits. “Individuals bring their own experience to the visual conversation, which allows me to speak loudly without words.” The wordless storytelling invites viewers to enter the artist’s experience and judge for themselves the meaning and emotion presented.
Raised in Buffalo, NY, Amber toured as a young dancer and met her husband Pete along the way. His parents owned the Stratford (CT) Performing Arts Academy where, some years later, Amber would teach after cross-country moves brought the two of them back to Connecticut, eventually settling in Warren near Lake Waramaug.
“I was diagnosed with a serious lung tumor which required surgery and prompted us to move to the drier air of Southern California.” For five years, she honed her artistry while she healed and regained the strength to work in both painting and dance.
The intersection of music, dance, and painting allowed her to build a performance experience that had her working to music – both recorded and live. “As a dancer, I learned early on that performance is fluid and constant. A dancer does not appear on stage, then begin to dance, simply exiting when she has completed her performance. When you are on stage, there is never a moment when you are not performing. That complete experience is something I can reflect in my work.”
Reflections of the current age
Entrances and Exits, a solo show of her work that appeared at The Mattatuck Museum seemed to presage the emotional turmoil of the past two years as America was dragged into a global pandemic that witnessed far too many exits that were the result of unwanted entrances. “I had to be very careful,” Amber affirms. “With my history of serious illness in my lungs, we had to be very, very cautious.” The pandemic heavily impacted many lives by causing months of confinement and isolation. “I used that time to dig deeper into the spiritual nature of my work,” she affirms. The resulting creative output draws heavily from nature, presents gently complex images that are both soothing and challenging.
“There are at least 20 layers in each of my pieces. Although I work on several pieces at the same time, it can take me a year and a half to finish a canvas.” Woven into each piece can be a wide variety of elements drawn from Amber’s surroundings – graphite, charcoal, coffee, found objects, rope, dried flowers, roots, egg shells, maple seedlings, antique papers, and gractured glass – incorporated into base applications of encaustic, silicone and various paints.
The results of Amber’s abstract work have been celebrated in gallery and museum shows across the country and in Europe. Widely collected, she has enjoyed reviews that recognize the inherent spirituality of her work and the way her visual and tactile engagement is reflected in the final pieces. Delicate sculptures made of paper thin clay combined with found objects from nature are a three-dimensional mirroring of her paintings and assemblies.
Life blended with art
When Maida’s work was on display at Serendipity Gallery in Litchfield, CT, the curation notes highlighted the intricate relationship between her spiritual journey and her work. “Amber’s path through healing has had a tremendous impact on the creative process which involves infusing the work with meditative and positive prayer practices in hopes the paintings mirror the positivity and hope back to the viewer. Formerly a Connecticut dance teacher and Licensed Massage Therapist, Amber incorporates her journey through the performing and healing arts in her art making.”
Maida’s work has been included in juried and group exhibitions at museums and galleries ranging from The New Britain Museum of American Art and The Housatonic Museum of Art in Bridgeport, CT, to Theartbay Gallery in Staffordshire, England, and the Bunny Gunner Gallery in Claremont, CA.
Amber Maida’s Oubliette is on display at Souterrain Gallery, 413 Sharon Goshen Turnpike in the center of West Cornwall, CT. Gallery hours are Thursday through Sunday, 11am to 5pm.
For more of Amber Maida’s work, visit her website www.ambermaida.com.
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