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Painter Amy Bennett talks about her favorite books – Page 2

Painter Amy Bennett talks about some interesting books...

READERSVOICE.COM: Could you recommend about four or five books you’ve really liked and maybe say why you liked them?

AMY BENNETT: I enjoyed Justin Spring’s biography, Fairfield Porter: A Life in Art. He was not only a painter, but an intellectual, an art critic, and a teacher. Plus, he grew up in a strange family and then created an even stranger one of his own. I usually have a strong preference for fiction, but Spring writes with a narrative sensibility that recreates a world populated by the likes of painters Willem DeKooning and Larry Rivers, and poets James Schuyler and John Ashberry.

Another non-fiction book I’d recommend is Vermeer in Bosnia by Lawrence Weschler. Weschler finds connections between seemingly disparate things.

Shortcuts, by Raymond Carver is a favorite and has been an influence, of course.

I read Alice Munro’s collection of stories, Runaway, most recently, but you probably can’t go wrong with any of her work.

My last recommendation is one my husband recommended to me: Chris Ware’s Acme Novelty Library. It is funny and heartbreaking and beautiful.

RV: Do you think the pendulum is starting to swing back to realistic paintings now, after the many years of seeming critical and academic preference for abstract art?

AB: The art world is big enough at the moment to embrace both representational and abstract art, isn’t it?

I think the resurgence of figurative and representational painting is making anyone who proclaimed the death of painting at the final reduction of abstraction look a bit silly and deficient of imagination. Painters are proving every day that there isn’t a finite path for abstraction or representation.

But yes, representational painting is finally seeing a resurgence in appreciation.

RV: In 2002 you received an MFA from the New York Academy of Art. I was wondering what new things you learned at this institution, and what you remember about your time there.

AB: The New York Academy of Art focuses on the human figure to develop skills for the creation of representational artwork. The curriculum is intensively focused on anatomy, perspective, and traditional drawing and painting techniques. When I first went there, I needed to have something in front of me in order to draw it, but by the time I left, I was able to paint the figure from my imagination or memory. That has freed me up to do whatever I want.

RV: What’s your daily routine in Brooklyn?

AB: I try to get to my studio in DUMBO by around 9/9:30. Luckily, I get to walk there, which is a wonderful way to start the day. I break for lunch, which I eat in my studio. If the weather’s nice, I usually take another break in the late afternoon to go for a walk along the waterfront between the bridges or through Cadman Plaza Park. I try to make it coincide with when the sun is beginning to set. I usually head home around 6/6:30. I prepare dinner for my husband and myself and then read or email or watch a movie in the evening while my husband works on his comics.

RV: Do you spend all your creative time painting new works, or do you spend time on other projects, like drawing, or sketching around New York?

AB: I’m very focused. I love painting so much more than working with any other medium. Whenever I start drawing, I always wish I was using a brush instead of a pencil. I guess I just think more in terms of shapes of light rather than line. I was a printmaking major in undergrad, though, and I hope to get back into a shop soon to try my hand at it again.

RV: What comments about your work did you get from people at the current Neighbors exhibition at the Richard Heller Gallery in Los Angeles?

AB: I had a couple of memorable comments. One woman told me that the work looked “soulless” and another woman said the work “looked like it had been done by a man,” but that I should “take it as a compliment, because whenever something is done with competence, you assume it was done by a man.” I’ve tried to forget those words (obviously without much success) and instead focus on all of the positive and generous things people had to say.

People seemed to respond favorably to the mood and lighting and detail. I enjoyed seeing people get up close to the work and try to figure out what was going on. I also received a lot of comments on the surface of the paintings, which is flat and somewhat glossy, and seems to remind people of a photo’s surface.
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