// you’re reading...


Painter Amy Bennett talks about her favorite books – Page 3

Painter Amy Bennett talks about making models of a fictional small town for her narrative paintings...

READERSVOICE.COM: I read that you were married to comics artist Jonathan Bennett, and I was wondering how you met. Does your work or working methods influence his or vice versa?

AMY BENNETT: Jon and I met at art school. We were both printmaking majors who worked in the shop all of the time so we got to know each other really well.

It’s wonderful having an artist for a husband because we can share enthusiastically and offer each other criticism. It’s helpful that the comics and art worlds are pretty distinct from one another.

There’s no doubt that comics have influenced my thinking. I recently started developing sequential images. A couple of years ago, I was making paintings that looked down into apartments without perspective. Jon showed me lots of cartoonists who had explored similar concepts: Frank King, Richard McGuire, Chris Ware, etc. It’s an exciting medium that has a lot of common concerns with narrative painting.

RV: How did you get the idea to make the scale models of the houses and towns on which many of your paintings have been based, and how did you learn the skills to create these?

AB: I have always enjoyed painting from life, so up through graduate school, I always painted from a still life or a model (a person posing for me) or the landscape.

I used to like painting old toys because they seemed like characters you could project a lot onto. When I had the idea of looking down into apartments to relate the dramas of residences in close proximity, it was natural to use dollhouse furniture.

I created foam core walls to construct invented floor plans. I decorated the rooms and lit them as the narratives dictated. The still life became an environment that I could incorporate figures into. I made a different model for each painting.

My next project was to build a dollhouse-scale house made of wood that I could use for several paintings. My sister, Laura Kinney, generously loaned her expertise during a weekend-long crash course in woodworking in my living room. We had quarter-inch plywood and a dremel. It was bare bones, but it got the job done.

I decided to zoom out from 1/12 scale to 1/87 scale for my model neighborhood. I bought a book on model railroading and figured it out. My parents are both very crafty people, so I must have a bit of that in me. Model making is super fun. It’s scary how quickly time goes by when I’m working on a project.

RV: How will you go about preparing the Galleri Magnus Karlsson solo exhibition in Sweden in September? What things do you have to do between now and then, and how do you organise transportation of the paintings and other logistical matters?

AB: I think the show will be mostly winter scenes made from the neighborhood. Since I grew up in Maine, a snowy landscape triggers lots of ideas.

I’ve been dying to winterize my model, but there’s no going back, so I needed to do all of my non-snow images first. I’ll need to replace all of the leafy trees with bare-branched ones, replace the lawns with snow, and model snowbanks and ice puddles. Then I’ll get to start the paintings.

I’m not sure how the paintings will be shipped to Stockholm. I’ve shipped individual paintings there via FedEx, and I’ve shipped shows within the US using art shippers. I imagine I’ll have to build a crate and leave plenty of time. I’m sure the gallery will offer some guidance in that department.

RV: What are some of your long-term plans?

AB: I have an idea for another model that I’m really excited about. I think I’ll begin making it after my show this September. It’s good to let an idea mull for a while.
-See Amy Bennett’s paintings at www.amybennett.com