I am an Artist: Amy Oestreicher, Connecticut
I am an artist because I couldn’t imagine any other way of connecting with my world, myself, and my passion. I wake up every morning with a drive to create. Every sensation I touch, every breath I inhale brings an image to my mind that fills me with giddy excitement. I find inspiration in each everyday miracle, and my first impulse is to create something with it. When I do, I feel aligned with the universe – like something larger is moving through me. I feel the big, limitless expanse of sky above me, my feet grounded in the earth, and my heart pulled between the two extremes. I am an artist because that is how I feel like I belong. It’s my role in the world, and it’s how I can share my passion with others, and receive inspiration from everything around me.
I am an artist because I’m a busy-body – I’ve always felt a need to do, to make, to document what I feel in some kind of artistic way. Experiencing beauty all around me is only the first part of the process. Making something of the beauty is just taking a step further. For me, seeing the role of an artist truly be fulfilled is being able to give back what I create, to share my work. And last – I am an artist because I will forever be happily reveling in why I am an artist. My question is – for anyone – why not?
2. What is your favorite medium and why?
I am a self taught artist, so I am spoiled by oblivion and also a creature of habit. I first learned to make “art” when stuck in the hospital for months after a disastrous surgery. My mother simply piled some scrabs of fabrics and a kid’s paint set on my bed. You might call that “Mixed Media”!
Although my materials have grown more sophisticated, my working process is intuitive and instinctive. Visual art comes naturally to me, as an effective way to express myself after surviving a coma and almost 30 surgeries. I tend to work with a lot of layering and mixed media materials – anything from tissue paper to fabric, buttons, papers, or toilet paper (I created much art in hospitals and was very limited with materials!). The process really depends on what I am sensing within. I love playing with textures, colors and shapes and allowing them to form the sadness, frustration, joy, or whatever inspiration I am feeling at that moment.
As an artist, I love being a scavenger. I really don’t care what ends up sticking on my collages – cardboard, old lids, plastic wrap, napkins – once it’s covered with paint, it can all look beautiful! For me, it’s about the process. Painting is my way to pinpoint exactly what I’m feeling when I might be too overwhelmed with emotions or memories to have the right words to express it. Art can take me to deep, dark places where I uncover sadness from my past, or it can elevate me to amazing heights when I realize the joy and gratitude I feel – whatever the emotion, art is my lifeline to it – and I’m rather feel anything – good OR bad, then nothing at all!
For many of my mixed media collages, I start by covering the entire canvas with magazine pictures. I don’t mind if certain layers are not seen in the final picture. It’s the journey of creating that matters to me. Then I cover the canvas with clear gesso or matte medium, and after that, it’s a free-for-all – anything goes, such as tissue paper, decoupage napkins, doilies and anything I can get my hands on.
When I feel like I’ve done enough layering, the meaning behind the piece usually emerges. Then I paint whimsical shapes with a paintbrush and acrylics. Sometimes I use a brayer for added background colors. I may embellish the finished piece with anything from buttons, charms, lace, old scraps of clothes, my mother’s vintage jewelry, clay, letters cut out from magazines, and puff-paint. My working process has been described as “obsessive in a good way.” When I work, I am under its spell, working for hours and feeling such a warm feeling in my whole body when it is completed.
3. What inspires your work?
Originally, painting became such a blessing for me because it was an amazing way for me to express what was too overwhelming,frustrating and scary for words. Whatever distress I was feeling, whatever uncertainty I wrestled with, once I put my brush to the canvas, something felt released – my sadness was still there, but at least I could feel it. And so for a long while, my sadness inspired my painting. YET, it would transform my painting. Even if I was feeling the lowest I’ve ever felt, somehow my paintings would be a celebration of joy. It’s as though my subconscious were rejoicing in the fact that I was acknowledging and expressing how I really was feeling.
Most importantly, I paint whatever I feel from the heart. I love experimenting with acrylics, painting my world of trees, birds, flight, girls dancing, and tear drops. These are symbols that have appeared over time to me – my “markers” to let me know how “Amy’s” really doing. The minute I start seeing a tear emerge on the canvas, I can tell I’m harboring up some feeling about an old memory. That red knot I’m scribbling away at? Oh, I must be anxious. And when my flowers start to sing…I’m happy.
Of course, my latest inspiration has been love and romance. I feel very blessed to have found such a deep connection, and my fiancé – who will become my husband in a few weeks – has been my main inspiration now! Basically, life inspires me – the fact that life always gives us second chances – that it’s never too late to grow, learn, evolve, and continually change.
4. What role does the figure play in your work?
I’ve had a very interesting relationship with figure drawing. Being a self taught artist, the idea of drawing the human body always has intimidated me – we all have an inner critic! However, I used figures in my work over and over again throughout the years in order to process what I was feeling after nearly 30 life AND body-altering surgeries. After every urgery, I would wake up with a new anatomy – a bag here, no belly button here, this missing, that added. It was very dissociating and made me feel like an alien to myself. I drew the figure to find wholeness with my body again, to accept it, to show the different “selves” of me, to love it as my own. Now, I am very fascinated with the figure in how it relates to the world, nature, and the flesh. Seeing my “figures” look more and more body-like reassures me – it lets me know that I am starting to feel human, starting to accept my body for what it has been through, and call it my own.
5. What role does color play in your work?
I love color. I use color at every opportunity – I see a world full of vibrancy and aliveness, music everywhere. Even when I try to limit my color palette, I usually have a difficult time – but often try to do it as an exercise in “minimalism!”
6. What is the value of art in our society?
Art can do so much for our society. I see all that it has done in just the small scope of what I have contributed as an artist. Through my art, I have shared my messafe of hope, strength and finding gratitude in the beautiful detours that life takes us on. I see that art can have an impact. It can cause people to walk away transformed, or at least with a new thought in their minds, a new breath in their bodies.Art connects people. Art reaches to every kind of learner and get catch at the heart. Art has the power to change people by prompting self-reflection. Any opportunity to see things differently is an opportunity for change. Art keeps our society evolving, while stil keeping its heart.
7. Where do you see yourself as an artist in 5 years?
Besides married and painting the kids’ nurseries, I want to reach out to the world in even larger and unforeseen ways, more than I’ve done yet. I want to take my art to hospitals and inspire children to create to feel empowered in certain situations. I want to turn my art into a message, maybe the inspiration for a foundation advocating for healing through the arts. I want my art to continue to be my e means of sharing my story, inspiring others, giving back and changing the world. With more tangible goals, I hope to publish a book of inspirational prints and some of my writings, , teach workshops, connect with others more, travel and gather art inspiration from foreign places, , and learn new mediums. I’ve been timidly tiptoing into the world of sculpture and want to dive into that too – I’ve been told that sometimes my crazy art ideas feel too compressed on a canvas and would have room to breathe in sculpture – so I’m intrigued! Encaustics, resin, I’m craving new mediums…
8. What are your ultimate goals as an artist?
To reach others and share my heart. To feel transformed by the world and to feel. Most of all, to keep creating and to always be inspired
9. What does art mean to you?
Art gives me meaning. Art means I exist.
Amy Oestreicher is a 28 year old actress, musician, teacher, composer, dancer, writer, artist, yogi, foodie, and general lover of life. Surviving and thriving through a coma, 27 surgeries and other trauma has inspired Amy to share her story with the world through her passionate desire to create and help others. Piecing her life together after her initial dreams of performing musical theatre took on a beautiful detour into broader horizons. Amy has written, directed and starred in a one woman musical about her life, Gutless & Grateful, has flourished as a mixed media and acrylic artist, with her art in multiple galleries and mounting dozens of solo art shows, and continues to share her story through her art, music, theatre and writings.
More information on her unique story, as well as her creative ventures can be found at amyoes.com, and visit her blog for her newest art, music and inspirational musings. You can also visit her Etsy shop here.
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