By Jordan Russell
There is an unassuming alleyway behind a tire shop, a place that anyone would drive past without a second glance. But in this alley there is a studio in which local artist Amelia Currier uses a relatively rare technique to create prints known as encaustic monotypes. On a “hotbox” warmed by rows of lightbulbs, Currier melts waxes and manipulates them with an expert stroke in order to create images that are striking yet ambiguous, inviting the viewer to attach their own meaning to the image.
“There’s no pretense about the image,” Currier said. “There’s no mushy, second agenda about what I’m trying to say about the work. It is what you see and then you can respond to it. Some contemporary art, they are trying to get something across and I like my work to be mysterious and not defined. I don’t have any secret message.”
Currier’s current collection, “Cave Translations” is currently on display at the University of Nevada, Reno’s ArtSpace gallery (located in downtown Reno’s West Street Market). The collection uses a diverse range of images, from ethereal washes of color to heavy geometric shapes, to explore the complex relationships between the concepts of home and the past, both recent and distant.
As a child, Currier dreamt of living in a cave — a home that would provide the comforts that her introverted self craved.
“I just liked the idea of the solitude and the safety and the mystery of living in a cave,” she said. “That’s really what these are — what I would have painted if I had lived in my little cave.”
Currier’s travels have afforded her the opportunity to explore her fascination with caves firsthand. She spent time living in Italy, where she was able to visit the Etruscan tombs. These ancient burial sites awoke Currier’s long-dormant cave fantasy.
“That fantasy came back to me and I started thinking about that more and that, kind of combined with my own fascination with aborigine art, cave art, the ancient caves in France and my own exposure to the Etruscan tombs, kind of came together as an idea of [being] back in that fantasy cave,” she said.
The rough, earth-toned elements of “Cave Translations” capture the essence of ancient art, and serve to further emphasize the idea of an individual’s connection to the past.
“The idea of the past kind of melds into the cave idea because that’s another preoccupation I have our connection with the very ancient past and that we really aren’t that different from how people were essentially,” Currier said. “I don’t know, but I like the idea that we’re all connected deep into the past and far into the future.”
While examining modern humanity’s connection to the distant past is a major theme of “Cave Translations,” the exhibit also explores the recent past, and the relationship an individual has with the memories of their childhood home.
“As you get older, your tendency is to try to see … the difference between what [your home] really was and what you want to remember it as; your fantasy of your childhood,” Currier said. “I think that muddiness of the truth, of the past, is something that I’m fascinated by; what really is your past?”
For Currier, the concepts of home and house expand far beyond providing shelter. Rather, one’s home serves the role of sanctuary.
“It’s the place where you connect with your feelings and your spirituality, so in that sense the home can be a real refuge and an environment in which you feel safe,” Currier said. “When you’re home you can indulge yourself in whatever you’re searching for because you feel safe. You can’t really do that anywhere else.”
According to Currier, maintaining a connection with home, as well as the past, can help alleviate the pressures of an increasingly mechanized society. Through her collection, she hopes to help viewers break from the connections that happen on an iPhone screen and remind themselves of the connections that are integral to personal growth.
“I think one of the reasons I’m fascinated by the past is that it feels like so many people are bogged down by technology, television, machinery, cars, speed, bombarded with information that I think it’s very hard to keep in touch with your real interior, the real poetry within you, the real truth that you’re trying to find in your life,” Currier said. “And I think that in the 21st century it’s very hard to keep that. So these, I hope, would kind of transport you a little to a different sensibility.”
Jordan Russell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TheSagebrush