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  11 December 2017  |  Vol: 4 facebooktwitterrss  
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Spotlight
 
Amanda Wilner: Painting Beyond the Two-dimensional
 

By depicting the objects that surround her, artist Amanda Wilner creates her own mythology. The granaries, owls, horses and barns stand so unencumbered they emanate a power of their own.

To that end, Wilner often uses metal leaf, both gold and silver, underneath her layers of oil paints so the glint is not obvious to direct viewing but rather more present when passing or in slanting light.

“The original intention [of the medieval tempura painters] was to see Jesus and Mary in a dimly lit cathedral when all you had was candlelight,” Wilner says. “The only way they knew to depict light was with gold leaf.”

The door to her garage/studio is wide open. Natural light floods the space she shares with a gaggle of bicycles and some tools. Her laptop is open on an old desk and two easels stand across from each other. Both of the larger canvases reveal Wilner’s charcoal stage.

“I gesso the panels first and then I start getting into the charcoal,” she says, with a thin stick of black in her hand she thickens a line on a deer skull image. “I’m still at the drawing stage here.”

Leaning against the wall, at calf-height, sit three small pieces. White, for the most part, with only gestures, lines or jots, maybe a slight swirl to show movement.

“I like to make some marks so I know where I want things,” she says, laying her hand on the large surface of the gessoed canvas positioned on her easel. Brushing, moving the ash remnants of the charcoal across the white space, she creates texture where before there was none. Picking up a kneaded rubber eraser, she smudges her lines, cleans up the shadows.

Across from the skull, Wilner’s drawing of an owl stares out. “I’ve been doing a lot of owls lately, especially the burrowing owls because they have longer legs,” she says. “But once you start drawing owls, people come up with all these meanings that you may not want associated with the work.”

For Wilner, it’s the eyes that grab her, that pull her into the piece. But they also are part of her environment and her attempt to find a sense of place. Originally from D.C., she went to school at the University of Pennsylvania. Next, she taught art in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan and finally to graduate school in Utah before settling into Bozeman a few years ago.

“I started out drawing, then I studied architecture, ceramic sculpture, painting, encaustics and I’m back to drawing again,” she says, stepping away from the skull to work on the owl. Her transitions are seamless, lines fluid, even when changing focus. “Where I’ve been is where I’m going.”

Besides her series on owls and buildings, she also loves to paint horses. But these aren’t your typical horse paintings.

“I use them like glyphs,” she says, working on the eyes of the owl, making them wider and whiter. “Like markers. I see them all the time when I drive around. They’re part of the landscape.”

Wilner steps back from the easel.

“Because of my sculptural background I still walk around my pieces, even though they’re two-dimensional,” she says. And there is a sculpture-like essence to her paintings: a singularity and a completeness. It’s as if Wilner has painted the sides and the back of the piece although no one can see it.

When she’s happy with the drawings, she’ll put on a clear coat of acrylic to keep the lines steady and then add the metal leaf. That is, if she’s uses those at all.

“The metal leaf is a crowd pleaser,” she says. “But it has to feel right.”

The oil painting comes last.

“I also do encaustic,” she says, walking over to a corner of her garage where a ready hot plate and saucepan are stationed. “But it’s challenging in the summer.” With her studio in an open garage her work has to withstand the elements.

She’s also made her own oil sticks by mixing wax, oil and pigment and rolling them like clay into cylinders.
 

“I’m a tinkerer,” she says, pulling down a painting from her garage wall. “It comes from working in ceramics.”

Photo of Amanda Wilner, artist profile alternative newspaper Bozeman MagpieShe changes out the owl piece on her easel for a raven settling onto a spinning-reel circle with stripes and chevrons amidst abstract markings. Wilner begins to scrape away the red-and-white, circus-like peaks that bordered the top of the canvas. Her knife gouges the painting as she pushes color into the scratches rendering the surface captivating in texture.

“I have no idea of what’s going to be next in a painting,” she says, rubbing the boundary between red and white to create a nostalgic pink. “First I think, let’s see if I can draw this. The next step is how I respond to it. That’s the only way I know how to work.” -BM

Author’s Note: Amanda Wilner (pictured above) is represented by Betsy Swartz Fine Art, in Bozeman, and the Rare Gallery of Fine Art, in Jackson, Wyoming. Her work can be seen at Tart, in the Emerson Center for Arts and Culture, as well as on her website www.amandawilner.com

Photo of Michele Corriel, alternative newspaper Bozeman MagpiePublished regionally and nationally, Michele Corriel has received a number of awards for her non-fiction as well as her poetry. She lives and works in the Gallatin Valley.

 
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