Tramping through the woods with her husband, artist Amy Fleming rescues the lost and neglected. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors: antique typewriters, rusting gearshifts, china shards, broken bottles. Bringing them home with her, she will photograph these remnants of consumer culture to include in her drawings and screenprints of junkyard landscapes.
One of her most prized possessions is a round, vintage, coral and pink Hoover floor waxer that she speculates was sold in the 1950s as a tool marketed to the feminine ideal of that era. It has appeared in many of her works as the color and shape continue to peak her creativity.
In the same vein, as she and her loved ones age, Fleming has become interested in ideas surrounding ageism and disposability. It’s the central theme behind her show “The Age of Experience: We Tell Better Stories,” at the Claude Pepper Center through Jan. 19.
“I think I’ve always been a bit of an archaeologist at heart,” remarks Fleming. “I’ve always liked things that show their history. What you throw out really tells a story of who you are, and even more, nowadays, it’s who you throw out, too.”
Her collages of scrap materials have become a fitting background for the portraits of mature women with stories to tell, but who have fallen victims to another kind of disposability. They smile in the foreground, appearing as iconic as a Madonna, and are haloed by radiator hoses and hairspray bottles.
“My dad is a minister, so I grew up my whole life with images of saints in the church,” says Fleming. “The whole patron saint kind of style came naturally and I stuck with it.”
Fleming also grew up surrounded by art supplies — paper, crayons, pencils — and remembers her mother even giving her the white cardboard her hosiery were wrapped around to use as a drawing pad. She continued fine-tuning her skills at Old Dominion University in Virginia where she graduated with a BFA.
Fleming’s interest in printmaking grew alongside drawing. She says the mediums naturally tie together. Eventually, she attended Florida State University and earned an MFA with a concentration in printmaking. Fleming speculates that the feel of the medium is what hooked her, as well as the community surrounding it.
“It’s something about holding those particular tools, whether it’s a carving tool for a woodcut or an engraving or a pencil,” says Fleming. “There’s also the fact that printmaking is very much a communal way of working in art. Not many people have private print spaces because the equipment is extremely large, heavy, and expensive. You tend to work in shared workshops and that’s part of the enjoyment of it.”
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