ARTiculAction - Interview with Amy Cohen Banker

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1) Hello Amy, and a warm welcome to ARTiculAction. I would start this interview with my usual introductory question: what in your opinion defines a work of Art?

Life and Death, Mind and Heart, thought and expression,art can be any process from the stone age, the Renaissance to the present as interpreted by Michelangelo,De Kooning. Cezanne, Shakespeare, Milton, Bach, Cage, illuminated manuscripts, Korin, Dante, Kimmelman, Storr, Anderson, F.Scott Fitzgerald. Light and Dark processed on canvas, in words, poetry, music.

By the way, what could be the features that mark an artworks as a piece of Contemporary Art? Do you think that there's a dichotomy between tradition and contemporariness?

Picasso said "All I have ever made was for the present".


At the present, the fences, walls, and glass houses around modernism are down. Wildflowers have invaded its gardens and conservatories; hothouse flowers are trying their luck in the open fields. Hybrids abound.” said Robert Storr for the last Venice Biennielle. I agree. I am not interested in repeating the past but I have processed and interpreted past masterpieces on canvas, wood, paper with oil,acrylic,water color. If I want to be relevant I work from a synthesis of intellect and expression informed by Matisse, Thiebold, Knox Martin, Bill Scharf and Julian Schnabel but stimulated by Steve McQueen, Bill O. Russell, Martin Scorcese, Robert DeNiro Junior and Senior movies. The music of Kander and Ebb and Ponchielli opera all live in my unconscious dreams.


2) Would you like to tell us something about your background? You hold a Bachelor of Arts that you have received from the Cornell University and you have studied in the Far East, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand as well as in Europe, Italy, France, Spain, and Ireland how have these experiences impacted on the way you currently produce your artworks? By the way, I would ask your point about formal training: I sometimes wonder if a certain kind of training could even stifle a young artist's creativity...


I have a B.S. from Cornell University but New York City was my teacher with my grandmother and grandfather taking me on trips to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum and Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. It was a privilege to witness and experience the likes of Andy Warhol, Salvador Dalì, John Graham, Leonard Bernstein as a child. In his “Salon of 1846,” Charles Baudelaire suggested that “the life of the city is rich in poetic and marvelous subjects … but we do not notice it". That was my childhood and family experiences. Later on I was recognized as a good fine artist by New York City Schools and saw my first paintings at Lever House at age 4. I was confused by this achievement as I did it for the joy. I always was inspired by music, visual arts, poetry (Poe) and then explored the spaces in between. Formal training was the icing on the cake, the cart before the horse because I was lucky enough to have these exposures. I do not know if art can live in a vacuum.


But I was trained in technique by Isabel O'Neill School for Decorative Arts, the Museum of Modern Art and The Art Student's League of New York where I was told that I set up my supplies as a surgeon would do it. Now I impart that skill and craft in my students at Cornell Club, NYC.


3) Before starting to elaborate about your production, would you like to tell to our readers something about your process and set up for making your artworks? In particular, what technical aspects do you mainly focus on your work? And how much preparation and time do you put in before and during the process of creating a piece?


I plan the concept, the colors, the palette, the motif. I see the image in my thoughts but I would not call this imagination. Other people may call my work abstract but to me it is extrapolation and articulation of the metaphor,the simile,the essence of the object that isignifies. It is the kernel of my meaning and message behind the icon. An example of this process is how I painted “On The Wings Of A Nightingale”. I wanted to maintain a dance of lights and darks but never wanted to lose the figuration of the bird and the nest and the wings. I see this immediately when I recapitulate the final image for this interview.


Time to set up should not matter. I can be 60 years or 60 seconds. Do people ask a pitcher how long it takes?


4) Now let's focus on your art production: I would start from Twerking and Red Earth, Snuggle, a recent pieces that we have already started to admire in the introductory pages of this article: and I would suggest to our readers to visit your website directly at in order to get a wider idea of your recent production. In the meanwhile, would you tell us something about the genesis of these pieces? What was your initial inspiration?


Twerking took over 10 years, closer to 15 years of repainting. Red Earth and Snuggle took a day. Twerking was a symphony and Red Earth and Snuggle were concertos.


But I had just seen "Inside Llewyn Davis" by the Cohen Brothers and that folk music of New York City had inspired me for Red Earth and Snuggle as part of my Promenade Green series of 12/13. Of course I am always inspired by nature, minerals, the world.


5) I noticed that many of your pieces as Pink a Ovoid and Who Do You Love often reveals such an inner struggle and a silent but intense involvement... I would like to ask you if in your opinion personal experience is an absolutely indispensable part of a creative process... Do you think that a creative process could be disconnected from direct experience?


Promenade Green series ,atavistic . contemporary in process and product. I live in the NOW but music of Bo Diddley, Ricky Nelson, Donovan led to Drake. Memories of my childhood inspire brain connections . future creations. A series of small oil squares that were painted in the snowy month of December in New York City were conceived after my exhibition of large, acrylic squares, at Onishi Gallery/I changed size, medium, palette but the synapses fired and fingers played the canvas in lieu of a guitar.   The music opened up doors of perception. The Green Promenade, A Hundred Miles haunted me as my destination.


Max Frisch ,”Travelling,gentlemen, is medieval, today we have means of communication, not to speak of tomorrow and the day after,means of communication that bring the world into our homes, to travel from one place to another is atavistic.

Jean Cocteau “The day of my birth, my death began its walk. It is walking toward me, without hurrying.”


William Wordsworth, “But he beholds the light, and whence it flows, he sees it in his joy… Hence in a season of calm weather, though inland far we be, our souls have sight of that immortal sea …Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower; we will grieve not,rather find strength in what remains behind in the primal sympathy which having been must ever be; In the soothing thoughts that spring Out of human suffering In the faith that looks through death,In years that bring the philosophic mind….To me the meanest flower that blows can give Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears..” (Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood).

“He can’t walk and he can’t run,he’s black slattered(splattered) on the sun.Green... Dave Van Ronk.

Please get up and follow me, We’ll go down in history.” Dave Van Ronk.


But I do not understand how the creative process could possibly be disconnected from personal experience.


6) One of the features that has mostly impacted on me of your works as Landscape and East River is the way you have been effectively capable of re-contextualizing the idea of environment an the mutual feedbacks that are established with "human experience"... and as you have remarked in your artist's statement, your work explores the basic issues of opacity, color, form, depth, obfuscation and revelation in life, language and in art... and I'm sort of convinced that some informations & ideas are hidden, or even "encrypted" in the environment we live in, so we need -in a way- to decipher them. Maybe that one of the roles of an artist could be to reveal unexpected sides of Nature, especially of our inner Nature... what's your point about this?


Landscape, inner and outer worlds..."Landscape" and "East River" were accretions of inner and outer observations and artistic expressions of my world.. Both were created over many years before I decided that they were complete. Is any life completed? New York City is never complete. It is always reconstructed and evolving as is my life.

I carried these two pieces from one studio to another all over Manhattan Island before and after the episode of 9/11

and concurrent life and death moments in my personal,family life. Last year my art was selected to be exhibited at the 9/11 Memorial Museum NYC 2014. I bring the pathos the aesthetics the spirit, the prayer of our world and our city through intuitive,active articulation, through participation with my arts. I am inspired by the landscapes of Vincent Van Gogh, Anselm Keifer and Cezanne but I try to achieve my own voice.


7) While admiring your recent piece entitled Snuggle I have been struck with the way you have been capable of merging delicate and thoughtful tone of colors with nuances of red which turns from a delicate tone to an intense one which turns to saturate the canvas as in Red Earth and as in On The Wings Of A Nightingale a wonderful piece that I have to admit it's one of my favorite work of yours... By the way, any comments on your choice of "palette" and how it has changed over time?


My choice of palette is "catholic" as are my mediums. But my method is consistent. I am eclectic but value all colors but as the French Impressionists said light should be light and dark should be darkest. My sense of color was very personal. I like gem stones and also aesthetics of Orientals. "On The Wings Of A Nightingale" is a painting inspired by a song.


Paul McCartney made it famous but I think Everly Brothers wrote it. The colors were my interpretation after looking at photographs of nightingales. I wanted to keep an organized palette of the bird and the nest and to interpret the emotions of Paul and myself.


8) I think it's important to remark that you often shift between media: acrylic, oil, pastels, aquarelle, oil sticks, varnishes, glazes, finishing and surface techniques: while crossing the borders of different artistic fields have you ever happened to realize that a synergy between different disciplines is the only way to achieve some results, to express some concepts?


Should I cook with gas or electricity, wear silver,gold,platinum,palladium, travel North or South? What is my favorite color of the rainbow? Palette is generous in nature and in artifice. All medias,mediums dimensions contribute to my aesthetic,scientific,academic and world view. No one point is definite. I am eclectic and dialectic in my creativity and my logic and do not analyze but organize through process and creation. Alex Katz told me that he could get an idea for a painting while watching a thrilling Hollywood movie or attending a fashion show. We live in a multimedia, multifaceted, practical, digital, psychic, scientific and science fiction story of media reflecting and brain recapitulating and renegotiating ideas, tools, materials from light, electricity, air, earth, sound,all elements here and now. Past emotions and experiences can be recreated by tangible 2 and 3 dimensional activities in mixed and multimedia and mediums. Fine Art, Pop Art, Commercial Art deliberately and accidentally collide and separate again through words, images, sounds, thoughts, memories from Wordsworth until now. Emotion recollected in tranquility as we wander and wonder.


9) Your artworks have been exhibited in many important occasions, both in the USA and abroad: moreover you have been recently awarded from London Creative Competition ... it goes without saying that feedbacks and especially awards are capable of supporting an artist: I was just wondering if an award -or just the expectation of positive feedback- could even influence the process of an artist...


I do multimedia when I am invited. It is an extension of my aesthetics in order to keep relevant and to spread the word and the work for 21 Century. My first loves are paint and words and movement. I was selected as performer and participated in Whitney Biennial Michael Clark Dance Project 2012 and Hermitage Museum St.Petersburgh, Russia and both of these past performances informed and inspired my creative fires then and now.


10) By the way, how much important is for you the feedback of your audience? Do you ever think to whom will enjoy your Art when you conceive your pieces? I sometimes wonder if it could ever exist a genuine relationship between business and Art...


I always like to sell and to receive awards and positive feedback but the creative self should not be tainted by this experience. Commerce is not art. It is an external acknowledgment of a spiritual journey and destiny.


Of course validation is terrific… and patronage is a great support. Thank you. To live we need lucre but the art will never be quenched. It is a metamorphosis and an exchange of love and craft. It makes the world a better place and brings to light joy and sorrow and stimulates aspects of the brain that extend into the world in lateral ways.


11) Thanks a lot for your time and your thoughts, Amy. My last question deals with your future plans: what's next for you? Anything coming up for you professionally that you would like readers to be aware of?


I will continue to exhibit at Art Fairs i.e. Frieze, Fridge.


I am currently making new work to be exhibited at Artifact Gallery, New York City and Con Artist Collective, NYC oil paintings . I am also writing for Manhattan Dialogue and ArtistsForum Magazine about the creative life in music, and visual arts.   I will continue

to exhibit and sell paintings at Kit'N Kaboodle, Adams, Massachusetts plan for MASS MOCA, North Adams, Massachusetts. Of course I am interested in teaching,curating,writing and exhibiting with more museums and galleries.