We had the good fortune of connecting with Amber Tutwiler and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Amber, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
So much of my life exists in the way that it does because of critical decisions that, on the surface, appeared illogical. My first risk that defined me as an artist and individual was in 2008. I was a sophomore at Massachusetts College of Art & Design when the financial crisis hit. My parents had taken out a loan to help pay for my rent, but they could no longer help in any capacity. So I moved back to Florida. I remember feeling devastated – not just because I missed everyone in Boston and all the friendships that I had cultivated, but because I felt like a failure as an artist. At that time, however, I had only made work in context of academia and it was an important moment for me to reflect on my values. I ended up getting a job at a brewery that helped me grow as an individual, and with that I could afford an art studio. I made work and asked questions in a way that worked for me. The second risk was when I finally left the brewery to go to graduate school. I had a choice of staying with the company as manager (with stable income), or doing what I always wanted to do (an artist with no guaranteed stable income). I did it anyway, and I’ve never been more thankful for that decision.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am an interdisciplinary artist that primarily works in the expanded field of painting. My work resembles digitally edited photographs that have been pulled apart and reassembled in Photoshop, then painted in a photorealistic manner using oil paint. I use the figure (particularly arms and hands) and images of bedsheets to highlight the sense of disembodiment and fragmented intimacy that occurs in digital spaces. All of my work interrogates our relationship to the Internet. I’m very influenced by dance and performance, so I also work with dancers (Ballet Florida), video, sound and sculpture with site-specific work. Getting here was not easy! Having come from a family that wasn’t able to provide any financial support, I worked pretty much full-time all through my education. There were so many times that I wasn’t sure if I could eat or pay bills, let alone purchase art supplies and continue making. Despite this, I feel so very lucky. I have always been surrounded by wonderful artists, friends and mentors. The desire to ask questions, want more, and imagine a better future for myself and our community continues to motivate me. I’ve always been an all or nothing kind of person, so my decision to commit to my work (and myself), even with no guarantee of success, was made with full trust that at least I would be doing something meaningful. That always mattered more to me than “success.” That said, I feel very good about where I am now. I just had a solo show at IS Projects in Fort Lauderdale that closed in November 2020, I have a full-time job as a Lecturer at Utah Valley University in Orem, UT (where I am living now), the state of Utah Museums Division recently acquired a work of mine, and I feel closer than ever to my own practice as an artist. If I’ve learned anything along the way, it’s that if I can’t see a path forward, I have to carve it myself. I can’t wait for someone to provide opportunities for me.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Given that I just moved to Orem, Utah, this is a difficult question (with the pandemic I’ve barely explored the area)! But if I was in Miami, the list would be endless. For food, I can’t go to Miami without going to Kush in Wynwood. Having come from a craft beer background, their beer selection is amazing, and the food is always incredible (and vegan friendly!). I’ve always had a soft spot for Lagniappe, especially when they have live music. And you can’t go wrong with visiting the Rubell Collection – I’ve been moved to tears while standing in those rooms. It’s been a while since I’ve lived in Miami, but in Palm Beach County, I recommend a few places. For artists, Resource Depot is a must to check out. They have all recycled materials to purchase by the bin. Ballet Florida is hand’s down my favorite non-profit dance company, and under normal conditions, they have nights where you can stop by and get an intimate understanding of the programs they are working on (their Living Room series). The Norton Museum is also a go-to, and with all the new programming they have, it’s an intellectually stimulating spot on weekends to hear talks. If you can get a private tour, Beth DeWoody’s Bunker Space is jaw-droppingly beautiful. My favorite food spots in PBC are CWS and Queen of Sheeba (also vegan friendly). And if you want a place to relax in a natural setting, go to Riverbend in Jupiter. You won’t regret it.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
So many people from Florida Atlantic University – Julie Ward, Carol Prusa, Karen Leader, and Amy Broderick were all super instrumental in my growth. Everyone from H/ours Collective and Ballet Florida – you have my heart and I couldn’t be the artist that I am without you.