An Interview with Amy Schmutte

Because I love Amy’s work so much, I wanted to share an interview I did with her awhile ago, for The Emergence Project.

The Emergence Project: When and/or why did you decide to become a professional fine artist?

Amy Schmutte: I believe I must’ve started to decide to become a professional fine-artist, at some point as a child…pretty much as soon as I could answer the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And then, in college, as I started to develop my own creative niche, I suppose that desire started to materialize into an actual possibility. But it wasn’t until about five years after I was done with school, did I take initiative to create new work on my own (without the demands and forced inspiration from school assignments). And finally, it was about two or three years after self-motivated creation, before I started to realize I really wanted to get this work out into the world.

TEP: About how many years have you been creating art?

AS: I guess I’ve been creating art since I was old enough to put pencil to paper and express my own creativity (maybe 4 or 5 yrs. old?) So, I guess that makes about 30 years, by now. I’m pretty sure I’m a “lifer”.

TEP: When did you decide that your artistic style was mature?

AS: I clearly remember feeling aware of it while it was happening…my senior year of college at MIAD (Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design), during work on my senior thesis on abstraction of glass. I felt that my artistic style had reached a substantial level of maturity. It was a beautiful process… really natural, almost like a child being born. Of course, when a child is born, the fetus was developed to merely a level of maturity to come out of the womb and face the world. So, to use that metaphor, I guess you could say I’m raising an eleven-year-old, at this point…so, in the big picture…not really all that mature! It’s a life-long process.

TEP: What are you currently working on?

AS: I’m creating a new series that experiments with color-opposites in cross-processing, with the goal of expressing a mood of “sunshine”, using my constant muse of glass.

TEP: What is the main concept or inspiration behind your current work?

AS: The sun is right up there with glass, on my list of favorite artistic inspirations. To me it’s not just a light-source (photographically speaking) it’s more than that…more like a “force” I actually feel affection for, and want to not only “use” to create my art, but celebrate as the subject of my art.

TEP: Have any other artists substantially influenced your current work?

AS: There are so many artists that have inspired me over the years, that it’s hard to list. I recall, when I was in college I loved playing with abstraction in the darkroom. I remember there was a famous photographer named Barbara Morgan as a specific inspiration, because of her “darkrooom play” with multiple exposure and photograms. At this point, I don’t know if there are any specific artists influencing my current work, to be totally honest, I feel like I’m sort of going out on my own limb, so to speak. Not at all to say, that what I’m doing has never been done before! Simply, not feeling any specific outside inspirations.

TEP: What do you feel is the biggest challenge facing working artists today?

AS: Sometimes I wonder if people truly value fine-art, in general. I feel that too much of the time art becomes something to “bring the room together” so that the couch goes better with the curtains, or something to simply “fraternize around” at gallery shows, or it becomes merely an acquisition for the sake of status, because So-and-So Artist is “hot” at the moment. I feel that the biggest challenge facing artists is being valued for expressing a unique vision that didn’t exist before they created it. Art doesn’t need to coordinate one’s home-decor, and an artist doesn’t need to be famous in order for art to be considered of-value to the general public. I wish that more often an individual could simply recognize a sublime connection with a piece of art that speaks to them, and realize that’s all they need to find it valuable.

TEP: Do you think that the general public considers Fine Art a valid profession?

AS: Maybe a lot of the general public considers Fine Art a valid profession, but only in the way that, for example, someone who doesn’t hunt (like myself), considers Deer Processing a valid profession, but can’t see any use for it in their immediate world, or really ever in their entire life.

TEP: If you could change something about the current art world structures and/or stereotypes what would that be?

AS: The value of the art doesn’t need to be determined by the high price put on it. I’ve been told to raise my prices in order to sell more, because then people consider it more valuable monetarily, and therefore more desirable. If someone wants my art, I would hope that they want it because the image connects to their soul, not their financial status.

TEP: Are you optimistic about the future of Fine Art in general?

AS: I’m very optimistic about the future of Fine Art, because it simply will always exist. There will always be those who are born to create and find great fulfillment in creating, and there will always be those who appreciate unique creations and find great joy in consuming them.

TEP: Why do you endorse The Emergence Project?

AS: I proudly endorse The Emergence Project because it’s a bright warm light on a sometimes bleak path. The path of working as a Fine Artist can be discouraging, exhausting and thankless at times. Along with all of the joy and fulfillment of creating and sharing one’s
art, can come creative blocks and financial burdens in producing and marketing of one’s self. The Emergence Project is a faith-builder/restorer and supporter of one of the most powerful and beautiful forces that exist…Creativity! This project actually did exactly what it promised to do, literally in just the last 24 hours of my life as I write this. My boyfriend just randomly found an entry on an art talk-forum on the internet, in which this Project (specifically Sarah Elizabeth Condon) supported and promoted my work, naming me and referring people to my website. That immediately inspired me and made me feel motivated enough to start a new project which I’ve felt blocked on for quite a while. In the middle of writing and saving the text of this interview, I stopped what I was doing, and started shooting a new series of abstract images. By the end of one day later, I have in my hands a successful roll of film embodying new creations to share in my upcoming show. The Emergence Project has done what it set out to do, very literally, for this working Fine Artist today. It let me work. Thank you so much to Sarah and everyone else involved!

TEP: Thank you so much Amy!

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