Painter Sillman to demystify functions of color, perception

Through the Vassar Art Department’s Agnes Claflin lecture series, many revered artists have come to campus to share their insights, ranging from printmakers to sculptors. Next Tuesday’s lecture will feature the esteemed Brooklyn painter Amy Sillman, who will present a talk titled: “Color: A User’s Guide.”

An artist with a diverse array of skills, Sillman specializes in various media, such as large-scale oil paintings and digital animations. She is a prolific artist and has been exhibiting her work for over twenty years. Her pieces have been featured in galleries and museums across the nation and abroad, including The Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum, The Hirshhorn Museum, and The Boston Museum of Fine Art among many others.

“Amy Sillman is a highly influential artist whose work ranges from large-scale oil paintings to digital animations made on an iPhone,” said Associate Professor of Art Laura Newman, a close friend of Sillman’s who helped to organize her visit. “Her work offers a model of painting as a place of openness- it combines formal and material invention with ideas from philosophy, psychology, feminism, humor, sex and ordinary life,” Newman added.

Sillman earned her Bachelor’s in Arts at The School of Visual Arts in New York City in 1973. After earning her degree, she spent many years painting and working on her process, and not exhibiting her work. After earning her Master’s in Fine Arts at Bard College in 1995, Sillman began showing her work more, having been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and later a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2000. In addition to working as an artist, Sillman teaches during the summer, and is the Co-Chair of the Painting Department at Bard College’s Master’s in Fine Arts Program.

In her lecture at Vassar, Sillman will present a digital animation and discuss color theory, specifically problems in color and perceptions of color. I’m going to in large part talk about color—ideas about color and color interpretations, and the way color has been discussed and talked about in the world,” she explained. “I’m also going to talk about my own work a little bit and how I use color and how I deal with process,” she added. The next day, she will meet with Art majors to provide further advice.

Sillman’s work is very improvisational. “It’s a process of working, and not so much a process based on think of an idea, then make a picture,” Sillman said. She generally does not begin a piece with a set image in mind, but rather it surfaces through the process itself.

“My work has a lot of involvement with drawing and a lot of involvement with a heavy kind of process, a heavy kind of work,” she explained. “I make a lot of changes, and I make a lot of decisions while I’m working. I sort of work and negotiate between image and abstraction, and so my work is a lot about going back and forth, finding an image while I’m working and sort of working and adjusting that.” Her pieces, as multi-layered, are regarded as having very rich textures and forms that are fulfilling from a distance and up close.

This year will be very busy for Sillman. Some of her pieces are part of The Whitney Museum’s exhibit, Blues for Smoke, an exhibition that highlights an array of contemporary art that deals with the blues. She is also working on a September exhibition for the Thomas Dane Gallery in London, and a mid-career survey show at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston in October.

Sillman will speak on Tuesday, April 16th at 6 PM in Taylor Hall 203.

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