East Hampton artist Amy Zerner is known worldwide for her fashion designs, jewelry and the Enchanted World series of metaphysical books and tools she creates with her husband Monte Farber, but it all started with her intricate and unforgettable fabric collage tapestries. Now, decades into a flourishing career, she’s looking back through years of work and preparing a retrospective of sorts, Enchanted Worlds: The Spiritual Collages & Couture of Amy Zerner, from September 21–30 at MM Fine Art in Southampton (4 North Main Street).
The exhibition explores Zerner’s evolution from local artist to New Age publishing powerhouse and high-end fashion designer through a small but carefully chosen selection of pieces, each representing her unending creativity and prolific output from the 1980s to now. “It’s a big, open room and they do very precision hanging. It’s very clean. It’s not a hodgepodge. It’s very focused, which is nice,” Zerner says, noting her show will feature about 15 or 16 pieces, though she could easily fill six rooms with art. “My pieces are kind of intense with detail, so they want space around each,” Zerner adds, explaining that she’s enjoyed delving deep into her large body of work in recent months, both for this show and an upcoming 250-page book about her art and fashion.
“It felt good, and it coincided with us doing the book,” she says. “It made me feel good to see how many pieces had gone to places. There were pieces I didn’t even remember I had, so in the process I really archived everything and organized it,” Zerner continues. “It’s quite emotional—it means so much to us, what we produce and create, and to have other people appreciate it is always nice.”
Zerner’s tapestries, best described as fabric collage, bring together dozens of carefully cut scraps from a wide range of sources and eras to create shimmering, textile tableaus and worlds of myth and magic. Each meticulously constructed piece is imbued with esoteric iconography, including everything from mystical creatures, deities and human figures to fantastical flora and patterns crossing a multitude of cultures across time and space. The works invite viewers to discover connections between known symbols, or to divine an entirely new story or meaning from their thoughtfully arranged layers. Her fashion designs include “Artwear” using fabric printed with her collage, but the main event is her luxurious couture caftans and one-of-a-kind jackets sold at Bergdorf Goodman. “It’s all tied together—I think the foundation really springs out of my art,” Zerner says of her collage, spiritual books and tools, and fashion. “It’s all ways of reading signs and symbols.”
Before Zerner created the functional fashion that became a huge success attracting celebrity clientele and selling for big bucks, her first jackets were made more for display than to wear. “For years I showed at Vered Gallery, from the ’80s into the ’90s,” Zerner says. “She really encouraged me to do the wearable thing, Vered did. I didn’t want anyone to sit on my art, then I got really used to it.” Both of her fashion styles, the functional and the display, will be on view at MM Fine Art.
Zerner’s turn toward fashion went so well that she eventually stepped back from gallery shows and mostly created collage for her other projects. “For 20 years I’ve been at Bergdorf’s just madly working on my fashion, and making tapestries and doing our books in between it all,” she says. “This is my first one-person show in a long time locally.” Enchanted Worlds marks a return that should not be missed. Meet Zerner during her opening reception at MM Fine Art on Saturday, September 21 from 6–8 p.m.
Learn more at mmfineart.com.