East Hampton’s Amy Zerner has had a long and successful career as an artist, fashion and jewelry designer, and, with her husband Monte Farber, co-creator of the Enchanted World series of bestselling metaphysical books and tools. But despite her many achievements, opportunities to see the breadth of Zerner’s work on view in one place, have been rare.
MM Fine Art in Southampton is presenting one such opportunity, Amy Zerner: Tapestries, Collage & Art Couture, opening this Saturday, November 6 and continuing through Sunday, November 21. The new exhibition highlights work spanning Zerner’s entire career, from the 1970s to today, including her intricate fabric collage of all sizes, works on paper and wearable art in the form of one-of-a-kind couture worn by celebrity clients such as Oprah Winfrey, Kylie Jenner, Patti LaBelle, Rihanna and Shirley MacLaine.
At the same time, the gallery and Zerner are celebrating her new book, Enchanted Worlds: The Visionary Collages and Art Couture of Amy Zerner, a retrospective tome written by Farber featuring 323 color plates and rich insights into the artist’s many creative endeavors, and the alchemy that goes into her unique visual magic.
“It’s a retrospective because I’m mixing new work and older work,” Zerner explains. “To me it’s all the same, whether I’ve done it recently or before. It’s my diary in a way. You know how art is. It kind of reflects where you’re at and shows your growth.”
Zerner points out that the show is running in conjunction with her new book, and both required the artist to revisit her past. “We took time to review everything I’ve done since the ’70s, which was not an easy journey because you’re going back in time and trying to pick the best ones,” she says, adding, “I’m not the kind of person who looks back. I’m always going forward and coming up with new things, so it was a little bit of an adjustment to go back.”
She says the forced isolation of the pandemic actually ended up helping the process, giving her contemplative time to do a “life review” and think about where she came from, where she wants to go next and what she wants to accomplish. “It was great to have this project to focus on and, luckily, we’ve been so good at documenting everything over the years since the beginning,” Zerner says of digging into her well-managed archive during lockdown. Her late mother’s cousin even had some of Zerner’s childhood drawings, which reflected her work made so many decades later. “I’m the same, with princesses, with stars and hearts and moons,” she laughs.
“Expressing yourself through art is really trying to find yourself and know yourself,” Zerner says. “I came into a great appreciation for it all, I guess because, turning 70, I was so much in the act of doing. As you know, we do the books and we do the fashion, and we do the art. There’s so many areas that we explore, so pausing to see what I had accomplished, it gave me a lot of fulfillment. It gave me that time to think about it.”
Enchanted Worlds — which is due for release toward the end of Zerner’s show thanks to COVID-related supply delays — organizes her work in various chapters and sections, called “worlds” in the book. “We divided it into worlds because I do so many things. So we have the World of Oracles, which includes the tarots that I did and the other books and oracles I designed. Then it has the World of Fashion and how that came to be, and how I evolved within that world. Then I have the World of Dreams, which is really the world of intuition and working spontaneously, and kind of receiving messages that come out in the artwork. And we have the World of Alchemy, which is about transformation, which is really what the art of collage is,” Zerner explains. “That gave a great structure to the book, because the book is called Enchanted Worlds, so we then enter into each world as a chapter.”
And, of course, her longtime partner in life and business, Farber put words to the artist’s powerful images, and her story. Zerner is the first to acknowledge how important Farber and their relationship is to all facets of her life, and he would say the same about her. “It’s our lifestyle. All our conversations are around understanding life, understanding people, understanding what we want to do together,” she says. “It all springs out of our love and our creativity, because to us, creativity is spirituality. It’s an evolution, and luckily, we get to express it in the books,” Zerner continues, adding, “When I was a young artist I kind of maybe fantasized that I would show in galleries or somebody would find me and believe in me, but I’ve found that you have to make your own path and open your own doors. So the doors really opened with the books as a way to get my work out into the world.”
Now any gallery would be lucky to have her.
Visit mmfineart.com for info and hours.