Dan's Cover Artist Amy Zerner Discusses Her Career in Collage & Couture
This week’s mesmerizing cover art comes to us from Amy Zerner, East Hampton’s renowned collage artist, author, jewelry designer and fashion designer of “spiritual couture.” Here, she discusses the art on this week’s cover (“Earthwatch”), the deep meaning of her art and the distinct chapters of her fascinating art career.
Meet Artist Amy Zerner
What inspired you to create “Earthwatch,” and how did you decide on the work’s colors and design details?
The themes of universal energy and the spiritual wisdom of our world’s diverse cultures have fascinated me since childhood. I empower every one of my collages, both fabric and paper, to remind us that we must honor and conserve the planet. I like to use color, surface design and textural richness to portray the intricate energies that interact to create the natural world, connections to our ancestors and fertile, life-giving sacred sites. I wanted this piece to honor the First People’s strength, beauty and resiliency, and respect for the land. They gave thanks every minute of every day. The figure is an archetype of a successful, strong, intuitive leader who can help guide us in difficult times.
I love this quote: “Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.” – Chief Seattle
You can see my “Earthwatch” tapestry in the current show at MM Fine Art in Southampton called Art for Giving, which is up through December 25.
What does your creative process typically look like, and what do you enjoy most about that process?
As a collage artist, I assemble my palette of fabrics, imagery, markers, trims, scissors, beads, paints and a host of found objects, and orchestrate them into my imagined visions. My two-story studio is floor-to-ceiling bins and boxes of materials that I have collected for 40 years from local flea markets and thrift shops.
I use these components in my work to suggest trees, bridges, portals, mountains and a host of other forms. The image is built up as the mix of magic and media brought together. Every time I make a work of art, I am ready for a new adventure.
Collage is a very therapeutic technique because it is a creative and spontaneous process. It allows me to be open to my soul language or metaphors and symbols. That is why I love to make art all the time, because it is such a healing, mystical experience. The spiritual nature of creativity involves our allowing the soul of what we wish to accomplish to sing itself into our hearts and minds.
How would you describe your iconic art style, and how have you developed it?
I have a passion for beautiful, exotic, interesting and unusual textiles. In my artwork, I treat fabrics and the other materials like a painter does their paint palettes, creating surreal dreamscapes with collaged elements, adding details with paint, drawing, piecing, topstitching and vintage embellishments.
My vision was confirmed in 1986 when the National Endowment for the Arts awarded me a fellowship in the category of Painting, not Crafts, the first artist in NEA history to break down the painting/crafts barrier.
I like to think of myself as a collector of ancient truths and wisdom as well as fabrics, trims, treasures and found objects. Upcycled, repurposed, sustainable, handmade “slow” art and fashion — these are popular movements right now but since the 1970s they have always been the goal, objective and intention behind my work.
Could you talk a little more about the themes and ideas this week’s cover art, and your work as a whole, explores?
The First Peoples believed that everything in Nature, every stick and inanimate object as well as all animals and plants, had its own essence and power. We are all united in a collective consciousness — threads, patterns and layers connected in mysterious ways.
We are all part of the tapestry of life and need to be mindful so that we can walk the path together, in a natural world where growth is organic, free, magical and unfettered.
New possibilities, ancient themes and portraying the miraculous energy that is in every moment we are alive — this is what my art is all about (along with unexpected juxtapositions!).
What do you find most rewarding about being an artist and sharing your art?
I believe in the ancient tradition that art must be everywhere, in our home, on our garments — and in our hearts, as well. Being an artist, fashion designer and author allows me the freedom to always be pushing forward, trying something new, taking my art and myself to a new level.
My husband, Monte Farber, and I try to share our inspiration, creativity and what we consider to be useful and valuable in our lives in our more than 50 published works.
All of my work is about the power of our intuition. That little voice is trying to guide you, but you have to know how to listen for it. You have to exercise your intuition the way you exercise your body. You have to practice it, and that’s how we know what the next step is.
We must find our way to see, sense and know what’s real. And even though my work looks like fantasy, from my point of view I’m dealing with the real, scientifically documented world of energy. And that’s what both art and life is all about.
What do you consider the greatest achievement of your art career, and is there a specific goal you’d still like to accomplish?
I come from a family of artists and so I never doubted what I would do. I have always been an artist and am so grateful for my gifts and blessings. In my 20s, I found love with my amazing soulmate Monte (48 years together), sharing a passion for each other and for creativity, spirituality, astrology and the tarot.
In my 30s, we started writing books and creating oracles about those subjects (now over 3 million books sold in 18 languages).
In my 40s, I started designing artful goddess couture clothes. My one-of-a-kind art-embellished fashions have been exclusive to Bergdorf Goodman and their parent company, Neiman Marcus, for 22 years. In my 50s, I started designing talismanic jewelry (also sold at Bergdorf).
In my 60s, I continued to make and exhibit my art and continued to learn and write and teach about love, creativity, divination, wellness and mindfulness with Monte. Now I am in my 70s and very excited about my new creative work and projects, including a documentary about us.
We were recently approached by Hollywood producer Annmarie Sairrino to do a documentary about us and our work and how our love feeds our creativity.
Would you like to share any closing thoughts or additional information?
This year our book Enchanted Worlds: The Visionary Collages and Art Couture of Amy Zerner was published by Schiffer Publishing. The design of the book is comprised of many unique variations of my art and fashion, with impressions and text from Monte, focusing on the themes which have so often stimulated our creations.
We just had The Intuition Oracle (Sterling Ethos) and The Art of Affirmations (REDFeather) published, both designed to energize the reader’s own creative and intuitive gifts and enhance their spiritual practices to bring more mindfulness and enchantment into their lives. And we have three more new books coming out in 2023.
I will be exhibiting five major works at the Mash Gallery in Los Angeles. The show opens January 14 and is called Fields of Innocence.
To see more of Amy Zerner’s art, books, couture and more, visit amyzerner.net.