Dan's Cover Artist Amy Zerner Creates Mystical Gratitude
This week’s cover of Dan’s Papers features the mystical “Gratitude” tapestry by esteemed East Hampton collage and tapestry artist Amy Zerner. Here, she discusses her inspiration for the featured cover art, expansive collection of collage materials, art fashion line, upcoming documentary with husband Monte Farber and more.
Meet Artist Amy Zerner
What inspired the creation of your “Gratitude” artwork, and what themes did you intend to explore with it?
The concept of gratitude holds immense significance in my creative journey. It serves as a guiding force, reminding me to reflect on the countless blessings that enrich our existence. Through this tapestry’s intricate details and harmonious composition, I aimed to create a visual sanctuary that encourages viewers to pause and embrace a mindset of gratitude, fostering a greater appreciation for the wonders of life.
The presence of the praying angel symbolizes a connection to the divine, a spiritual presence that guides and uplifts us. The angel’s serene countenance represents the peace that can be found through gratitude, reminding us to seek solace in the blessings we often take for granted.
The garden depicted in the artwork represents the abundance and growth that gratitude can bring into our lives. It symbolizes the fertile ground where gratitude flourishes, nurturing our souls and allowing us to blossom. The vibrant colors and lush foliage reflect the richness and vitality that gratitude infuses into our daily experiences.
My husband Monte Farber and I recently had the opportunity to be on News 12’s BeWell TV show, speaking about gratitude for this holiday season.
How did you select the fabrics and other media used to bring “Gratitude” to life, and do they hold deeper meaning to the piece beyond the aesthetic?
As I work, I allow my intuition to guide me. I trust my instincts and make spontaneous decisions, responding to the materials and their interactions with one another. This intuitive approach adds an element of surprise, mystery and serendipity to the artwork.
I am drawn to the versatility and endless possibilities that mixed media offers to bring my visions to life. For me, fabrics are not just mere elements of design, but powerful tools that can enhance the storytelling experience for the viewer. I believe that the textures, colors and patterns of fabrics can evoke certain emotions and associations. I may choose materials that hold personal significance or have a cultural or historical relevance. By incorporating these fabrics into my artwork, I aim to create a deeper connection between myself, the artwork and the viewer.
The process begins with a concept or theme that inspires me. This could be anything from nature and its captivating beauty to the complexities of creating a special “inner portrait” commission. I start gathering materials from my collection that resonate with the concept. These materials can range from vintage photographs and magazine cutouts to fabric scraps, antique textiles and ribbons, textured papers, and found objects. And lots of markers and special paints.
I experiment with the arrangements and placement of each element to create a harmonious balance. This stage is crucial, as it sets the focus for the overall aesthetic and message of the piece.
Throughout the process, I pay close attention to the textures and surfaces of the materials. I paint on certain parts of the piece to add visual interest and create a sense of history or narrative. The use of various mediums allows me to add depth, highlights and shadows, bringing the artwork to life and creating a sense of movement and energy. This tactile quality is an integral part of my artistic style, as it invites the viewer to engage with the artwork on a sensory level.
With decades’ worth of materials stored at your studio, do you have a favorite found object or material that you’ve incorporated into your collages?
I have an extensive collection of unique materials: textiles from the 1940s, brocades from the 1960s, vintage silk scarves, lace from the tur of the century, rare appliqués and embellished trims, embroideries and up-cycled beads.
I am in love with lace. I’ve been collecting all kinds for many years. The handmade lace treasures that I use in my work represent the interconnected nature of life. The delicate threads and patterns symbolize that the smallest details, often overlooked, contribute to the tapestry of our existence. Just as lace requires meticulous attention and care, cultivating wellness and a grateful, loving heart requires nurturing and mindfulness as well.
I really appreciate the forgotten beauty of the past. I am passionate about the feel, look and energy of vintage materials from many countries and different eras and am fascinated with my finds. In my collages, I work to transform and incorporate many bits and pieces — their shapes, colors and textures — into my alchemical dreamscapes.
Are there any materials that you’ve never worked with and hope to one day include in a collage?
I have done some large pieces over the years, such as my series based on the Elements that were 6’ x 9’ and done when I won the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. I have a huge 9’ x 12’ piece titled “Mid-Life Isis” that I recently exhibited at MM Fine Art in Southampton. Lately, I have had the urge to do some large new pieces, and to incorporate more of my photography in them and experiment with transfer techniques that I have evolved over the years.
I feel moved by all the photographs I took over 50 years that I had to go through for the documentary, so I will be interested to see what “comes through me.” When I create for our books, I work in a series of 36–80 collages, so the originals are smaller sized. We have had seven books come out in the last four years, done for several publishers, which has kept us very busy! Now I need to go big. Working in different sizes helps recalibrate my perspective.
What enables your artistic vision and style to translate so well into a variety of media — from tarot cards and books to fashion and jewelry?
Firstly, my artistic vision is rooted in a deep appreciation for archetypes, mysticism, symbolism and storytelling. This vision serves as a foundation that can be applied to different mediums, allowing me to explore and express my creativity in diverse ways. Whether it’s through tarot cards, books, fashion or jewelry, I strive to infuse my work with magic, meaning and healing energy.
Secondly, my approach to all my projects is characterized by a balance between intricate details and harmonious compositions. This balance lends itself well to different mediums, as it allows me to create visually captivating and cohesive designs. My style adapts to each medium while maintaining its unique essence.
Additionally, my artistic process involves a deep understanding of the medium I am working with. I take the time to study, research and experiment with different techniques, materials and tools specific to each medium. I believe that art is a form of communication, and each medium offers its own language. By understanding the language of each medium, I am able to effectively convey my artistic vision and style. Whether it’s through the symbolism of tarot cards, the narrative structure of books, or the visual impact of fashion and jewelry, I adapt my artistic approach to suit the language of the medium.
Lastly, I am constantly inspired by the world around me and draw from a wide range of influences. This openness to inspiration allows me to explore different themes, styles and techniques, which in turn enables me to adapt my artistic vision to various media. By embracing diverse influences, I can create art that resonates with different audiences and contexts. I feel very lucky to be able to have the opportunities to do so.
What was the most memorable or exciting aspect of filming the Amy & Monte: A Legacy of Love & Creativity documentary?
As creatives, doing this documentary enabled us to see where we have come from, where we are now and where we want to go next. We discovered a big cache of vintage videos of us on talk shows, HSN, art shows, lectures and performances from the ’80s and ’90s that we had never watched. Our producer/director Annmarie Sairrino of AMMO Entertainment reviewed all of that to see what fit the storyline. It was exciting to see how she and the editor, Joseph Doler, wove together the contemporary interviews and conversations, archival images, stories, memories and our philosophy of life in a reflective way to compose an artful and soulful (and fun!) 60-minute film about love, creativity, passion and purpose.
Would you like to share any closing thoughts or information about your upcoming Barnes & Noble book signing, Bergdorf Goodman partnership or other projects?
Monte and I will be signing our array of Mind/Body/Spirit books and tools and speak about our creative collaborations and demonstrate our decks by giving mini-tarot readings at the grand opening of Barnes & Noble in Bridgehampton on Wednesday, November 29 from 3–5 p.m.
The rack of my one-of-a-kind “Goddess Couture” is always available at Bergdorf Goodman on the fourth floor in their Evening Department. I have been selling my work there for 22 years. This is such a beautiful time of year to visit the store because it has the most amazing holiday windows.
I especially love to create special commissions for clients who desire unique pieces — to wear to celebrations and galas. Some customers fall in love with a specific design in one of my collections, while others select a favorite silhouette, style and story. Each garment is meticulously constructed and tailored, and the result is a beautiful, timeless, keepsake that enhances and embodies the wearer’s unique persona. I enjoy wearing them, too!
Visit amyzerner.net to see more of Amy Zerner’s art, books, couture and more.