Other Investigations: Trevor Amery

While living in a constant state of transience over the past decade, Trevor Amery has called such places as Finland, Hungary, Denmark, and several cities in the United States, home. He is currently based in the Polar North/Michigan. He received his BFA in painting from Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in 2005 and attended Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2013. Over the past few years, he has attended residencies in Finland, Miami, and New York and exhibited at such venues as the Skanzen Museum, City Without Walls, Panepinto Gallery, The Creative Alliance, and Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art. In 2012, He was awarded a Fulbright fellowship in Installation Art to Hungary and represented the U.S. at the Kathmandu International Art Festival in Nepal.

Counter History, 2012-Ongoing
Counter History, 2012-Ongoing

I first came across your work during a First Friday at Grizzly Grizzly, a gallery in Philadelphia. Your show changed twice within the space of the gallery between the span of two months. How important is space, time, and distance, in relation to the viewer, artwork, and the relationships that form in between?

These are all very important and considered elements in my work. I have always been fascinated by architectural space and interested in how a gesture, object, or augmentation can completely transform the experience of a place. Context is the big variable that ties these elements together. The context of the gallery or the streets of Miami only become activated as spaces for art through specific actions. The artwork is my tool to activate these places and create a shared experience or space within these clamorous surrounding for exchange.

In regards to Grizzly Grizzly, I was attracted to the inherent intimacy of the gallery. Upon entering the exhibition, the viewer must engage the objects directly, navigating around one to view another. The confrontation is exciting. I wanted to use the sculptures as objects that entice the viewer to participate while navigating the space. Can one pick up the pigment-colored sledgehammer and try to shatter the mirror? Are the forms on the wall for climbing? If so, where to? I established a hierarchy of value through the placement and installation of each work and used the second opening as a way to reverse this system. The second time around the Geode becomes secondary to the sledgehammer, which is not on the floor anymore. The installation that looked like rock-climbing holds transforms into organized specimens on the wall. Nothing is broken as a previous writer anticipated. The viewer never gets to access the interior of the Geode and the forms on the wall become precious and not utilitarian. Expectations are not met, hopefully.

How have your travels affected your practice, the imagery that you produce, and the mediums that you work in?

The biggest change in my practice came in 2011; en route to the Arteles Creative Center Residency my oil paints were confiscated by TSA agents in London. I arrived without the material I had worked with since college and had to figure out a new way of working on a tight budget. I began creating site-specific installations and sculptures that directly engaged with the local community and environment. Here, I discovered how to combine my social needs with my art practice and what direction I needed to take my work. Since then I have sought out new environments and experiences to challenge myself, get uncomfortable, and discover new ways of thinking and seeing. Time in Finland, Estonia, Hungary, and different cities in the U.S. has inspired me to use everything from saunas and political monuments to geological specimens and Cuban coffee as platforms for artistic discourse. The mediums and methods I work with develop from the concept at hand and take form in myriad ways.

Geode, 2013
Geode, 2013

Celebrate With Me and Counter History involve a beverage (coffee or wine) in exchange for a personal story from participants of the piece. How is this social exchange important components to the pieces at hand?

I suppose I got a little ahead of myself and answered part of this question in my previous response… essentially, I am an outgoing guy. I like people and need social interactions to stay sane. In 2011 I found a way of working that incorporated my social needs with my studio practice. Once I realized I could make work that engaged the world outside of my studio, I was hooked! For these two projects, I was looking to directly connect, share, and learn from the people I came across. As I have continued on this path I have realized I more and more enjoy instigating these exchanges rather than being the performer. The Advice Archive is a recent project where my role is much more that of a reporter and resource developer than performer. It is not about me. It is about the people I interview and record. This change is interesting to me and I feel there is a lot of potential here. The Advice Archive is currently live on my website and I invite anyone interested in contributing to contact me for further details.

Encountering your work, both in person and online I get a strong feeling that you are creating your own language through the repeated use of certain imagery or certain gestures. How do you gather sources/content for your work and choose what to work with?

Thank you! I have always been very sensitive to my environment. The saunas and woodpiles in rural Haukijarvi, the tiny shops of Kathmandu, a pig butchering outside of Pécs, and the relationships I have developed in all of these locations have profoundly shaped how I contextualize my own history. Integrating personal anecdotes and research, art becomes my vehicle for combining the different temporal, historical, and cultural zones I encounter. Researching domestic space, growing up wrenching on cars, and selling kayaks for REI has led me to study everything from the social effects of 1950s Hungarian governmental housing policies to peacocking in contemporary U.S. car culture, to the evolution of the two thousand-year-old Aleutian kayak. All of this sets the groundwork for developing new sculptures and interactions, informing material and process. The work physically manifests as social sculptures, discrete art objects, and installations, existing at the intersection of research, action, and impulse.

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What is something you’re working on currently that you’re excited about?

Well, I just got a sewing machine and am excited to learn how to tailor my clothing… and make art with it, I guess. More seriously, I have been building that two thousand-year-old kayak I wrote about earlier since this summer. I based it on 17-foot long skin-on-frame kayak designs from both the Aleutian Islands and Greenland. I currently have it strapped to the ceiling in my apartment in Michigan and hope to finish it in the next two months for a project I am planning in the spring. Great Lakes here I come!