Guest Art Speaker: Amy Fichter – Exhibitor

Professor Leta Kelsey presented the Amy Fichter Artist Talk on Tuesday, October 19, 2022. Kelsey introduced Fichter as a UW-Stout professor from Menominee, Wisconsin. Fichter works in multiple media sources, but is a classically trained figure painter. Fichter came to UW-Platteville to give his Artist Talk following the “The Figure in Multiple Dimensions” exhibition he participated in at the Nohr Gallery.

Fichter began his speech, “It Has Weight,” by reflecting on K├Ąthe Kollwitz. Fichter told the assembled art students that when she was studying, she found the great masters “dry.”

At that time, Fichter found Kollwitz’s art extremely close as a woman and also as a mother. Fichter’s conversation with the artist then split into three separate sections as she began showing the students her work.

The main message of Fichter’s works is how “there is weight” in the human body. The first part of Fichter’s talk focused on the art she created early in her career with this message.

Fichter began showing some of his painted work that highlighted different areas of the body. The first work is titled “Breasts” and is a self-portrait that encapsulates the weight and responsibility Fichter feels as she approaches motherhood. She was also able to describe through the color and structure of the composition how she saw pregnancy and the corresponding act of creation as magical. Using ethereal colors and dramatic pose, Fichter was able to depict her body with the magic she saw within.

Fichter then showed a large portrait of his own parents. This portrait showed them as they were. Fichter describes them as ordinary, but with the style of painting used, Fichter manages to portray his parents as royalty and important people, while emphasizing the things that are ordinary about them, such as their scars.

Fichter then began the second part of his speech. That part of her work was interrupted by the birth of her son. Fichter explained that she struggled to work in the studio and give her child the attention she needed, so she turned to photography. Beginning to use photography to capture “ordinary days,” Fichter was able to include his son in his work. She explained that she does not see photography as a separate medium, but as “painting with the camera”.

During this part of the presentation, Fichter indicated that her work during this time period had a sense of foreboding that she experienced during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. She had built a sense of vulnerability into her photographic work and showed students examples of what she called ‘quiet images’.

These photos include themes of climate change, old and neglected sites, and evenings that Fichter describes as “what stops here and what’s beyond.”

The last section of Fichter’s presentation focused on the state of depression he found himself in during the COVID-19 pandemic. She started woodcarving at the request of a colleague, which allowed her to return to the studio.

Fichter wanted to pay homage to Kollwitz as a subject and fell in love with marking the graphic while making Kollwitz’s portrait. Her second piece of carving was a depiction of two women seen bearing the weight of the world’s burden. They endured it together as they worked and navigated the unknown.

Fichter commented that depending on how the audience chose to see the gravity acting on the figures, they could be represented as either bearing or deferring the burdens observed by the world.

Fichter’s artist talk left the students with several questions to ask. Many were interested in Fichter’s photographic work, but some had other questions about her graphics.

This Artist Talk gave art students at the university and otherwise an opportunity to see the work of an artist that takes on an overarching message across multiple media. From this example, students and audience members can begin to think about how their own life experiences can influence the work they will do throughout their lives.

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