Studio Visit: Amy Bay

Amy Bay is a painter based in Portland, Oregon. Her work can be seen in PLEAT's October 2016 exhibition as well as amybay.com.

Please describe your work. 
I make geometric, abstract paintings that start with a latticed grid structure. The paintings have densely worked surfaces and they play with the emotional associations of color, line and texture.

What internal and external factors motivate your formal and conceptual choices?
Bridget Riley’s essay on drawing entitled “At the End of My Pencil” really resonated with me, especially when she said “...in art, prohibitions and denials are always a challenge and powerful spur to inquiry.” At the time I read this, I had been flirting with the grid, but this helped me to commit to it and see how I could reimagine it according to my concerns. I'm slightly amazed by how I continue to be compelled by the grid and it surprises me that there is more to discover within its constraints.

I also love the term “unknowability” that Helen Molesworth uses in her essay on Amy Sillman. “Unknowability” for Molesworth is the idea of painting as a process of ceding authority to mystery and unpredictability. At one point in my practice I realized that if I figured out too much in advance, the making of the piece was kind of dead to me. I would just lose interest in what I was making. As I let go of these expectations and allowed things like color and form and structure to become elements to respond to I became much more engaged in the process. It really brings out the drama of making a painting and it's part of what keeps me feeling that painting has a kind of urgency.

Who are your artistic influences and what have you learned from them? 
Mary Heilmann was one of the first artists I had heard openly addressing emotion and sentiment in her work, especially as it relates to abstraction. This idea seems to be a bit taboo in the art world. But the emphasis on the rational and intellectual in art was never a natural approach for me. Color interaction, the material properties of the paint and even titles have become places where I address some of the more internal and subjective content in my work.

And in the past few years I have been so happy to see more contemporary women painters making super exciting work and getting attention for it, people like Amy Sillman, Laura Owens, Rebecca Morris, Carrie Moyer, Joanne Greenbaum, Charline Von Heyl, Nicole Eisenman, Dana Schutz, Katherine Bradford, Joan Snyder, and so many more. I feel like their work gives me permission and a kind of support to be a painter and to make work that comes from a deeply personal place