Potash Hill

Amy Beecher Brings Intellectual Freedom to Art

By Emmett Wood

“Marlboro’s belief that art is a process informed by craft, play, reflection, and contextual awareness echoes my own artistic and pedagogical views,” says Amy Beecher, who joined Marlboro as visual arts professor in the fall. “The college itself is attractive, but the idea that my intellectual freedom as an educator is honored as much as my artistic freedom is what drew me here.”

Amy’s academic history includes a BA from Brown University and an MFA from Yale, where she began using inkjet prints as a way to express herself. Amy cites pop culture as one of her biggest sources of inspiration.

“I’m trained as a painter—that’s what I studied in college and graduate school,” says Amy. “But while I was there I started making inkjet prints. When I began pushing that further, it led to making enormous inkjet prints. They were so big that they started to become installation-like… eventually I started to combine them with other types of work in poetry and sound.”

Although Amy’s career objective has always been to create art and teach, after college she began trying various vocations in order to continue her work, including being an adjunct professor, a personal assistant, and a photo researcher for Teen Vogue. Then she discovered the art community AS220, located in Providence, Rhode Island, where she spent the last two years before coming to Marlboro. AS220 maintains artist residencies, exhibition spaces, and other collective resources.

Amy says that her transition to Marlboro proved to be rather smooth following her time at AS220, as the organization’s values “echoed the Marlboro ethos.” Her choice to make the move to Vermont was rooted in her desire to continue changing; “I felt like the type of teaching that I could do at Marlboro could shift and change with me as I evolved as an artist. I couldn’t find that anywhere else.”

One of Amy’s recent pop culture inspirations has been Cathy, the comic strip by Cathy Guisewite that ran from the 1970s to 2010, which gently poked fun at modern-day women through the protagonist’s struggles with work, weight gain, and interpersonal relationships. As a recent fellow in interdisciplinary art at the MacDowell Colony, Amy worked on a project that offers critical revisions of the Cathy comic series in drawing, text, and sound.

Freshman Emma Sheerin discusses her drawing with Amy Beecher. Photo by Kelly Fletcher“What I learned was that the Cathy I grew up with in the late ’80s and early ’90s had over the course of the last 20 years morphed from a conflicted feminist into a passive, apolitical subject, and I became interested in reinventing her and making up a new end to her story. I like to re-imagine Cathy as a more complex character than the one I think she evolved to be.”

As her art continues to grow and change, Amy looks forward to furthering her education with Marlboro students. In the fall she taught two courses, one centered around the concepts of color and one on drawing. This spring she is teaching a course called Accessorizing Painting and another on Alternative and Artist-run Spaces. She is excited to see more work from the students, whom she describes as “a true community of interdisciplinary intellectuals and artists.”

“A lot of students take art classes thinking about how art is going to fit into this much broader project of their Plan. And so when they come to your class it’s not just to make art, it’s to see if artistic methods will be useful to them as part of a broader inquiry. To me, that is quite advanced—to be thinking not only ‘what am I learning,’ but ‘what’s the big picture here and how can I transfer this knowledge of making elsewhere?’”