view of the Golden Gate Bridge
from a recent trip to visit CCA before I made my decision
I'm going to grad school and, finally, after a year of thinking, applying, and deciding, I am ready to share my news with all of you. I am going to California College of the Arts in San Francisco for sculpture, installation, and interdisciplinary art in the fall! I will be moving in early June. I am simultaneously excited and scared, a mixture of feelings that I know is natural and reasonable. This is a huge step for me and a lot is about to change. I also know any amount of planning is not going to prepare me for what lies ahead. I just feel very deeply that this is the right next step for me. I feel a shift within me regarding my work and I am ready to focus on figuring it all out. Grad school will give me the time, space, and guidance I know I need to make it happen. I am looking forward to the challenge I'm sure it will be, and to seeing what happens in the next two years.
Back in the fall I prepared my application and I am very proud of the writing I did for it. I worked for several months almost every day and chose to hire an editor because I felt this writing was too important to go it alone. I needed a professional, outside voice and eye to help. I worked with my friend, writer Katey Schultz, and it was one of the most rewarding processes I have ever been involved in. Katey helped draw my thoughts out of my head and onto paper in a clear, simple, and heartfelt way. I feel my statement expresses my interest in grad school and commitment to my work in a way that is true to who I am and I would like to share it with you now. I know it may look long, but it only takes a few minutes to read, and I truly hope you will.
In the near future I will talk more about grad school and about my experience with Katey.
Amy Tavern - Personal Statement
"I have been a full-time artist and metalsmith for nearly ten years. My practice involves production, custom, and conceptual jewelry as well as the recent addition of sculptural objects and installations. I have taught workshops and lectured in the United States and Europe, and celebrated four solo exhibitions since 2012. My career is propelled by hard work, tenacity, sincerity, and deep-seeded motivation. I feel incredibly grateful for my successes and am emboldened to take a major step by applying to graduate school for sculpture, installation, and interdisciplinary work. California College of the Arts’ unique program suits my creative needs, ambitions, talents, and desire for growth.
I am a sensitive observer, striving to deeply understand what I do and why. I have always been this way and have memories of acknowledging each dilapidated barn as I rode to my grandparents’ house. As a young girl, I carefully arranged my collection of delicate rabbit figurines in my room and spent playtime making furniture to fill dollhouses. As a teenager, I grew curious about interpersonal relationships and felt acutely aware of slight changes between friends. I remember the moment I realized what it means to miss someone--I was 17 and had just finished reading a letter from a relative. As an adult, I earned two bachelor’s degrees, the second without financial assistance from my parents; I moved across the U.S. and back, occupying 25 different apartments since 1992. I have dealt with divorce and excruciating heartbreak and experienced career triumphs that made me leap with joy while also challenging me to push further. I see incredible beauty in everything I encounter, from a breathtaking moss-covered lava field in Iceland to a derelict factory in my hometown, from suffering through a break-up, to watching my father with Alzheimer’s forget my name. I remain positive, hopeful, and steadfast, and continue to learn. I see life as a work of amazing opposites and I embrace it with open, delighted arms.
In this short decade between the completion of my second bachelor’s degree to returning home to care for my dad, my work has grown: from formal production designs to one-of-a-kind, sculptural jewelry; from abstract narrative pieces about memories, to complex, multi-dimensional works combining jewelry, objects, ritual, arrangements, and installation. My career has put me in touch with a diverse range of people in places around the world and provided opportunities for personal research and critical influence through direct experience and extensive conversations. I have made work with native materials, taught Icelandic children to embroider, and answered questions about my life as a stranger in a strange land. My critical influences include Ólafur Elíasson for the way he uses atmosphere and light; Ragnar Kjartansson for his ability to create sculpture out of sound; Sophie Calle for her keen observation of daily life; Sol LeWitt for his belief that the idea is paramount; and Dario Robleto for his sensitive manipulation of found objects.
My work is rooted in memory and this began when I catalogued and studied all the jewelry I own or have memories of owning. This careful studying became an essential part of my process and deepens as I observe my father's Alzheimer's. I focus on memory recall, fabrication, and loss, but what further parallels exist? I would like to expand my concepts at CCA by examining connection and solitude, displacement and migration, and by deconstructing the ephemeral. I’m also interested in using memory to create experiences rather than objects. I believe anything can be a material--from light to video to emotion--and wonder how I can treat memory as such.
Most recently, my work took a huge turn when I spent two months in a remote village in Northwest Iceland. I made textile-based pieces that allowed my mind and hands to work in different ways than metalsmithing. I created four works there, some composed of multiple pieces, and gave myself room to think. I took long daily walks, thoughtfully looked at every detail around me, documented my observations in thousands of photographs, and contemplated my life as I stitched Island of 14,264 Days for hours on end. I am thrilled with the work I made there, but what I’m most excited about is the shift that took place in heart and mind. This body of work, 11 large-format textile necklaces and one embroidered abstract self-portrait, made it clear that I was changing directions. I am compelled to follow this path and I need critical challenge and guidance, community and independence to allow these ideas to manifest and grow.
Contemplating my life as I work allows me to understand my experiences and draws me closer to people and surroundings. It heightens my sensitivity to the human condition and ties me to others through commonality. My most treasured moments are ones in which time seemed nonexistent. Now, I want to make immersive installations that recreate this experience, if only for a moment, and I want to connect this work with as many people as possible. I believe this work will establish connections that cause viewers to feel embraced. This relates naturally to my work as a jeweler, where I am always concerned with the body as a site. How can memory translate from objects worn on the body to larger works that surround the body? What will change? My current work solidified my determination to go to graduate school and gave me confidence that California College of the Arts’ MFA program absolutely suits me. I will be a hard-working, open-minded, sincere member of your community and look forward to working with you."
Thanks for reading.