Friday, December 16, 2011

Mind Body Spirit Artist Series: Amy Zerner

When I started the Artist Interview Series for the Mind Body Spirit Odyssey back in January, I never imagined that by the end of the year I would be interviewing one of the leading collage artists in the world.  You may already be familiar with the Enchanted World of Amy Zerner and her husband Monte Farber through one of their many publications, such as the Enchanted Tarot, but Amy's work is much more far reaching.  A recipient of the National Endowment of the Arts, tapestry artwork that has appeared in over 40 books in twelve different languages, a jewelry line, handmade garments that are sold at Bergdorf Goodman - Amy's work has touched and inspired many people in numerous ways.  It was really a pleasure to interview Amy for this series and I appreciate how generous and forthcoming she was.  I was also very happy to hear how much she has enjoyed reading our Artist Interview Series this year.  Thank you Amy!
                                                                                                                  ~ diane fergurson

MBS: Can you tell us a little about your background?  How you got started in art?

Amy:  I come from a family of artists. My dear angel “Ma,” as all of my friends used to call my late mother, Jessie Spicer Zerner, supported our family as an illustrator of literally hundreds of children’s books and greeting cards. She made it seem normal to me to make books and illustrate them and I am still doing it.

My late father Raymond was always admiring and encouraging of his children’s talents and made us feel special because we were “artists,” like the woman he loved.  My grandfather, Clayton Spicer, was a painter. My very first memory in life is sitting on his knee painting leaves on the trees of one of his paintings. For this and many other reasons, I cannot think of a time when I did not think of myself as an artist. 
Ma was always creating fun and exciting things for me to do, projects of every kind and not just artistic ones. She used to do ESP experiments with me a lot starting when I was eight years old. I think that is one of the main reasons that I developed my imagination, my intuition, and my sense of wonder and faith in the absolute magic about every day of life in equal measure.

It may have been because of my family history, but making my living as a professional artist was a normal thing for me to do. I never had a second choice as to what I should do. I just always felt like being an artist was my natural state. Unlike many artists who work at other jobs to support their making art, I have never worked as anything other than an artist; I have never even considered it.

MBS:  I'm sure growing up in an environment that valued and fostered creativity
made a world of difference in how you developed as an artist.  It sounds like you were very lucky in
that respect.  How do you think the imagination and freedom you were allowed as a child has
influenced how you work as an adult artist?  The choice of materials that you use in your pieces (mixed media), for example, or how you approach your work?   Also the subjects that you choose to explore.

Immortal Love
Amy: Looking back now, I see how my own art career has included elements from the careers of my mother and maternal grandfather. I have been a commercial artist and a writer, but first a painter. However, when paint seemed too inadequate a medium to convey the multidimensional nature of life I was starting to see, I started making paintings out of layered fabric, trimmings, appliqués, ribbons, and found objects.
I believe our consciousness is connected to the Higher Forces and I make images that use existing fabric elements to surreally portray the unseen forces the surround, sustain, and connect us. To me, we strive to be directly connected to the God Force, the Higher Self. So, we are trying to make this clear channel between us, and the Higher Forces.

This image has appeared in many of my tapestries. The image is a sort of ladder or a veil or a connection that reaches from the earth to the Higher Plane. Still always having the opposites, they become much more symmetrical with a seemingly architectural basis for the whole energy pattern, whether it is swirling or glittering. Moreover, the outer symbols I feel are representative of the flashes of insight of the invisible world that affects us now.
All those energies are described in my work, all the way down to what is right here, the flower at our feet, up to the Higher Forces of the planet. I try to put it all in there – that complexity, and make a balance out of it all. It’s just the vibrations of energy that change as the light changes and as our moods change. It elevates us from the mundane and lifts us out – definitely entering the world there that reminds us that this perfection and this symmetry exists and this truth and beauty. It’s definitely about beauty! It’s about reaching up and reaching within. It’s an active, sort of feminine, approach, but it’s all heaven and it’s grounded.

I think that I was influenced by my idyllic childhood in the woods of northeastern Pennsylvania, but I am also influenced by the fact that Monte and I have actually created in our own life the kind of heaven most people think is impossible to create. We show each other more love, respect, and support in a day than some people ever have their whole life, unfortunately. We have no doubt about whether or not we love and trust each other completely. That alone can change your life and I think it has helped me feel secure in creating the worlds of wonder that I make because I know that heaven can be created on earth.

MBS:  I first became familiar with your work years ago when I was researching tapestry artists.  All the tapestries that you created when you did the Enchanted Tarot Deck - just breathtaking.  A couple of questions...  As I sit here and look through the book I have that came with the card deck (1990 St. Martin's Press) I've always wondered what the original dimensions of those tapestries were.  Also, how did you become interested in the tarot and creating a deck from tapestry imagery?

Atlantia - Goddess of the New
Amy:  Thank you so much! Monte and I have used the primal concept of the oracle as a starting point on many exciting creative collaborations.  We have married together my art with his interpretation of the intuitive and universal wisdom in my images as well as the wisdom of the ancient metaphysical traditions to bring these beautiful, eminently practical, and timeless truths up to date for all of us to use in very practical ways.  We can turn to oracles for wisdom, inspiration, and solace when life is so rapid and chaotic.  Oracles help us to make poetry out of chaos and to bring light to the self with conscious knowing and participation. In 1974, when I met Monte, I was studying astrology and the tarot, and these archetypal languages became our language of love.

In 1988 I began work on The Enchanted Tarot.  It is an epic series of seventy-eight fabric collages. Rather than work on one fabric collage at a time, I chose to work on the Major Arcana as a piece and then on one complete suit at a time.  My work area lies beneath a cathedral ceiling twenty feet high with skylight.  It was here that I would lay out all of the individual background fabrics for each suit.  The creation of one piece would bring inspiration regarding another and so I would move from one to the other like a bee in a flower garden.  In this way I was able to give each suit a look of continuity and make sure that all issues relating to each were symbolically represented by either the human figure(s) portrayed, by the images, shapes, and colors surrounding them, or by the card's border.  I  worked so intensely on this project.  Nearly every day and night was completely devoted to making sure each piece was true to itself while fitting in with the rest of its suit.  It was only after I had completed each suit that Monte would write down the meanings he saw in each piece to "illustrate" my art with his words in the deck's full-color companion book. Each finished original tapestry from The Enchanted Tarot (I prefer to call them tapestries, not quilts) is 12" X 24".

Divine Order
MBS:  For our readers, can you explain what you mean when you are referring to " the primal concept of the oracle"?

Amy:  An oracle like the tarot is a form of do-it-yourself analysis – a way of unlocking secrets of the self and providing directions towards manifesting your goals.  It is a support system that can be relied upon as a friend that can give you helpful advice.  It is also a great brainstorming tool that can enhance your creativity.  Using an oracle as a meditation tool helps you to dialogue with your higher self.  Consulting the cards creates a safe, spiritual haven where you connect to positive energy and positive emotions.  It helps us discover what we really want in life and what we must do as our next step on the path.  And you can use the cards whenever you need clarity on an issue, or as an everyday meditation.  When you read your message, your attitudes, desires, and strategies for the best course of action can be reflected upon.

The process requires opening your mind and trusting your intuition to interpret the answers.  An oracle is a tool that helps you tap into your psychic power. It is primal because it is a ritual. Rituals acknowledge the existence of a Higher Power in ourselves and in our world. One of the primary functions of ritual is to build a spiritual connection in our daily lives. They also reinforce our desires and strengthen our intent as we work to materialize those desires. At the same time, they remind us of our inseparable connection to the natural world. Rituals can help us to remember that we are part of the rhythms and cycles of Nature. Many people use our oracles every day as part of their daily spiritual practice. We do. too!

MBS:  I've noticed recently that your work has evolved into another direction - designing clothing and jewelry.  Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Amy:  In 1991 I started making one-of-a-kind garments for myself, with my tapestry art on the back, to wear to my gallery shows. My gallery owner liked them, so I began creating more of them to include in my exhibits, and they started to sell. In 1999, Bergdorf Goodman took my line, and I have been selling there ever since. I really love designing clothes and I love being in the most beautiful store in the world! Each of my handmade garments is a work of art, a delicate balance of chic, classic lines and unexpected details, composed of rich, luminous fabrics and embroidered with a magical touch of extravagance and romance.

My couture jackets, caftans and coats are unique, created for the woman pursuing her dreams with style and spirit. I feel that my garments radiate serene self-confidence, glamour, imagination, and sensuality because they are works of art. They are in the fashion collections of many amazing women, and also have been collected by some of our culture’s legendary goddesses, including the late Elizabeth Taylor, Shirley MacLaine, Patti LaBelle, Martha Stewart, and Oprah Winfrey.

The intricate tapestry art panels that are my signature are composed from many precious and unusual textiles, ribbons, and trims; hand painting; beading; rare appliqués; and vintage images. Each piece is unique; birds, animals, dream metaphors, mythological beings, and universal symbols are sewn harmoniously together to create lush, layered landscapes that suggest the many complexities of life and nature.

Our creative spirits are full of exciting colors and textures. Dressing up and adorning ourselves give us permission to feel great and grateful allowing our true radiance to shine.
One thing leads to the other, and I have always designed jewelry but last year Bergdorf Goodman took my line and it has been doing great. also carries it, as well as Liberty of London. My talismans are imbued with special sacred symbolism and mystical messages.

MBS:  What is a typical work day like for you? 

Amy:  Monte and I live a very healthy lifestyle. We do yoga together, try to eat organic food. We don't drink, we try not to eat sugar. We work hard. We get massages and acupuncture regularly. We laugh a lot. We love our cat Zane. We are surrounded by art. We are very blessed.

MBS:  What advice do you have for those who wish to (seriously) pursue an artistic path?

Amy:  My advice for those wishing to pursue an artistic path is this:  We once visited the Library of Congress - I don't know if you have ever been there but it is the most incredibly beautiful place.  It was a time in our life where we really needed to remember what was real because it was a rough time.  And we came upon this place which had this inscription "For a web begun, God sends thread". WE were so touched that it brought us to tears. I believe this to be true, and it has been true for me. So my advice is, just start…have faith and trust that if you follow your bliss, work hard, believe in yourself, then magic happens.

MBS:  What's next for you?

Amy: I currently have shows of my fashions and jewelry every 2 months at Bergdorf Goodman, so I am constantly creating new styles and designs. My next show is January 10-13.

Monte and I are also planning a one day conference "Ask the Oracles" in New York City on Tuesday, April 17th at the 92nd St. Y. Please write to us at info@TheEnchantedWorld for more information.

~ thank you Amy!

Amy's Art, Jewelry & Fashion website:
Amy & Monte's Books & Oracles website:

Amy's Jewelry is Available:

At Bergdorf Goodman:
At Neiman Marcus:
At Liberty of London:


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  1. omg

    I am so impressed and inspired by this artist

    hugs & kisses to you Diane for creating this blog

    it just might chnage my life ; )

  2. awww... thank you for the kind words Kelly! Yes, Amy and the work her and her husband do has inspired me for years and years now. It was such an thrill to interview her for the bog!



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Artist,Writer, Jewelry Design