Limestone sculptor Amy Brier has an impressive résumé. She studied stone carving in Italy and Germany, earned a BFA in sculpture from Boston University, talked her way onto the crew of artisans constructing New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and spent six years on that project before earning an MFA at Indiana University’s Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts. She’s the first female board member of the national Stone Carvers’ Guild. She co-founded, and continues to direct, the Indiana Limestone Symposium, currently in its fifteenth year. Now a professor of art at the Bloomington campus of Ivy Tech Community College, she spends much of her time outside of the classroom on commissions from private and institutional clients.
But one of the things I find most impressive about Amy is that her home studio, in the walk-out basement of her house, shares space with lines of drying laundry. I find this impressive not because she hangs her laundry, rather than using a clothes dryer (though line drying is certainly the greener option), but because this particular aspect of her situation so powerfully expresses the down-to-earth reality of most working artists, and countless working women (though in this day, such realities characterize members of every gender and sex), in an era that privileges surface over substance.
You know what I mean. There’s this insidious pressure to present oneself as Successful And Loving It!—but only if we subscribe to a definition of success rooted firmly in the ongoing commodification of everything. It’s not that we–and here I’m speaking to those of us who are women–are to see ourselves as commodities for purchase by men. No. Things have become far more subtle than that. We–men and women–are now invited, even pressured, to purchase ourselves, cosmetically made-over and professionally reinvented.
To look older than 35 has become unacceptable in an age when dermatology, surgery, and (for the less affluent) Photoshop are available. Rail-like thinness continues to be de rigueur—the ultimate sign of power (requiring, as it does, an admirably steely will), yet simultaneously, I can’t but observe–at least among women–a reassuring signifier of our delicate frailty and thus supposedly inescapable dependence on a “provider.” And of course one must, throughout, display a stylish joie de vivre; even if one does not have the longed-for partner or satisfying, appropriately compensating job, one must avoid complaining or appearing to be anything less than “Fabulous.”
This is why I find Amy Brier, with her subterranean laundry-sharing studio, so impressive. She, like her home workplace, is real. And proud of it.
(Header image is not by Kendall Reeves.)