The Art Assassin 2

a nonfiction novel by Albert Wang, or a portrait of the artist as a young failure…


with one comment

Photograph of Amy Lincoln. Courtesy of Amy Lincoln.
Amy Lincoln: Painter, 2009, acrylic on board, 12 by 9 inches. Courtesy of Amy Lincoln.

I had the chance to see Amy Lincoln‘s thoughtful piece “Untitled” last spring on her Fine Art Adoption Network (FAAN) website and had wanted to adopt it for my home. I was drawn into her emotional palette in bluish hues that drenched the model, presumably herself, who is sitting in a very red chair. I was attracted to it because it was a different mood than the infamous Francis Bacon‘s rendition of the screaming Pope in burning light. There was a serenity in that piece. Even though I wasn’t able to adopt it, I felt like that I wanted to get a chance to know the artist Amy Lincoln better.

Recently I got a chance to chat with her again to do this conceptual portrait sitting/exercise with her. Her postmodern settings are rooted firmly in the tradition of self-examination and colorful folk art where emotional perspective trumps physical perspective. The illusion of such calmness belies the tension within the subject and viewer; a stronger look is needed often to delve into Lincoln’s profound rendition of the interior or landscape or portrait as a form of private epiphany. The understated tones of the narrative counters against the sharp brightness of the hues of the work. These Kodachrome moments remain preserved underneath the artist’s microscope drawn towards these divulged feelings which glow through the portals of that unspoken connection between subject/artist and viewer. We become a voyeur of emotions into her world and are transported magically into this universe where Lincoln’s daily routines become primal rituals of psychological lucidity. Her collages reminding me of the work of Red Grooms. All of this so poignant.

If you have any questions about Lincoln’s artwork, feel free to contact the artist at

So here are THE ART ASSASSIN’s revealed details of the “assassination”:

qi peng: To start off on a lighter note, what are some of your favorite artists, books, television shows, sports, art magazines, toys, movies, and other cultural artifacts (either from your childhood or adulthood) that you wish to share with your fans of your work here? How are these incorporated into the ideas for your work?

Amy Lincoln: Artists: Sarah McEneaney, David Hockney, Cindy Sherman, John Currin, Lisa Yuskavage, Rousseau, Matisse, Picasso, Bonnard, Nan Goldin, Joan Brown

Books:  currently reading: The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge, and The End of Overeating, by David Kessler

Favorite Magazines and online sources: Modern Painters, mostly for Matthew Collings‘ column, The New Yorker, Ed Winkleman’s blog, NY Times,‘s “Since You Asked” column by Cary Tennis, WNYC (NPR)

Television: All via Netflix: The Wire, Dexter, True Blood, Friday Night Lights, Big Love

qi peng: Have you been recently during the past few months to any galleries or exhibitions that you have seen and would to recommend to us? What elements within those shows inspired your artistic eye and tastes?

Amy Lincoln: Saw Michael Velliquette show “Abundant Creatures” at DCKT contemporary on the LES that I completely loved.  Paper collaged monsters in many colors.  Also liked the John Currin drawing show recently at Marian Goodman.  Have been checking out Sue Scott gallery lately on Rivington; have seen a couple excellent group shows there.  Also saw a great show called “Time Bandits II” that was in a studio in the building above English Kills gallery in Bushwick.  The artists converted their live/work space to a show of really interesting sculpture and painting during the Bushwick Open Studios in June.

qi peng: Are there any restaurants or hangouts such as bookstores around New York City or Brooklyn or Bushwick where your studio is located of or anywhere else that you wish to recommend us? What are the qualities that you enjoy best about the places that you have chosen?

Amy Lincoln: The tortilla factory on Starr st between Wyckoff Av and St. Nicholas.  They serve great soft tacos for $2 each.  Their English is not so good, so you have to write down your order for them, and when the food’s ready it’s hard to tell whose is what so sometimes you end up eating another customer’s food.  I also enjoy Roberta’s, a pizza place that opened last year near the Morgan Stop.  The Wreck Room is a nearby bar we go to pretty often, especially after shows at the Laundromat, a gallery my boyfriend started out of his studio.

I also frequent openings and salons at Pocket Utopia, a gallery and social space run by artist Austin Thomas in Bushwick.  I really enjoyed an artist residency I did there last fall.  Unfortunately they just finished their last show.  They’ve had a great two years of programming and will be greatly missed in the neighborhood.

qi peng: In your assessment, how do you feel that the current economic recession impacted the contemporary art market and way that it functions in the larger national economy? Do you feel that artists will be pursuing more personal and intimate projects than the overly commercial work that was typically geared for the art fairs during the upcoming years? How do you think that galleries and non-profits will be coping with the dramatic shifts within the political and corporate culture, particularly in America?

Amy Lincoln: I don’t know of too many artists who got into it for the money, but if there were some, maybe they’ve given up by now.  I’ve heard it said that galleries in New York are putting on better shows in the last few months to entice the few people who still have money to spend on art.  It does seem to me that there’s slightly better work being shown these days.  I think that even during the boom years there were plenty of people making heartfelt, high quality work.  Of course there was a lot of crap too.  Maybe the proportion of good stuff to crap will improve slightly, one can hope….   It’s hard to know what will happen.  In the meantime I’m keeping my day jobs.

qi peng: Also, do you have any favorite hobbies which you enjoy in your spare time? How do these activities inform the studio work that you pursue? Based your personal interests, are your mixed media paintings reflective of those hobbies you engage in?

Amy Lincoln: I moved into and built out a live/work space last year, and that has forced me to learn some more carpentry skills and start thinking three dimensionally.  I think that influenced my work a bit in the last year in the form of collages with three-dimensional parts.  Also I have access to a woodshop now, so I’m experimenting with shaped panels that I make with a jigsaw.

I’ve also started writing short stories in the last year, and these have filtered into the content of the paintings I make.  Instead of creating a painting from something or someone I can see, I’m basing the painting on a memory or relationship that has emotional significance, so instead of representing people from life, in real places, I am painting them from memory in a kind of timeless non-space.

qi peng: As a graduate of both the University of California, Davis program and the Tyler School of Art at Temple University, what was life in the studio like back then? How does your studio practice differ today from studio time during those years? What were the ideas that you explored during your undergraduate and graduate years as a student? How has your themes and style evolved over the years?

Amy Lincoln: When I learned to paint at UC Davis, I was really focused on technical skill, and on learning to draw and paint the figure accurately.  I made lots of self-portraits because I was always available to myself, and becuase I was always trying to figure out what I really looked like.  At that time I learned that to work in series was very productive.  I made a series of portraits from photographs, which was a great way to just work on painting, because I didn’t have to stop and ask myself what the subject matter should be every time.  I still find it helpful to work this way, to hone in on a kind of piece I want to make, and to keep making it over again with variations.

As a grad student I still worked a lot with portraiture and self-portraiture, though I stopped using the photograph, and focused a lot on color.  In grad school I started working with water based media such as ink and gouache.  I developed a looser way of making images that I still return to often.

My work really changed after I got out of grad school.  It was important for me to depart from the pictoral idea I had been working with in portraiture: a central image with little background.  I started to really want to see a relationship between different elements in the composition.  I made a lot of paintings of rooms and objects, and outdoor scenes.  Over time the spaces got more and more detailed and complex, and eventually I started to populate these spaces with people.  Since then I sometimes return to portraits, but now they are more about a sentimentalized idea I have of an individual, as opposed to an accurate representation of their features.  I also still return to self-portraiture sometimes, and am always interested to find the variety of characters that come out when I draw myself.

qi peng: Assume that you could create your own personal museum of artwork. Which artists or pieces would you include in the collection and why? What things do you like looking when you are at art museums or galleries anywhere? What types of artwork does your personal tastes gravitate towards?

Amy Lincoln: I’m interested in folk art, or “outsider art” or representational images from other cultures such as Japan or Mexico.  I like the way people figure out how to represent their world, the things that are important to them, and the spaces they occupy, when they don’t have formal art training, or at least, don’t subscribe to ideas of linear perspective.  I also really like looking at Dutch and German painters from the early renaissance, such as Petrus Christus or Memling.

qi peng: On another light note, do you have any favorite cuisine or dishes that you enjoy? Considering that food is essential for the artistic soul, what things do you enjoy about meals either prepared in a restaurant or home setting?

Amy Lincoln: I don’t like to spend too much time preparing food.  I eat a lot of leftovers from my catering jobs, and a lot of peanut butter and jelly on bread, fruit, vegetables, yogurt whatever’s easy to prepare and relatively healthy.  I like eating out sometimes, but most of the time I prefer to be home.

qi peng: What is the methodology behind your acrylic paintings from start to finish, from preparatory studies to the completed work? What types of materials and equipment do you use to create your final artwork? How do you determine which subjects such as portraits or interiors go into a particular painting? Also what is an average day like within your studio? Do you use assistants and if so, how are they incorporated into your studio practice? Finally, what is a modeling session like within your studio?

Amy Lincoln: I don’t think to myself, “hm, what shall I paint today?”  Rather, I am struck by a strong intuitive sense of what to paint.  Generally the subject is a person or place within my daily experience.  Not all of these ideas work out, but they pretty much have to come to me in this intuitive way.  I often make a drawing or two in pen on paper, and then try to figure out what size the painting needs to be.  Then I build or purchase and then gesso the panel or board.  Then I make a drawing on the surface, and start blocking in larger areas of color.  The painting doesn’t really start happening for me until I work on detail, so I try to start doing that right away, even if it means having to scrap hours of work and repaint an object again in a slightly different place.  I use Golden Fluid acrylics, a paper palette, a jar of water, and about 5 or 6 brushes ranging from small to really small.  I stick to about 8 or 10 pigments, and mix all the colors I need from those.   Towards the end of the painting sometimes I’m sick of it so I work on something else for a while, then go back and finish it later.

I don’t have any assistants.  In the last few years I don’t really have people sit for me, except recently as part of a benefit at Michael Steinberg gallery. I did a big series of 1 hour portraits when I was in grad school, which was an interesting way of spending time with a lot of different people.   I found it very intersting how people responded in different ways to the sitting.  Some were very uncomfortable looking me in the eye, others gave themselves over to the process and seemed happy to have an excuse to do nothing for a while.  I had to have a kind of vulnerability in the situation in that I allowed people to watch me painting.  It was sometimes difficult not to be self-conscious.  I really enjoyed analyzing the sitters, and the wordless relationship we had over the course of making the portrait.

qi peng: Your rather colorful work has parallels to that of David Hockney and Sarah McEneaney in terms of its carefully studied intimacy between the viewer and subject. Your varied subject matter include everything from self-portraits to gardens to even a boutique of flowers in a vase. What draws you towards these rather complex and allegorical subjects? What hidden stories are you hoping to reveal to the viewer through your compositions?

Amy Lincoln: The images are not allegorical for me, though sometimes they are idealized or iconic versions of people or places with which I am familiar.  Others may read hidden stories into the paintings, but there are none intended.  I think it’s important for the images to be open to different interpretations.  There is background information, such as the garden was an idealized version of a park where I often walked in Tokyo.  But that information is not necessary or important.  If there are stories, they are pictoral ones about spaces the eye can travel within.

qi peng: Occasionally your work incorporates elements of collage. With your interest in the hidden emotional tension within your subject such as a kettle, which seems to be a rather straightforward object, what psychological elements do you delve into that would fascinate the viewer? How would you place your artwork in the context of art history and movements such as fauvism or cubism? Do you use photographic techniques within your paintings and if so, how are those used?

Amy Lincoln: The collage of the kettle was not made with any psychological intent.  Although the viewer is welcome to interpret them however they want, generally, images I make of inanimate objects are not intended to have psychological tension.  I am more just interested in them as familiar objects that I interact with daily.

I don’t think a lot about fauvism per se, cubism does get in there a bit I suppose…  I am interested in the 3-dimensional collages as both small models of actual objects, people and places, as well as representations that are meant to be seen from a particular angle.  I like that the images sometimes show impossible or “wrong” perspective, and possibly give the feeling of moving around the space, as opposed to viewing it from one position.

I don’t use photography most of the time, but for some objects, such as the plants in “The Garden” I used photographs quite a lot to remind myself of the structure of different plants.  I also sometimes use pictures of friends on Facebook in a series of portraits from memory that I am working on.  Mostly the images come from my memory of the person, but if I can’t remember what their nose is shaped like, or the exact color of their hair, I will look at photos of them on facebook.  But the images are never taken directly from photos.

qi peng: What has your experience been like working in the gallery system and doing commissioned work such as the Smack Mellon benefit this year at Michael Steinberg Fine Art? What are some of your future projects or exhibitions that you will be pursuing soon? Will these new artworks be an extension of the themes and ideas that you are examining now or perhaps a different direction instead?

Amy Lincoln: The portrait event at Steinberg was a fun experience, and a nice way to earn a little money.  Other shows I have done have mostly been at non-profit or artist-run spaces, with a few shows here and there at commercial spaces.  I’ve got a few things in the works for the fall, but nothing is set in stone yet so I’ll hold off on mentioning them.  I don’t really ever work with a particular show in mind.  Even if I know I have a show coming up, I don’t think about that so much in the studio.  I just make my work, and always try to follow my gut sense of what needs to be made next.  When I’m choosing work for the show, I will analyze and group the work retroactively, but I find the creative impulse is not something I should impose expectations on.

qi peng: Do you have anything else which you would like to share with your readers and fans of your wonderful paintings and upcoming exhibitions or projects here?

Amy Lincoln: Check my website for regular updates: new work, upcoming shows, etc.

Also, the Laundromat, the artist-run space I help organize, has an exciting lineup of fall shows starting with The Burger Group Show on August 8th. for more information

For more gossip or dishing me the art scoop: E-mail me at

Written by qi peng

August 2, 2009 at 1:44 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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  1. […] Check out my interview portrait by artist Qi Peng.  Also available on his his blog. […]

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