AMBER TUTWILER
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My practice embraces a phenomenological approach as a method of researching the lived exerience of my own body in relation to another. The divides and gaps between our bodies, and how we engage with others to experience intimacy, motivate the tensions and curiosities in my work. I use highly rendered oil paintings that reference digitally edited photographs to articulate these boundaries. Skin and fabric weave through the picture plane to suggest the fragmented and incomplete nature of intimacy. Digital interfaces significantly impact my work as photography and video become the primary means of communicating identity and intimacy. These digitally captured moments are performative negotiations of agency. I am interested in the juxtaposition between locality (real place, real time) and non-locality (undefined space, ambiguous time) that the Internet has power over, and how our bodies atemporally reside within these images.

My process begins with photographic and video documentation of my own body and bed. These images and videos are then digitally redocumented, causing fringe interference patterns and over-saturated oranges and soft blues to push into the darkness of the image. In donating my body, my own negotiation of agency is tethered to the limitations of the interface. Painting and drawing function as attempts to reclaim these images. In building the surface, I am able to reference the painted canvas as the original interface while retaining the qualities of my hand, reinstating my authorship.

From a historical perspective, my painting process directly references the Atelier. Using classical approaches inspired by tenebrism in the Baroque movement, alla prima and glazing techniques to slowly build up the surface with extreme darks and intense lights. Like the work of Caravaggio, the darkness functions as a psychological unknown, becoming symbolic of the mythology that darkness is something to be feared. In a contemporary sense, my process caters to this mythology as the Internet attempts to illuminate as much information as possible – but in doing so, also becomes a space for us to project our fears.

Unlike classical approaches, I do not see painting as just a two-dimensional picture-plane with embedded content that transports the viewer. Borrowing from medium specificity, sculpture in the expanded field (adapted for painting), and the Fluxus movement, I see my work as an object that occupies space and therefore must engage the viewer directly. Paintings are performative; their boundaries transform space. These principles have led to sculptural and interdisciplinary manifestations. Acrylic mirror, layered surfaces, structural assemblages, and silicone-based life casting all make their way into my work in order to claim space and engage the viewer. Additionally, our interaction with digital spaces begs us to address Foucault’s notion of the Panopticon; with the use of the mirror, I make it clear that if the viewer engages with the work that I put forth, they must also address their own reflection, as well.

Prior to focusing exclusively on visual art, I was both a dancer and a gymnast. My connection to movement and performance has led to a collaborative partnership with Ballet Florida, a non-profit dance company in West Palm Beach, FL. This resulted in two productions, Welcome (2018) and Pulse (2019). Welcome was an interactive performance that took place in a gallery that was converted into an apartment. Using dance, poetry, installation and sound, viewers were invited to engage directly with the space as the dancers embodied various aspects of identity throughout the 45-minute performance. While Welcome took place in an intimate gallery, Pulse (2019) took place on a stage at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach, FL. Based on theories of identity in digital spaces, each dancer functioned as duplicates of the original performer, unfolding as the performance progressed. Mirrors, video projection, installation, and sound transformed the stage into the embodiment of a digital space. The work culminated in the falling down of a large sheet of transparent fabric, symbolic of the interface, leaving but one performer on the stage.  
            
As I move forward, I am currently in the designing phase for a new body of sculptural paintings and drawings to explore mirrored relationships and time more directly. I am also in dialogue with the Dance Department at Utah Valley University where we hope to create a collaborative immersive performance in the future (Covid-19 permitting). The connection between my personal research and my pedagogy is always unfolding; by participating in collaborative projects, I am able to maintain a dialogue with the community while presenting students with unique opportunities to grow as artists. This intense drive to serve my community cannot be overstated; as the founder of H/ours Collective, an artist collective in West Palm Beach active from 2017-2019, I have witnessed what local arts activism can do to transform the cultural landscape to be more inclusive of the arts. In my vision of the future, I strive to create opportunities for artists locally while organizing and sustaining dialogues between artists globally.