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Alumna brings out the ‘eerie’ side of American suburbia

Alumna brings out the ‘eerie’ side of American suburbia

Alumna brings out the ‘eerie’ side of American suburbia
November 19
11:00 2021

Through images and scenes of American suburbia, artist and university alumna Amber Hart explores the middle class. 

“To be honest, the middle class has so much more character than the upper class does,” Hart said. “Wealth doesn’t necessarily mean anything.” 

Hart paints modern and historical architecture through various mediums such as oil, watercolor and ink wash, and she ties color, humor and art history into her pieces. Hart graduated from the university in December 2020 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drawing and Painting. 

Hart’s interest in art began when she was younger and would copy images of any subject she could find, most regularly animals, into her sketchbook. As she grew up, she said she was told art was not a viable job or career path. 

“I decided I was going to make [art] a career,” Hart said. 

Hart is a member of the equestrian club at the university and said the logistical aspect of being an equestrian impacts her art. Hart has a horse now, and said she has to listen to him through his body language to understand what he is trying to tell her.

“With equestrian, it’s never the same answer,” Hart said. “You’re constantly having to figure out, like a canvas, what the surface needs. That’s where [art and equestrian] connect. I have to figure out what the other thing needs and nourish that in my own way.” 

Before the pandemic, Hart’s art focused on homes and architecture. Homes in her work started as a simple concept and became spaces where she made up what it was like to live there.

Once COVID-19 hit, Hart switched her focus to what she saw while at home, which was the other houses around her. She said she brought on the concept where neighborhoods were temporary holding places. 

Part of this concept came from Hart’s move from Covington, La. to Texas. Hart said in her hometown in Louisiana, the people who were born there died there, while people would move to Texas for a job and then move out.

“Our communities are not actually communities,” Hart said. “It’s not the small-town feel. I paint the community I wish I still was living in. I give myself that sense of community without actually having it.” 

Ryleigh Kelley, a College of Visual Arts and Design alumna and middle school art teacher, became friends with Hart when they took a figure drawing class together. Kelley said Hart’s work is interesting because she has elements of reality in a dreamlike state. 

“I think she has a very unique art style,” Kelley said. “You really have to take your time to look at [her art] because there [are] so many Easter eggs in it.” 

Elaine Pawlowicz, an associate professor in the Department of Studio Art and CVAD professor for 16 years, first had Hart in beginner-level painting courses, then later in advanced painting. She said Hart’s pieces of suburbia are “eerie” but have aspects of kitsch, a cheesiness or tackiness. 

Pawlowicz likened Hart’s pieces to those of Ivan Albright, an American painter, sculptor and printmaker known for his self-portraits and character studies. Referred to as the “master of the macabre,” Albright would age the subjects in his portraits until they became almost ghoulish, according to the Art Institute of Chicago.

Pawlowicz said Hart’s approach to her art shows she is a serious, committed artist. 

“There’s so much more that’s going to happen in the next decade with her work,” Pawlowicz said. “She’s going to be super exciting to watch. She’s onto something great.” 

Hart plans to pursue a Master of Fine Arts in Studio Art at the university. Hart said she hopes to reconstruct how art students are taught and focus more on how to have a career in art through business courses, management skills and accounting. 

Hart said she wants to sustain herself as an independent artist, but she plans on staying in the community if it does not work out. 

“I do have, unfortunately, very high standards for myself that seem to be hard to achieve,” Hart said. 

Courtesy Amber Hart

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Hannah Johnson

Hannah Johnson

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