AMY ROSS MUSHROOMS & ART
Boston-based artist Amy Ross works in watercolor, collage, charcoal, and graphite. Her work is fueled by a lifelong love of folklore and a deep reverence for the natural world. In the studio, Amy looks at flora and fauna through the lens of story and imagination. I am completely captivated by her collage series of little mushrooms with legs.
She graduated from Connecticut College with a BA in religious studies and then earned a Master's in Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School. She took art classes at night while studying and realized her heart was much more in art than in academia. She enrolled at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where she studied painting, drawing, and printmaking, and she has been a working artist ever since.
Amy what are your greatest inspirations or influences?
My art has definitely been influenced by all the years I spent studying world religions. Creation myths, the life of the spirit, and the beauty, fragility, and unpredictability of life: all of those big, mysterious ideas fuel my work. And nature is my inspiration. I have a deep reverence for the natural world. It's where I find divinity, mystery, meaning, inspiration, wholeness. I feel a very strong kinship with animals, particularly foxes, wolves, owls, and hummingbirds. I am obsessed with mushrooms, with flowers, with anything wild and alive. I started painting hybrid creatures when my daughter was a toddler. Looking at the world through a child's eyes made so many ideas suddenly possible to me. Why not think that mushrooms could walk through the forest on legs, that baby goats could bloom out of flower buds?
What is the most interesting response you've heard about your work?
People think my work is either cute or creepy. Some people buy my work for their children's rooms, while some corporate collections won't hang it because they worry their clients would be unnerved by the imagery. These two diametrically opposed responses are fascinating to me. And people absolutely love, love, love mushrooms. Apparently I'm not the only one! The same with animals. So many people have spirit animals, and I've had amazing conversations with people about the animals that resonate with them and why. I live for that kind of thing.
Dream project for you?
I used to paint a lot of site-specific wall murals with walnut ink. I'd depict enormous mushrooms with human legs, oversized magnolia branches with animal heads popping out of flower buds, and towering birch trees with cow hooves. I'd love to return to that kind of work. Working at such a large scale is freeing and exhilarating. It would be amazing to create room-sized environments full of morphed creatures.
Why mushrooms, why now?
There's definitely something going on in the zeitgeist with mushrooms right now!
I think mushrooms tap into the imaginative fantasy world of folklore and its accompanying mystery and magic, its supernatural beings, and its portals to the divine. Mushrooms straddle the boundary between whimsical and menacing, medicinal and poisonous, material world and spirit world. I also think that perhaps we never really lose the childhood desire for fairies to be real and for the forest world to be enchanted. I know I certainly haven't!
Favorite websites/IG handles?
Anything art-related. I'm always looking at artist and gallery websites. I am so inspired by the art I see every day on Instagram. I love how generous artists are with sharing their creations with the world. Also, I subscribe to an online live daily meditation, The Infinity Call, so I visit that website every day.
Other creatives I love: I love the women surrealists: Leonora Carrington, Dorothea Tanning, Remedios Varo. Not surprisingly, I have a soft spot for Victorian fairy painting. I could stare at Charles Burchfield's trippy landscapes for hours. Georgia O'Keeffe has always been my hero. And where to begin in terms of artists working today? Wangechi Mutu, Inka Essenhigh, Lisa Yuskavage, I could go on and on. Also, I read a lot of poetry: Denise Levertov, W.S. Merwin, Mary Oliver, e.e. cummings. Often the titles of my pieces are taken from lines of poetry, or the poems themselves will suggest imagery to me. I turn to poetry constantly.
Anything else: You can see images of my work on amyross.com, and I recently opened an online store for archival prints, amyross.shop. You can find me on Instagram at @naturemorph. Otherwise you can find me in the studio or out mushroom hunting in the woods.