Alumna & Instructor Amanda Hawkins Exhibits in NYC

June 1, 2023

Alumna and instructor Amanda Hawkins–who was also just out in Sedona, Arizona for a three day workshop–recently had her first exhibition in New York City this spring.

Hawkins was among six contemporary landscape painters featured in the exhibition The Lens Through Which We See.

The exhibition was put on by the Visionary Arts Collective, “a contemporary art and artist development company that uplifts artists through magazine features, exhibitions, podcast interviews, and mentorship programs.” The Lens Through Which We See was also the collective’s first exhibition in New York City.

Hawkins was kind enough to sit down and talk about her experience approaching this doubly-inaugural exhibition.

“When the curator reached out in late December about a Spring NYC show, I was ecstatic. I had been building a body of work in the entirety of 2022 plein air painting tree roots.” Unfortunately for Hawkins, all of her plein air paintings were too small–VAC was looking for 5’ pieces. She needed to create some entirely new work.

“I spent January at Penland School of Craft as a winter resident, figuring I’d get the paintings done, roll them up for transport and stretch them once back home. As any painter should know, plans are useless. The painting always has another agenda, and so I left Penland with a roll of canvas of failed attempted paintings.

“February and March involved a gallon of gesso, 2 rolls of canvas, and at least 12 bottles of Cadmium Yellow Light. I planned to make big paintings that reflected their plein air references without relying on them. I wanted the work to feel fresh yet considered, spontaneous yet deliberate, daring yet thought out, fast yet slow. 

“So I painted in drafts, learning from each attempt. I brought what I liked to the next canvas, and left other qualities behind. Some became overworked, others felt too tame or too daring. Of the 10 paintings, only two met my goals. All the others were necessary stepping stones. I feel I am a better painter having gone through this process.

“Walking into the show, it felt like a weight lifting from my shoulders – the paintings were out for the world to see. They commanded the room with their size and lured in viewers with their details. It was fun to see viewers make connections across the paintings – the small and big paintings spoke to one another from across the gallery walls. It was hard to spend time with the work during the opening – the gallery was packed with friends, family, old co-workers, and students.”

Asked if she had any advice she might offer to younger painters, Hawkins had some thoughts:

“Frustration only leads to more frustration which leads to rash painterly moves. Reframe your feelings of frustration: making a painting is like solving a riddle, let yourself be puzzled, let yourself think it through. Enjoy the unknowing. And let the work breathe, let the paint be paint, let a brush stroke be a brush stroke. Don’t coddle it, don’t smother it. Let the mark live untouched for as long as you can stand.”