Interview with Amy O. Woodbury

” Amy Woodbury is a connoisseur of abstraction, an artist who unflinchingly exposes fierce secrets and restless dreams– all with a deft precision. Here, we cross over into a plane that moves with uncanny ease from the physical to abstract. Stroke after stroke scorches with unnamed longing, melodic stillness. This art, this surreal entity, is a deeply reflective meditation of modern wanderlust, yearning, and enigma. As a former modern dancer, Woodbury paints in much the same way as she danced–with daring, elegance, and a wondrous verve.”

-Maggie Lu, Visual Art Editor 

Inklette: How do you think your 22 years of artistic background in dancing/choreography influence your visual artwork? What was the catalyst in your transition from dance to artwork?

Amy: i consider my dance background to be my visual art training. to me, there are many similarities between composing a dance and composing a painting in that both art forms address improvisation, lyricism, space, line, texture, scale, abstraction and narrative. and with my figurative work, i often feel as though i’m still choreographing, still inventing movement. i love that!

throughout my dancing career, i would simultaneously be drawing and painting something, whether it be on costumes, on set pieces, on the walls of our home, on paper. the christmas after i retired, my husband gave me canvases and paints and that was that – i haven’t looked back.  


“The Snail’s on the Thorn,” 30″ X 40″, Acrylic on Canvas. ©Amy O. Woodbury

Inklette: I love your painting “The Snail’s on the Thorn”; can you speak about your composition and inspirations for that one specifically?

Amy: thank you. i am very pleased with how she turned out. it’s a romantic piece with a romantic ending (regarding its sale). 

the line, “all’s right with the world”, from robert browning’s verse poem, pippa passes, kept running through my head as i was making this. i love birds, the whole of the animal kingdom, and i love english literature and old books too, and i wanted to create a peaceful and harmonious world, where things were “right”, to quote mr. browning. when the foreground  figures were complete, i added the miniature chorus behind them, gave the earth an organic striation and the sky a crunchy texture. the palette was a guiding force, too.

Inklette:  Do you ever find moments of artist’s block? If so, how do you regain momentum?

Amy: i do and when it happens, i remind myself of the children i know and how fearless they are when they’re making art, “oh, i’ll just do this and add this and make this happen because i want to”. the judgement and editorializing go out the window, they’re free. i also have a mantra, “move off the spot”. just go. and even if what i throw down isn’t very good, it’s a start, it’s movement – have i mentioned that word before?


“Yin Yin,” 18″ X 24″, Acrylic and water color pencil on canvas. ©Amy O. Woodbury

Inklette: As an Illinois native, how do you find your work influenced by your upbringing and surroundings?

Amy: i was born in a quintessentially midwestern small town, mendota, and i have sweet memories of walking out our back door into cornfields and sky. there is variety to the landscape here. and there is a plethora of green and water and four very real, very distinct seasons. all of which makes for rich fodder for my work. i also live part time in southern utah, but illinois stays with me; oftentimes i will paint an illinois-infused piece while i’m in utah. so i take my roots with me wherever i go. i like that.

Inklette: Which artists or pieces of artwork did you find yourself drawn to in your formative years?

Amy: as a choreographer, henri matisse; he was a massive presence. i created an evening-length work, “ ode to a wild beast”,  based on several of his paper cut-outs. years later, working with paper and constructing collages, i felt i was channeling him all over again. 

but before the paper pieces, in my formative years, i was drawn to asian art: scroll paintings, woodblock prints, the “floating world”, kanji symbols, etc., which led me to purchase the tale of the bamboo cutter with superb illustrations by masayuki miyata. that little book fed me for several years – long enough that people thought i was asian. simultaneously, i loved poring through my grandmother’s art history books and selecting portraits of medieval madonnas for inspiration- icons by the likes of carlo crivelli, fra filippo lippi, piero della francesca. and i painted them on 4’x4’ sheets of masonite –  they were very primitive but a whole lot of fun to make.


“Michigan,” 36″ X 48 “, Acrylic on canvas.   ©Amy O. Woodbury

Inklette: Finally, I’d love to hear about your current exhibition at cafe selmarie in Chicago. How were you attracted to the venue? What sort of materials and inspirations did you draw on for your pieces “yin yin” and “michigan”?

Amy: i’m good friends with the owners; in fact, one was a dance colleague of mine. i enjoy showing there because of its lay-out, the generous wall space, the palette and the fact that the cafe’s clientele includes art collectors – i owe a lot to cafe selmarie in terms of my own client base. my current show, 20 strong, is a good example of the many different things i love to paint/draw: “yin yin” is a re-inventing of an older portrait that i felt wasn’t working so i flipped it upside down and there she was. she has a tinge of the surreal and with the two-female-portraits-in-one, i titled her “yin yin”. “michigan” is, once again, a manifestation of my love affair with the midwest; every summer we head north to the upper peninsula of michigan, on the southern shore of lake superior. aptly named. 

studio portrait

Photo Credit: Richard Woodbury

A former dancer and choreographer, AMY O. WOODBURY has been a visual artist for twenty years. Mostly self-taught, Ms. Woodbury works in acrylic and mixed media, painting and drawing a variety of things: fantasy figures within dense detritus-laden terrains, portraits of imagined women, abstract expanses of water and land. What motivates her? Movement, memories, intuition, color, randomness, thinking outside the stretched canvas. Born and raised in Illinois, Amy makes art in Chicago and Boulder, Utah. Exhibits include: Judy A. Saslow Gallery, the Goodman Theatre (scenic elements), the Evanston Public Library, permanent collection, the Evanston Art Center, GenesisMke, Cafe Selmarie, the Burr Trail Outpost, and her Annual Front Yard Art Sale, an anticipated Evanston event.

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