Calgary Journal reporter Jennie Price spoke with artist Amy Dryer about her recent artist residency in Berlin, the day she found out she was going to be a mom and her newest collection of paintings, ’Primary’. 

What did you love most about your stay in Berlin?

I loved Berlin’s energy — the explosion of spring; the yelling; talking people on the streets below my apartment at night, the trains that could transport you anywhere in the city; the graffiti on every surface and building; the galleries, art and history waiting to be known.

When did you and your husband find out you were going to be parents?

Aaron and I had taken a small trip to the Baltic Sea, and while we were there, we decided to go into a cafe that advertised free WiFi. We were drinking coffees and teas when we read a message that the adoption agency we were working with wanted us to contact them right away. We did, and that’s when we found out that a birth couple wanted to meet us when we arrived home from Europe. We kind of freaked out a bit — [it was] very surreal, exciting and terrifying to become potential parents.

Micah s Garden DayBODY“Micah’s Garden Day” is named after Dryer’s son, and was completed shortly after he was born in June 2018. “His birth coincided with the growth of my beloved garden and I found myself painting en plein air (meaning “outside”),” says Dryer. Photo courtesy of Amy Dryer.

How has motherhood impacted your art?

Motherhood has of course affected my art in a practical way, in that the hours available to me are less. As a result, when I get to the studio, I don’t hesitate. I am efficient, organized and I arrive at my working-space with a to-do list and a sense of complete focus. I have a temporary studio closer to home, which is also more practical — I can paint at all hours of the day or night. In a thematic or stylistic way, my paintings are exploding right now. I have so much energy to put into them — there is a sense of colour, movement and vivaciousness that is coming out right now in my work. I think that’s connected to Micah — to the joy, exhaustion, challenge and sweetness of becoming a mother.

What do you like most about your recent work?

I like the presence of this show: It is bold, full of life, colourful, unapologetic, vivacious … It’s all the best parts of me, as an artist, and some of it was done having just brought a newborn baby home.

Vibrancy SQUARE“Vibrancy” was inspired by a woman Amy Dryer connected with in Berlin through some good friends in Calgary. “For me, ‘Vibrancy’ captures a personal and yet universally strong, solitary woman, in an everyday moment,” Dryer explains. Photo courtesy of Amy Dryer.

How would you define your Berlin work in comparison to your garden paintings?

My Berlin work was about women. I interviewed and spent time with the women I painted, asking them about their views on strength; I aimed to return to the figure, a subject I have long loved, while studying a painting style that I have strongly associated with.  As a result, the women paintings are bold and personal — and pay homage to German Expressionism and the energy of Berlin. My garden paintings followed closely behind the women paintings, in terms of timing. The themes — of the women and the gardens — are expressions of an everyday space … so, to answer your question, I think there are more similarities between the Berlin paintings and the garden paintings than differences. They build on one another.

What are some key works in your upcoming shows?

‘Micah’s Garden’ is on its way to the Toronto Art Fair, and it’s one of my personal favourites from the garden works.  As I painted it, Micah was sleeping in his bassinet across the yard while my sister sat next to him reading; the flowers, the way they came together, overlapped and interacted in the painting, was seamless. ‘Berlin Sunroom’ and ‘Vibrancy’ were inspired by a woman I met while in Berlin through some good friends in Calgary. For me, these two works capture a personal and yet universally strong, solitary woman, in an everyday moment.

DRYER 2VERTArtist Amy Dryer with three artworks from her solo exhibition Primary opening Nov. 23. Dryer will be in attendance giving an artist talk at 2 p.m. on Nov. 24 at Masters Gallery Ltd. Photo by Jennie Price.

This story appears in the November-December 2018 print issue of the Calgary Journal, on stands now!

Editor: Alec Warkentin |

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