Keeping up appearances
I’ve been doing some arts coverage for Twin Cities Luxury and Fashion magazine. Here’s this month’s piece, below, featuring Amelia Biewald, who is one of my favorite local (and non-local) artists. The above photo can be found here.
Keeping up appearances
Amelia Biewald’s paintings, drawings and sculptures are equal parts beautiful, imaginative and thought-provoking
While poking fun at those who lust obsessively after beauty, power and class, local artist Amelia Biewald’s multidimensional pieces are also a paean to them.
“I’m into appearances … and what someone will do to keep up their look,” says Biewald, who discovers her subjects in history, anthropology and mythology.
“A good visual century for me is the eighteenth, in terms of peculiarities,” which comes across in her fancy aesthetic. Of Baroque and Rococo styles, she remarks, “We’ll never see the likes of that again in a million years. I love the over-the-top fashion in court society … I love the illusion of good health and prosperity.”
Hence, her recent New York exhibit, fittingly dubbed “Intrigues,” relates to one of the era’s high points — the illusory milieu of 18th-century Russian empress Catherine the Great — whom she stumbled upon one day while researching horses.
Naturally, the results are fun to look at. But there’s more to it than just spectacle; the yarns Biewald tells through her fantasy-like drawings, paintings and sculptures are playful, yet deep.
One of the reasons that Catherine II caught Biewald’s eye is because she imported the customs of the French courts, which were “unnatural, based on artifice, proprieties and appearances,” yet the leading lady was also tomboyish, preferring to be outdoors as much as possible.
Biewald plays on that contradiction in a beautiful panorama that is characterized by effusive black ink strokes on a chalky background. The work, called “Equine Orthodox, Or The Beginning of Global Warming,” portrays the empress as part tree, part woman.
“The Party That Made Me Feel My Age” pays homage to Catherine’s fashionable side. Biewald created a powder-white wig molded out of synthetic fiber to resemble St. Petersburg’s harbor’s frost white waves. Nestled inside the wig are cut-out drawings of schooners and stallions.
Similarly, Biewald blends fact and fiction in the drawing, “In Her Brilliant Career.” For this meticulous piece, Biewald carefully applied bleach on velvet upholstery with a tiny brush, pausing along the way to let the line gradually develop. In the end, she explains profoundly, “There is nothing there … It is the removal of what was there instead.”