Margery Amdur may be one of the few artists who encourage curious viewers to touch their work.
“People walk up to [the pieces of art] and I think they think they’re probably building blocks,” she said. “I can see they’re looking around kind of trying to sneak and see if they can touch them. That’s all right, and of course I say to people that they can.”
Amdur’s latest series of work, called Amass, is hanging at the Noyes Museum of Art in a show that closes this weekend. Her pieces may appear to be created from building blocks, but the structural elements, covered with pastels, are especially inviting because they are not nearly as solid or as basic as they might seem at first glance. Her sculptural wall hangings are, in total, constructed from thousands and thousands of cosmetic sponges.
“Usually people apply … pastels on tools that have these little sponges on them,” Amdur explained. “I found that I liked the sponges more than what I would do with them.” The material’s potential piqued her curiosity, and after a web search led Amdur to cosmetic sponges, she got to work experimenting with what they could do as a medium.
“I ordered a bunch of them … and I started playing with them as if they were building blocks,” she said. “You don’t get too far because they’re soft.” After creating and showing works made to be displayed on a floor, she landed on creating wall coverings comprised of glued-down sponges covered in pastels. The colors and shapes were inspired by hanging gardens and living walls of plants.
From these cosmetic sponge wall hangings, to previous works like window screen mesh furniture and abstract paintings based on paint-by-number kits (one of which is a work of public art in the Philadelphia Spring Street Septa station), Amdur believes her experimental style of creating has served her well. As an associate professor of art at Rutgers-Camden, she recommends students be open to seeing where an idea takes them.
“A lot of times the ideas in our heads … don’t necessarily translate into our original thought about how it’s going to go,” she explained. “So, I encourage the students to first learn various techniques, but then to also think that the work can organically grow.” She added, “I’d like them to go on a journey in their work.”
As for Amdur’s journey, she looks forward to upcoming shows, the school year ahead and continuing to create art from surprising materials. Margery Amdur’s solo exhibition featuring Amass runs through Sunday, Sept. 8 at the Noyes Museum of Art.