Meet the Artist in Residence: Amber Roach

Amber Roach is one of our current artists in residence at Main Street Arts. She is working on printmaking and oil painting in during the months of November and December 2017. We asked Amber a few questions about her artwork and studio practice. 

Amber Roach

Amber Roach

Q: Tell us about your background.
I was born and raised in Syracuse, New York. I graduated from Syracuse University with a BFA in illustration.

Q: How would you describe your work?
My preferred medium is relief printmaking. However, I wouldn’t confine myself to only using a printmaking process when making a piece. If I feel it would be enhance by painting or drawing I’ll work in a more mixed media fashion. I would describe my work as graphic yet textural.

Prints by Amber Roach

Prints by Amber Roach

Q: What is your process for creating a work of art?
Once I’ve decided on a subject matter I start out with very loose thumb nail sketches. After I feel I’ve gotten a decent composition I’ll transfer my drawing to the block and redraw it with more detail. I carve the block and do about a dozen test prints to figure out which colors to use.

Q: What are your goals for this residency?
For this first month, I want to fine tune my portfolio and create more pieces that are cohesive with my current body of work. Primarily I’ve been making linocut pieces. For the second month, I want to get back into oil painting.

Amber Roach working in her studio at Main Street Arts

Amber Roach working in her studio at Main Street Arts

Q: What is the most useful tool in your studio?
My glass palette.

Q: Who is your favorite artist and why?
My favorite contemporary painter is Kent Williams because of his use of color and the way he captures the figure. My favorite contemporary printmaker is Kathleen Neeley — I admire her style and the characters she creates.

Q: How do you promote your work?
Mostly through my Instagram but I’ll also send out mailers to art directors.

Print by Amber Roach

Print by Amber Roach

Q: What’s next for you?
After this I will probably be planning a move to New York or hunting down another residency.

Q: Where else can we find you?
Instagram: @amberleighroach
My website: www.amberroach.com
Etsy: www.etsy.com/shop/amberroachart


Are you an artist looking for new opportunities? Apply for a residency at Main Street Arts. Artists in residence have 24-hour access to a large studio on our second floor (with great natural light), the option to show work in the gallery, and the opportunity to teach paid workshops. Housing is available. Submissions are reviewed and residencies awarded quarterly. Upcoming deadline: November 30, 2017 for a residency in January, February or March 2018.

From The Director: Sacred Curiosities

Sacred Curiosities, installation shot

Sacred Curiosities, installation shot

Sometimes, an exhibition will come to me quickly. An artist will submit their work and it instantly sparks an idea of what other artist/artists could be paired with this person to make an engaging show. The full concept and title will also come easily and all will be well… More often, I will come up with an abstract notion of an idea and then try to find work that will fit. For Sacred Curiosities, it was the latter.

Planning notes for the exhibition

Planning notes for the exhibition with the first three artists to be included

About a year and a half ago, I had the spark of an idea for an exhibition and wrote myself a note that said “Object/Relic/Ritual”. This vague description was a guide for me but didn’t really get close to defining what the show would be, visually. I knew it would be based on objects (found objects) that seemed like relics, either from the artist’s everyday life or from another time entirely. The “ritual” aspect shows up in work that seems to indicate daily routine and in some cases, references to religious or spiritual practices.

A shrine by Chad Grohman. Chad's motivation for making these pieces comes from his experiences as a Nichiren Shu Buddhist Priest. The content of his images comes from doctrinal concepts found throughout the Buddhist cannon.

A shrine by Chad Grohman. Chad’s motivation for making these pieces comes from his experiences as a Nichiren Shu Buddhist Priest. The content of his images comes from doctrinal concepts found throughout the Buddhist cannon.

Immaculate Conception (front piece), a sculpture by Jacquie Germanow sits in front of many of Marth O'Connor's female totems and a framed "portrait" by Emily Kenas on the wall

“Immaculate Conception” (front piece), a sculpture by Jacquie Germanow sits in front of many of Martha O’Connor’s female totems and a framed “portrait” by Emily Kenas on the wall

A large part of Sacred Curiosities is focused on found object sculpture. The beauty of this method of making art is that many disparate parts—all with their own meaning or connotation—come together to form something new. The grouping of materials may be harmonious or it may be a collection of diverse and contradictory parts. The artists create new meaning from the various materials.

“Two Figures”, a found object sculpture by Emily Kenas as seen at a studio visit on March 15, 2016 (left) and again May 3, 2017 (right)

The paintings, drawings, and other more traditionally constructed sculpture add to this notion by depicting personal, historical, or cultural signifiers as they relate to the artist.

Richard Rockford pointing to "Todd" during my studio vist with him. This is an image made by cutting and reconstructing a vintage sign

Richard Rockford pointing to “Todd” during my studio visit with him in September, 2016. This piece was made by cutting and reconstructing a vintage sign.

Thinking about the meaning of objects led me to think about the passage of time and how the meaning we assign to certain objects can change. A symbol or signifier excavated centuries after it was made is interpreted out of its original context and the meaning is assigned based on what else may be known of the time from which it came.

A collection of legs from various sculptures in Bill Stewart's studio

A collection of legs from various sculptures in Bill Stewart’s studio

What will remain from our time here on earth? What will be known of our civilization when our cultural relics are unearthed? These questions helped me frame the exhibition and give it a context, even if only in my own mind, but the real meaning of the show is derived from the individual meaning created by each artist.

Photo from the studio of Jean Stephens, taken in July, 2016 just after a trip out west when she started working with these images of rock formations.

Photo from the studio of Jean Stephens, taken in July, 2016 just after a trip out west when she started working with these images of rock formations.

This exhibition has humor, evidence of self-examination, nostalgia and most of all a pluralistic collection of disparate parts coming together. Stop in before Friday, November 17 at 6 p.m. to experience this exhibition and investigate all of the bits and pieces that make up this show.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Richard Rockford

The artist, taking in the exhibition

The artist, taking in the exhibition

My association with Main Street Arts begins with the show, Sacred Curiosities, running October 13–November 17 at the Clifton Springs, NY gallery. Though the title sounds a bit awkward and mysterious, it is actually quite on the mark.

Since time began some humans have had deep feelings for certain objects, shapes, colors, and “special” things either natural or man made. Archeologists delight in finding certain very special objects among the utilitarian tools of the ancients. There is a longstanding delight in the “cabinet of curiosities” known all over Europe for hundreds of years. Religions literally worship relics, remnants, and anything touched by a deity or saint. And let’s not forget the artifact crowded shelves of any room used by Dr. Sigmund Freud.

"Todd", found signage that was cut and reimagined, 43 inches square.

“Todd”, found signage that was cut and reimagined, 43 inches square. Included in the exhibition.

For at least a couple of centuries, and expanding rapidly in the very modern age, artists have become great purveyors of objects. From 18th century tromp l’oeil to portraits posed with special toys and accessories, to 20th century Pop Art, collage, found art, and all manner of objects used in and as art (THE urinal!), artists most certainly have found “things” sacred or curious. It is entirely possible today to assemble a massive and fine quality (not to mention important and delightful) collection of art with signage, common objects, dolls, flags, toys, etc as the media and/or the theme. We are so in tune with messages and possessing “things” that the public can now relate to any bits of typography, campaign buttons, newspaper, and ephemera that artists employ.

A crushed steel channel with welded support remnants. This is a crowning example of found metal art. It is completely as found, with no patina alteration, but mounted very professionally. It suggests a tall, elegant figure, flowing garments, and clearly mimics what a sculptor would create in abstract casting. It evokes such issues as "Why create when you can find things like this?", as well as, "It's not art, it's just a coincidence"… and it easily suggests a sacred or curious thing.

A crushed steel channel with welded support remnants. This is a crowning example of found metal art. It is completely as found, with no patina alteration, but mounted very professionally. It suggests a tall, elegant figure, flowing garments, and clearly mimics what a sculptor would create in abstract casting. It evokes such issues as “Why create when you can find things like this?”, as well as, “It’s not art, it’s just a coincidence”… and it easily suggests a sacred or curious thing.

Artists have learned a myriad of ways to work with objects and milk them for all aspects of value, curiosity, form, patina, and most importantly, symbolism. Not only have artists used existing objects and materials, they have learned to make objects or images that mimic, mock, or play off of special objects. One can now collect genuine outsider art or one can purchase what looks like outsider art from many contemporary artists. It is certainly obvious that one function of art is to MAKE us consider an object as sacred or curious by the mere fact of presenting it as art—forcing the viewer to try and see these aspects when they are presented in gallery or studio venues, framed or mounted to push the notion.

Tape wrapped "Depression" baseballs. Despite the lowly look of these spheres, they have high "emotional content" as well as creativity, patina galore, and many attributes far beyond a utility object.

Tape wrapped “Depression” baseballs. Despite the lowly look of these spheres, they have high “emotional content” as well as creativity, patina galore, and many attributes far beyond a utility object.

A good question to ponder is how or when an object becomes art, or at least when it gains sacred or curious force. Let’s use an object I have a lot of connections with. There are people who collect and value baseballs with team, player, or game associations. These items can be worth many thousands as the fame and rarity of the autograph rise. As art or objects for the sophisticated, they are lacking almost all value. Some people collect such spheres for the age, style, and patina they demonstrate. Now we are crossing from “baseball” collector value to historic and aesthetic value. The right bunch of these aged brown balls can certainly be an artistic and curious matter.

Tape wrapped "Depression" baseballs.

Tape wrapped “Depression” baseballs.

I have collected and used many baseballs in my art because they have great age, color, and patina. Going even further, I collect a type of baseball that has very special meaning. If any object can be curious and sacred to me, these are the ones. I refer to the electrical or friction tape wrapped balls, mostly from the Great Depression. They are all creative in origin, delightful to look at, and though some might pay highly for them, they are usually found for under a dollar at flea markets and garage sales. However, they go way beyond the value of most ephemera when you consider what I call “emotional content”. This quality exists only in some special objects. It is distinct from great beauty, form, patina. It is similar to the feelings evoked by any toy or doll showing great wear, but with these baseballs it goes even further. Each tape wrapped ball was a desperate move by one child or a group to renew a valuable thing as it decayed. They saved the all important sphere by finding tape, working out how to wrap it (my collection has many styles of this “make do” effort), and only then can play resume. Each one is a monument to poverty, creativity, childhood, and cooperation. With slight effort, one can see them as curious, emotional, and for some, sacred.

Certain “found” or at least “unaltered” objects also fuel the debate about artistic validity. I have worked for years promoting found items and it was often done with a degree of shame. The questions always arose—”I did not MAKE this, so how can I be an artist or take credit for it?”…”How can I join a show of highly talented art makers when I do not have those skills myself?”. How can I defend elevating simple findings to the status of art—curious or sacred—without offering a rationale for my lack of skilled artistic efforts?  Do I have to put others down to justify myself? In the war between makers and finders there is the battle of genuine vs. made up, unique vs. copied from others, exploring our material culture vs. the studio hermit. The answer lies in the process and sincerity of the person as well as the simple result. Does the “product” come from serious efforts to bring forth a worthy work?  Is the talent (for finding or making) put to good use? Are the pieces found or made excellent in design, form, color, and do they produce enjoyment, thought, debate?  All of these are valid on both sides.

Starting with a scrapbook page (c1940) that has been stripped of many postings, I heavily embellished its importance with positioning, color, and shadow box framing. A perfect example of elevating the ephemeral so it is considered as an art object.

Starting with a scrapbook page (c1940) that has been stripped of many postings, I heavily embellished its importance with positioning, color, and shadow box framing. A perfect example of elevating the ephemeral so it is considered as an art object.

Looking at results—the “it is what it is”—is surely an OK way to pass judgment in most cases. If you see it as art, if it evokes feelings about it’s beauty, thoughts about it’s challenges, then it passes muster. Where things get really confusing is when found or existing things are manipulated to make an art object. In other words, what do we value in between a found scrap metal sculpture and a fine oil painting? In this gap we find the too clever, the welded old tools, the patina of found wood, the assemblages, and the old doll head novelties, and so on.  Once again, I am shamed to be among the group that employs old things to create evocative art. Partly because I am way better than some of the horrors I see, partly because I am not nearly as good as some that I envy. And the answer lies in a certain generosity of spirit. Unless done with savage insincerity (“I crank out this crap just to make money”), all of it is creative, all of it has some audience, all of it teaches us to compare and contrast to find the best we like. “Sacred Curiosities”—anything that intrigues us, creates feelings of awe, evokes the dark and light of cultures, and impresses us as special objects–is all to the good, worth making, worth looking at, worth living with.

You can see more of my work on my website, www.richardrockford.viewbook.com


Four of Richard Rockford’s found object pieces are included in “Sacred Curiosities” at Main Street Arts. The exhibition runs through November 17, 2017.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Dianne Baker

Dianne Baker in front of her work, "Whole", in an exhibition at Chautauqua Institute in Chautauqua, NY

Dianne Baker in front of her work, “Whole”, in an exhibition at Chautauqua Institute in Chautauqua, NY

I am drawn to what is overlooked—the transcendent in the forgotten, the discarded, and the mundane. By reconfiguring these unexpected materials and objects into collages, assemblages, and sculptures, I attempt to subvert  the viewers’ perception and to value the past and its remains for they provide insight and connections to the present. If the art reminds them of a grandparent, a work experience, a family holiday, they establish a connection and can then imagine the extraordinary in the debris from our materialized culture and abused environment. Thus, I see my work as providing a transformational  experience in that the viewer cannot only see, but also appreciate, the creative possibilities which exist within the discarded—finding the “magic in the ordinary”.

An installation at UB Anderson Gallery as part of Buffalo Society of Artists Exhibition

An installation at UB Anderson Gallery as part of Buffalo Society of Artists Exhibition

As I collect from scrap yards, and roadsides, what others consider waste, I extend the materials and objects’ useful life and forever alter its history and significance.  The discarded rusty metal, weathered wood, broken parts are transformed into artworks that reflect our consumer society.  I am taking art off of its pedestal and making it more about everyday experience because the viewer can recognize the recycled object and relate it to a place, event, or individual.

Dianne Baker in front of her work as part of a three person show at MC Master University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Dianne Baker in front of her work as part of a three person show at MC Master University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

I have been exhibiting artwork since l979 locally in galleries including Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Castellani Art Museum, Burchfield- Penney Art Center, Art Dialogue Gallery, and Canisius College.  Nationally, I have exhibited in New York City, Washington, D. C., Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Denver, and Santa Fe. Internationally, in Hamilton, Ontario and Bratislava, Slovak Republic.

Video with the Buffalo Society of Artists

Video with the Buffalo Society of Artists

You can see more of my work on my website, www.dbakerartist.com, and view a recent video created by the Buffalo Society of Artists of my work here.


Four of Dianne Baker’s pieces, including “Quartet” (which can be seen being worked on in the video above) are included in “Sacred Curiosities” at Main Street Arts. The exhibition runs through November 17, 2017.