Sunday, February 21, 2016

Small things have great meaning for artist Amanda Devine

Seattle-area artist Amanda Devine at Feb. 13 CQA meeting
A chance viewing of a small urban scene outside a hospital room window led to years of visual explorations for Amanda Devine, an artist in the Puget Sound area. At CQA's February 13 meeting, Devine shared some of the results of this event as well as other aspects of her more than 40 years of artistic pursuits.
"Memoir," a shadow box created by Devine displaying miniatures of actual items she found while closing her aunt's house which had been her grandmother's house. (12"x15"x12")
Devine's "Echo." Packing material stuffed with found objects. (Mixed media/encaustic. 7"x7"x3")
One of Devine's mixed media pieces featuring various papers, photograph, buttons. (13"x9"x3") (Amanda Devine photo).

An early Devine photo where she manipulated a "regular" photo using a paper negative.

Devine was already involved in photography, and especially alternative photographic processes when, in 1977, she was "practically living" in a Los Angeles area hospital during her husband's  week-long recovery from surgery. Looking out of the room's window one day, Devine realized that an elderly woman she saw feeding birds in a nearby parking lot had been doing this same thing several days in a row--it was her routine.

One of Devine's first "Lavina" series photos. Lavina (dark figure in center, just below rear of first car) has just finished feeding the large cluster of birds, left.
Pushing a shopping cart, Lavina (upper right near white car) presents the figure that Devine used so extensively in her "Lavina's Song" series of pieces.
Devine had only a simple camera with her at the time, but began taking photos of the "bird woman" as she entered the area, fed the birds, then slowly moved out of the scene. Not long after, Devine came across an illustrated newspaper article about the woman and learned that her name was Lavina, and the woman was quoted as saying "The birds are always hungry." Even though her photos were snapped more than composed and the negatives were scratched, Devine ended up with a sequence of 40 photographs that provided a basis for a wide variety of expressions in her art, including the series titled "Lavina's Song."

The newspaper story that identified "the bird woman" and told her story. (Amanda Devine photo)
Using Kodalith thin paper for the high-contrast images it produced, Devine made up a set of 40 prints of her Lavina pictures and then began printing portions of them. As she worked, the birds began to look like musical notes, and Lavina's shape reminded her of calligraphic symbols; some she even made into rubber stamps ("rather clunky!"). Combining the elements in different ways led to the series of prints and mixed-media pieces that make up "Lavina's Song." (One part of the series is shown below, in Devine's photo.)

Devine combined a piece of one of her "Lavina" series photos with bird sketches in this mixed media piece. (Amanda Devine photo)
"I spent 30 years trying to tell the story," Devine said. "If the photos had been better quality, I might have quit with just one set of photos!" As it is, in 2002 the whole series of "Lavina" pieces were framed and displayed in hallways on the 7th floor of Seattle's Swedish Hospital.

In various moves, Devine downsized from her own darkroom to an early MacIntosh computer given to her by a friend. This opened  up a new world for her; she has subsequently kept upgrading to the newest Apple equipment. She gives great credit to the "genius bar" staff at the University Village  Apple store for guiding her along in her art. She digitized the original "Lavina" negatives after 30 years and, with this computer capability, turned them into a book.

One of Devine's "Convergence" series large-scale (14x34") images. (Amanda Devine photo)

Devine has more recently returned to her original photographic "roots" with a series titled "Convergence," comprising 18 large-scale photo images (14" x 34") that she prints herself "each in an edition of one." Most of the subjects in this series are of shorelines and water, as are the images in her "Exploration" series that feature closeups of beach elements in smaller scale. One of her very long pieces in the nature genre was displayed in her solo exhibition at the Commons Gallery in Sammamish City Hall.
An image from Devine's smaller-scale "Exploration" series. (Amanda Devine photo)

Devine has had pieces in an extensive list of exhibitions since the mid 1970s, including both her photography and mixed media. For more about Devine and images of her work, go to

Devine's daughter took this photo of Amanda being swarmed by birds at the shoreline..."the birds are always hungry" is a fitting title!