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The Art of Family Tragedy and How to be Amazing Anyway

Amy Putney Koenig’s “Shapeshifter”, Thee EYE

October 2012

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Installation shot of Shapeshifter Photo: Jennifer Mitchard

Review by guest contributor Jennifer Mitchard

October 10, 2012

Amy Putney Koenig is a collage artist and painter who always knew of the tragedy in her family. It wasn’t until recently that she knew all of the sad details of the tragedy. Her Aunt Susan died at the age of 12 after being involved in a car accident and receiving poor medical care. This tragedy forever bruised her family. When Amy stumbled across documents detailing the event, she naturally began collaging with them. Old medical records, letters, photos, etc. became the inspiration and materials for her new show at Thee Eye.

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Installation shot of Shapeshifter Photo: Jennifer Mitchard

The first half of Amy’s show is nostalgic and heavy. Upon entering the gallery, you’re presented with a huge shrine of sorts, to Susan. Her girl scout uniform, medical records, photos, a large poster with chilling details of the deadly incident, etc.

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Installation shot of Shapeshifter Photo: Jennifer Mitchard

At the center of the room, a vintage medical table is piled with dried flowers, skulls, hair, and bones. There is a pile of bones in the corner. The collages are like dreams of sad memories. The pain that this one terrible event brought to her family is heavily documented in the materials for her work, arranged precisely for the viewer to experience. The kinds of things that are taboo, no one wants to see or remember, that’s what Amy works with. She created beautiful alters of worship out of her family pain.

Amy’s old and painful collages juxtapose her bright, modern paintings. This is “How to be amazing anyway”

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Installation shot of Shapeshifter Photo: Jennifer Mitchard

With a show and several works about her late Aunt and other family members, Amy included some paintings about herself and her own ways of dealing with tragedy. These paintings have uplifting messages of self-knowing and feminine strength. One large painting, a map of her tattoos, has large writing at the bottom: “Strive to be true of heart and fleet of foot. Face your fears each day- be honest and loving, fearless and bright. Honor your temple.”

To me, Shapeshifter is about honor. Amy honors her Aunt who died too young and the family left behind, including herself.

See her show at Thee Eye in the East Village through Oct. 27.

Jennifer Mitchard is an artist, photographer, graphic designer, and writer, living and working in downtown Des Moines. She is the co-owner of JeTim Art Photography and a designer at RAYGUN. She studied Art and Writing in Central Iowa and Northern California. Find her work at www.jenmitchard.com.