By Connor Brown
Amanda Bartlett, a senior Texas State University art student with a specialization in metal work, has been working all semester on her thesis that will display her body of work.
As one of only two female metal smiths in the art department, Bartlett enjoys the creative process of transforming raw material into works of art.
“It’s like the truest and most pure form of love I’ve ever experienced,” Bartlett said of her love for metalworking. “I can make the impossible possible in my world and that’s what makes it so exciting.”
Bartlett’s affinity for expression is also reflected in her personal style. Clad in tattoos, piercings and pink hair, Bartlett’s punk style somehow enhances the credibility of her artwork- a physical manifestation of her own creativity.
“It’s something that I argue with and something I find comfort in at the same time,” Bartlett said. “And the ability to take something from the earth that’s raw material and be able to forge it, be able to cut it, be able to solder it and make these incredible objects that people don’t even realize that are metal… I really feel, with my skills, that there’s nothing that I can’t do.”
To some, Bartlett’s work may appear as an elaborate form of jewelry. But to Bartlett, she prefers the term wearable sculptures, as every piece featured in the exhibition will be created specifically for the human body.
“Of course it (the art) means something on the wall, but when it’s on someone it’s completely different,” Bartlett said. “On the wall it’s a work of art, you see it, maybe you understand it and maybe you don’t, but when you see it on somebody it gives it context.”
She says the gaudy, vibrant pieces are reminiscent of the Florentine Renaissance, which serves as inspiration for many of her creations.
“I think my work is a lot of fun,” Bartlett said. “It’s whimsical, it’s silly, it- they’re almost like little toys. They remind me of little toys, but they have a very serious aspect to them as far as fabrication.”
While Bartlett’s metal work comprises of mostly metal material, Bartlett has also experimented with pigskin as a way to embroider the space within her work.
“I think what I bring to the table that’s not in our field right now is extreme vibrant colors, and I also work with pigskin,” Bartlett said. “A lot of people use textiles, but textiles have a heavy historical weight to them that I don’t identify with in my body of work… and so pig skin was a neutral playing ground.”
Bartlett says the focus of this thesis is to find freedom within limitations as she utilizes the same design, materials and color pallet while free forming the rest of the work.
Metal work can be painstakingly meticulous, requiring Bartlett to cut every piece by hand with a small jeweler’s saw. She often finds herself staying later than most students, sometimes even sleeping in the workshop overnight so she can work as she pleases.
Bartlett’s long hours in the studio are reflected in her workspace. While other shelves in the shop are mostly bare, Bartlett’s space is full and vibrant, containing books, paint samples, metal scraps, the occasional snack and a large stack of Polaroid pictures featuring her work, which will also be included in the exhibition.
“I’m including close to 200 Polaroid photos of my work on other people, like my friends,” Bartlett said. “I’m de-contextualizing this ideology of the place of contemporary metal smithing and jewelry that it has a hierarchal aspect to it that only certain people can wear it. So in the photos, I’m hoping to convey that this work is for everybody too.”
Bartlett aspires to work with other local artists following gradation while expanding her own line of work to feature in art shows around the country by next year.
“I don’t ever make my work for other people,” Bartlett said. “I think for me, it’s making it for myself.”
Bartlett will display her work at a gallery exhibition April 16 at 5 p.m. in the Joanne Cole Mitte building. Attendance is free for students and faculty.