April 01, 2022
By Jonah Grinkewitz
Amber Pierce is not here for the awards or the accolades.
“I would make art whether it happened or not,” she said. “So any recognition or honor is just an extra.”
Pierce, a double major in Art Education and 3D Media and Materials at Old Dominion University, recently received a fellowship from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Visual Arts.
She won in the craft category for a series she created at ODU that combines ceramics with fibers – materials that can be embroidered, sewn or crocheted.
Pierce used a technique called coil building to create the ceramic vessels, then punched holes in them to adorn the pieces with assorted fabrics, embroidery floss, thread, felt and found materials.
Her fiber teacher, Ginger Brinn, a lecturer in the art department at ODU, inspired her by saying that fibers could be anything.
“Discovering all these new materials from the knowledgeable teachers at ODU who guided me really broadened my artistic practice,” Pierce said.
As an art education major, Pierce said she was exposed to many different art forms which influenced her style. She credits Natalia Pilato, her art education and muralist teacher, as a mentor.
Rick Nickel, associate professor of art at ODU and professor of ceramics at Pierce, said the training resulted in his winning submission.
“Amber has the uncanny ability to synthesize her well-developed skills in drawing, painting, design, fibers and ceramics,” he said. “She found a way to weave all of her interests into a unique and quirky hybrid of craft and art.”
Pierce has said she wants to uplift others through her work, which incorporates her personal story and the stories of others.
“Soft Spot to Rest Your Head” depicts two young black girls holding hands surrounded by flowers.
“During the events of 2020, I wanted to create a safe space of peace and joy for black girls as a respite,” she said. “I wanted to reconstruct the idea of rest as an act of resilience. Making a pillow allowed me to create a physical space dedicated to the idea of momentarily forgetting one’s worries and prioritizing rest and maintaining health.”
Another piece, “Monumental”, is more personal.
“This piece glorifies a mundane, yet intimate, activity shared between my partner and me,” Pierce said. “I have embellished the exterior of my ship with this image and have written a personal statement on the back. It symbolizes a statement to honor and celebrate small moments by solidifying snapshots and placing them in space. “
Alison Byrne, assistant director of exhibitions and education at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art and a VMFA Fellow jury member, said Pierce’s submission immediately caught her attention.
“I found Amber’s work visually captivating, innovative and very personal,” she said. “I appreciated his nod to the history of the medium coupled with his original drawings, prints and transfers, as well as the incorporation of fiber.”
The scholarship comes with a $4,000 prize, which artists can use as they see fit, including for education and studio investments.
“For Amber to receive this award, she would be judged against a very large number of students from art schools across the Commonwealth,” said Peter Eudenbach, Professor and Head of the Art Department at ODU, who also won a VMFA grant in 2007. “For this reason, although the prize money is helpful, it is ultimately the endorsement of the VMFA that draws attention to the young artists who receive this grant.
“The strength and reputation of any art program is always tied to the strength of the students and what they accomplish.”
Pierce said she was interested in doing more community art projects – a passion her teachers picked up.
“I think you can really see his love for others in his work,” Nickel said.
Methodically tearing and altering paper, Spector draws attention to language, literature and visual memory in his works. (Continued)
He taught at the university from 1964 to 2016 and his works have been exhibited in Hampton Roads. (Continued)
The event pairs four Hampton Roads residents with songwriters to turn their life stories into songs. (Continued)