This is the seventh, wow!, in my series of special episodes of Write, Publish, and Shine as I take you on a deep dive into the creation of Room magazine issue 46.3, where I was lead editor of the issue. In this issue, I spoke with our cover artist, Amy Friend, who was also the cover artist for the very first issue I edited for Room, called Mythologies of Loss.
Amy Friend’s art truly resonates on a deep level of nostalgia and grief with me, and also because of the incredible artistry she does with photographs, turning those difficult experiences into beauty.
Clearly, we’re vibing even over a decade of editing for Room, in those themes of loss and longing. I spoke with Amy Friend about how she makes her photographs, what draws to these themes, and about photography as a medium inherently communicates memory, loss, and absence.
All of the notes for this episode are up at rachelthompson.co/86
WRITERLY LOVE LETTERS: Sent each week to your inbox. rachelthompson.co/letters
Notes and Links from the Episode
- Amy Friend’s website, where you can see all of the series we discuss: amyfriend.ca
- Here’s an interview with Betsy Warland where she talked about “following the scent” of the story.
- The Jealous Curator, the website where I first was introduced to Amy Friend’s art.
- The full Rumi quote: “The wound is the place where the Light enters you” and Leonard Cohen’s Anthem, which alludes to this quote.
- Sign up for my Writerly Love Letters, filled with support for your writing practice and sent every week
#86 Write, Publish, Shine Episode Transcript
- Amy Friend
- Rachel Thompson
Rachel Thompson: 00:01
Welcome luminous writers to the Write, Publish and Shine Podcast. I am your host, author and literary magazine editor Rachel Thompson. This podcast explores how to write and share your brilliant writing with the world. In each episode, we delve into specifics on how to polish and prepare your writing for publication, and the journey from emerging writer to published author.
Hi luminous writers, this is Lucky number seven, the seventh episode in my series of special episodes of Write, Publish, and Shine as I take you on a deep dive into the creation of Room magazine issue 46.3, where I was lead editor of the issue. In this issue, I spoke with our cover artist, Amy Friend, who was also the cover artist for the very first issue I edited for Room, called Mythologies of Loss.
Amy Friend’s art truly resonates on a deep level of nostalgia and grief with me, and also because of the incredible artistry she does with photographs, turning those difficult experiences into a really joyful, beautiful thing.
Clearly, we’re vibing even over a decade of editing for Room, in those themes of loss and longing. I spoke with Amy Friend about how she makes her photographs, what draws to these themes, and about photography as a medium inherently communicates memory, loss, and absence.
Here’s our conversation…
So I want to start by welcoming you to the podcast, Amy Friend. It’s such a pleasure to meet you, having worked with you remotely before but it’s the first time we’ve seen each other in what now constitutes face-to-face, which is a zoom call.
Amy Friend: 01:51
It’s wonderful to do this actually, it’s really lovely to see kind of that bookends of doing this project on two sides. So it’s great. Thank you.
Rachel Thompson: 02:01
So the cover art for our issue, which you were the creator of, is called Ebbz and it is a photo of an article of white, cotton-looking clothing, floating in water. It has the appearance of enough form to imply a person in the clothing but enough not formed to imply not a person in the clothing I guess, too. It comes from the Vestiges series, I had asked if you would read your artist statement. Would you mind doing that for our listeners?
Amy Friend: 02:30
“The Vestiges series began after the death of my grandmother. I collected several of her items, eventually choosing to photograph her nightgowns. These garments held an imprint of her body due to their use and the threadbare areas of the material. Her visible presence functioned like a film or a photograph— holding absence. The nightgowns helped me establish a portal to the ideas beyond an object or possession. They held a trace. Memory, history, and impermanence, the finite and the infinite, flow through my work. I am not concerned with capturing a “concrete” reality. Instead, I aim to use photography as a medium that offers the possibility of exploring what lies beyond the visual. “
Rachel Thompson: 03:27
Thank you. Yeah, I think that just says so much about why we picked the piece, even though it’s like not like you presented the artist statement with the images. But it was sort of this intuitive experience that my assistant editor Ellen Chang Richardson, and I had when we were looking at possible cover pieces. What I love is, how you talked about what lies beyond the visual.
What I want to know is, what else, for you, lies beyond the visual in this series?
Amy Friend: 03:53
Well, for me, this series, really thinking about the materials that are used in this series were more like I said, a portal, a conduit really, to be able to not grapple with so much, but just take a moment to ponder what anything that we see really means. Of course, photography is that removal from reality into a different form of solidity of reality that is tricky, because it’s both present and absent, and it’s showing that something but it’s also not showing us what’s actually, in a sense real anymore, because even if the object still exists, the way you were 10 minutes ago is changed. So I love the complexity of photography in the sense that it provides this visual base, but it’s asking for so much more than what it’s providing in the senses, the visual senses.
For this series, by personally went through all kinds of materials that belonged to my grandmother because she was grew up during the depression and so many of us have been able to feel that collection of our elders with all of their belongings because they were worried about not having anything. So she had saved these night gowns that were just completely threadbare, so you could tell where her breasts have kind of moved against the fabric, and which side she slept on more than the other. They were just so reminiscent of film, it was like there was that direct connection to the idea of film leaves this trace, but it’s not there. So I felt that the nightgowns were very much like a film photography, even though there’s so dramatically different in their tactile qualities.
I initially had tried to photograph those flat and they looked like something out of like a horror movie props. They weren’t quite working. But that beyond the visual list to think about what is solid and what isn’t, some of the pieces in the series, the earpiece that you described, it’s actually in her bed sheets. So that was when she died, she had slept in that bedding for the last time, she didn’t die in the bedding, but she slept in that bedding. So I asked my mother, if she would mind if we brought it to the lake, which is right close to her house, to wash it because it felt very strange to just peel it off and throw it in the washing machine and be done with it. It felt like there is something further in that. So that idea of what’s in the beyond the visual, I think are all the stories. That’s what a photograph does. So nobody would know all of those details if I didn’t share them. I love the secrets of photography. So, kind of what’s beyond the visual are just tonnes of wonder and secret.
Rachel Thompson: 06:43
I love that. So was that when the first piece from Vestiges, like the idea that you heard of washing that sheet led to the series, or that you already been putting objects in water at that point?
Amy Friend: 06:55
The night gowns are not in water, only the sheets. So the nightgowns, it actually came after. So we just left the bed, we didn’t really know what to do. You kind of take a little bit of time, and it’s their space, it’s this person’s space, and she lived with us. She lived with me since I was six. So it was a very special remembrance of her like just her sweetness or sweet presence. So we left the bed for a while and I started working with these night gowns. Those night gowns are literally in like the crappy old plastic bag and she obviously had no good attention for them. But she wouldn’t get rid of them. So that idea of all the sleep that had taken place was obviously aligned with the idea of death, that kind of big sleep, but then thinking about the sheets as an extension of that sleep, but also the waking, this change.
So I felt that there was some essence in those sheets that were aligned with the work and she had no affinity for water. But I did. So when I brought these sheets to the water with my mom, it was actually really a funny moment. Again, those secrets, there was a couple of fishermen who were waiting with their kind of fishing gear on and in the lake. They were staring at us wondering what the heck we were doing. Then it started to rain a little bit. So my mother and I had camera and my mother has an umbrella over me like it matters. I’m like four feet deep in water. It was just this really sweet, gentle moment of letting the sheets kind of flow in and out like that comes in and goes out. It felt like just a strange little ritual that needed to happen.
In a way, for me those photographs are a record of a performance, but a private performance, although we did have fishermen witnesses, so they were wonderful. They didn’t know what they were witnessing.
Rachel Thompson: 08:52
Now, I want to ask you though, because we published a couple other of the series inside the journal, and one of them is like a smallish nightgown. And I thought that was in water, as well. So there’s something I think about how you’ve achieved the movement outside of the water, it looks very watery somehow, too.
Amy Friend: 09:11
I was really trying to structure what I wanted the nightgowns. I go through this all the time when I’m making work. I always think I know what I’m doing like I’ll structure this way, and it never works. Never, but I have to start that way. I laugh because it seems to all fall apart from that point in but the falling apart is what helps me. So I thought I’ll lay these out on a light table, and I’ll photograph them so I can see that threadbare area. That’s when kind of core s movie results came through and I thought no, this isn’t right. I want them to feel as both solid and delicate as they were. So I built that giant frame for them and I would throw them and the light, of course was lighting behind the frame. I would throw the nightgowns, then you would think, oh, she’s capturing them in the air. But no, they would land. So I had no control over how they landed, which became really important. Because I was trying to control something that I couldn’t control, is presence. I was trying to shape the presence in the way that I thought it should be. I realized that you can’t control any of this.
In addition to how long does someone live, you could try to control that, where does their story end. I mean, she would have probably been like, really, you’re using my nightgowns like seriously. But she was always so very generous in understanding that I was working in the arts and would cooperated in any way, whatsoever. So it was really lovely. I have a wonderful photo of her. One of my first photos when I was in my undergrad, and I said, well, you just go stand in your fields. So she lived in a house, we used to farm the back of the house, it’s just a very small little fields farm, and just hold your arms up. And she was probably in her 80’s at that time. I had forgot to load the camera with film. So I was taking pictures of nothing. So of course, being me, I made her do it again, which she was not really happy about. But it made the photos better, because she was less guarded, because she’s just like, let’s get this over with. But they’re lovely photos. So, that idea of control, I think has always been something I push and pull with in the way I work.
Rachel Thompson: 11:38
I love that. Because it speaks to me as a writer as well to the idea of our requiring us to kind of follow the center of the story, it’s one of my mentors used to say. So it’s like, the idea of just letting go of that control and letting the story lead to you, so very cool.
You touched on this a bit, and I wondered if you had anything more to say about the idea of photography, shooting those ideas of memory, history, and impermanence? Can you say any more about that?
Amy Friend: 12:07
I mean, if you get into photo theory, they have tonnes to say about that. But I think photography is just a strange little thing. It’s full of wonder and magic, and possibility. I think that’s akin to the way we think about life, think about what we do and don’t know, that control factor, we’re trying to understand something that’s completely predictable. In all, its facets to try and think I understand, no, we don’t understand, we just think we do. A photograph does that as well, very much in the sense that it provides us with this solid base to think through. But in its solidity, there’s nothing there. So that idea of memory and loss and absences, it’s just inherent to the medium for me. I know other people are like, Oh, photography and loss, you know, no, let’s stop talking about that anymore. I think it’s such a disservice to the medium because it’s almost ignoring everything that it is. That’s why when I’m working, you know, there’s these threads that keep pulling you into the same spaces. For me, it’s the medium and it aligns with that so specifically that I can’t escape it.
Rachel Thompson: 13:23
Now I’m thinking about the medium that we use, the Lit Mag and the fact that it actually was 10 years. Yeah, it was 10 years ago, when we first worked on the other issue, just saying that and then I’m doubting myself because it seems so impossible, but it is true. I had asked you to place art from another series Dare alla Luce. I think I’m pronouncing that correctly for the cover of our Mythologies of Loss issue. Am I pronouncing that correctly?
Amy Friend: 13:52
Dare alla luce.
Rachel Thompson: 13:53
Thank you. It really struck me. I actually found it on a blog called The Jealous Curator, I think is where I first encountered it, and you use this arresting technique of poking holes in archive photos to literally let the light in. Maybe I’ll just mention part of why I picked that is, I felt like it really call to mind the poet Rumi’s line, The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”, which people may also recognize from Leonard Cohen’s Anthem, that’s how the light gets in.
I’m wondering if we could go back to that series of what was your intention with this series, and maybe talk a bit about picking archive photos, which I mean, it’s very aligns with what you’re saying about photography. But then also in that case, you’re choosing others photos for that.
Amy Friend: 14:38
The Dare alla Luce Series, it started actually back to Nona. So back to my grandmother. I mean, we lived together for most of our life, and she had never shown me these specific photos and one day, maybe was 16 or 17. She comes up with this album of photos that were probably ranging from maybe a few years after she’d left Italy. So she left Italy around the early 1900’s. She couldn’t remember some of the names of her very dear friends. She remembered a lot of stories and people’s names, but there was some that she just couldn’t place. I mean, she did put great effort into it, she wanted to just look at it. I know you’re interested in photography. So here’s this book, in kind of her very gruff, but gentle Italian grandmother way, like, here you go. This might interest you, knowing it was quite precious to her. So I thought about that for a long time. A lot of my work is revolved around familial stories, and my personal experience growing up with family, we were always telling stories, we all grew up on one street, it was kind of nuts, like my grandparents, my mom’s brother and us, we were all together, three houses in a row on a dead end street. So it was just like one giant house.
I sat with that experience of her telling me the stories that I never known about her, and it revealed something so different, that when I wanted to work with him, eventually, many years later, I couldn’t, it’s actually about the loss. So going back to that idea of what is photography, it’s just a whole lot of loss, because I can’t tell those stories the way she did, the voice is God for those and it already was. So it’s kind of like playing telephone, you’ve lost something through the translation and time. So I decided to try and work with photographs that I had no connection to. So that’s where I started going and searching around for images. But what I ended up doing, which I didn’t realize I was doing until I amassed a number of photos was I was just buying photos that reminded me of my life, or people I had known. So I felt like I was creating this type of fabricated photo album of things that I may have remembered or stories or people I could imagine I have known. And of course, I did go sideways, some times to the collective because there’s some images that are just so enticing that you can’t resist, but work with them.
Initially, I had planned on selling on them, because I felt like people were just selling them for $1 here or there. That preciousness that I had experienced with my grandmother was just gone. It was like what can I make from these and it was no longer about the photograph, it was about the money. So it’s how they knew they embroider on them. So I did, I started embroidery on them. I kept working and working. I was like, Okay, this is alright, but something again didn’t sit right. So it was that I know, something’s not happening here. The irony of how I discovered what to do, always makes me laugh because it’s usually by accident. So most of what I do is by accident.
I was watching my husband play baseball, and it’s so incredibly boring to me, even though I do like sports. But just after a while it’s like hit the ball, just get it over with. So I have this crazy person in the stands selling on photos. It’s baseball, people are watching you, I am like, yeah, I know. And he would get up to bat and I was holding up the photo to try and buy new holes, and the sunlight was coming through at that moment. I was like, I found what I need to do. I don’t even have to sell anymore. It was great. I just needs to poke the holes. It made so much sense to me. The embroidery was doing nothing for what I was aiming for. It was making them tactile, it was making them something other than what they were, which is what I wanted to do, but it wasn’t reaching my goal. So I started intentionally working with the lights, and it made so much sense because I often reference photography in my work, even if it’s in there in subtle ways, like the film quality of the nightgowns, this one, the Vestiges series, and then in this one, it’s thinking about, the first photo that I worked with was a baptismal photo.
Rachel Thompson: 19:16
I remember that one. Yeah.
Amy Friend: 19:18
I had used a scripture passage, “What is done in the darkness will be brought to the light,” which is in the Bible. I was raised quite religious, I’m not religious myself, but I was raised that way. So I found an irony to the phrase as sweetness to people who have that belief system, but also to the fact that photography does bring something to the light. Then of course, being a little facetious thinking about the Dark Room as a place that brings things to the light and only with light.
Also, about photography being a complete lie like there’s so many lies in it, so that what is done in the darkness will be brought to the light. It’s just kind of oppositional twist to what we really understand. So that was the first photo. It really was ironic that I ended up working on that one. Because I discovered a lot through collecting and it’s this preciousness that people have, but for certain genres of photography, and they become collected. So I became fascinated by the throwaways, what do you throw away, and why are baptismal lake photos like highly collectible images? Bizarre.
Rachel Thompson: 20:33
They are highly collectible images somehow?
Amy Friend: 20:36
I like to go on eBay, people are bidding. Sideways projects that I don’t know when I’ll ever get to it was through the act of collecting. I really started to understand this new dialogue that was happening in the way that we define photography, as non-practitioners or not academics or people who just know maybe something about it, but not a lot. They created subsets of genres. And obviously, to catch the buyer looking for those types of images. So the internet has created these definitions. There’s some that I took screenshots of, I mean, they’re awful in some ways, but they’re really funny in other ways. The descriptions to get people to buy them. So people are creating these ridiculous stories on eBay, like pointy breasted alien family, just like the most ridiculous descriptions.
I started taking screenshots because in a way, it’s horrible. You’re describing this family portrait in this really awful way. But that becomes their signature seller catchphrases. So I started to screenshot these, so I have collections of 1000’s of them, of images I’ve never bought, but came across and just thought, okay, there’s the young women photographs. There’s the pretty young women photograph. So there’s now there’s genres of beauty to find by sellers. It’s really fascinating.
Rachel Thompson: 22:10
I feel like, I’m getting a sense of your work as an archivist somehow, too. It’s like you’re collecting these ideas out there, and maybe the photos themselves are part of that collection, I guess. I’m scratching the surface here, I think of what I’m noticing.
Amy Friend: 22:27
I mean, it’s been sitting there for years, because there’s so much to unpack. I’m always interested in the archive, even the nightgowns to me, they’re a little collected archive of sleep. I mean, if we wanted to analyze my grandmother’s patterns of sleep, we probably could just through those nightgowns. Then through the dare alla luce pieces, I started to realize what was missing because they’re highly collectible, so African American photographs, family photographs, there’s specific collectors and even museums collecting those. So I stayed away from the most of the time, because whoever’s collecting these, I think, could do more with them as a collection that I could as a singular image. So I have one or two images that I purchased. Again, reminding me of people in my life, but I noted big absences. That actually led to another series of what we don’t have in our photo albums. It’s not a series that’s finished, but it’s thinking about all the images that are missing.
Rachel Thompson: 23:26
I’m pausing this conversation with Amy Friend to remind you that in addition to this podcast, I also send out Writerly Love letters each week filled with motivation and ideas for you, dear writers. That’s it. That’s all. You can subscribe to my letters at rachelthompson.co/letters.
Now back to my conversation with Amy Friend…
I’ve underlined the fact that I was drawn to your work a decade ago, and then when we came to this issue again, which to me is a lot of a mirror of the issue. That was Mythologies of Loss, the first one and now this is like ghosts, which feels like somehow there’s some kind of continuum, and it’s a progression of the first idea of Mythologies of Loss, or it’s an echo of it at least, and clearly, even hearing you now too, I just know that we’re vibing in the parlance of the day, here in terms of what you explore in your art, and what I wanted to explore in each case in these issues of Room, themes of loss and longing.
I think you have touched on this a bit but can I draw you out to talk a bit more about why you’re drawn to those themes?
Amy Friend: 24:34
It’s funny I think about a lot of it goes back to the way I grew up. We had a lot of people leave our world in the family when I was quite young and we’re actually Italian Scottish and Austrian, but once you have Italian that kind of cancel out the other. The other backgrounds like now you are Italian, forget about the rest. So funerals were very dramatic. They would eventually lead to discussions about other people who had died. So as a kid, I always found it kind of fascinating, and I didn’t really understand it in a real grief kind of way, because people were distance from me, I was too young. But I also always heard these ideas of leaving their homelands and what they miss.
We lived in a very, I would say, immigrant populated neighborhoods, so that sentiment was… I delivered newspapers, so I would even meet all these people through the neighborhood. They would all have their little things that they did, or stories that they would tell you. As elderly people with a young kid come into their door, I mean, it was a different time, they would chat away, and I was always fascinated by what they would have to say. But a lot of it was this [unclear 25:53]. So I think, that sat with me, and I also grew up in a dead end street with farmland around us, so as kids, we were always just outside farming and watching what my grandparents would do. Then at the other end of the street was the light route washed that sheets in. So I always felt like we were in this little weird pocket that was full of these stories. But all of it had this thread of sadness to them, and joy. But within all of that was this sense of grief and loss, and storytelling.
It’s really taken me a long time to understand the push and pull I have with it, because I tried not to make it all about me. Yet, there’s so many stories that I think leads into the way I work.
Rachel Thompson: 26:44
You’re bringing me back to that time when I’d stop in on the way home from school at some older neighbor’s place, and just hang out, and that was, like, considered very, very natural. No, thank you for sharing that. That’s really interesting to hear where those things come from. I’ve been asking all the writers and one other visual artists I’ve spoken to about what is haunting them presently in their art, even if it’s not about ghosts, necessarily in loss, I think we are kind of haunted by ideas.
What is haunting you at present in your art?
Amy Friend: 27:18
One of the things that I definitely realized that being kind of locked in with COVID, for so long, you know, there’s just that great pause, and when I was able to pause, that forced pause, I realized how much I revisit old work in a way that maybe some artists do it. But I do it in a way where I’ll stop for years, like I didn’t make any pieces of dare alla luce, which I was still collecting, because I think of a bit of an addicted collector now, I can’t help myself. I don’t know what I’ll do with those images, and every once in a while, dare alla luce piece will come out of them. But it’s like, I’m not finished those conversations with that word. So these conversations, they keep going back and forth. So the way I work in the studio is I’ll have a lot of things, and you mentioned the word archives, I feel like the little archives, sometimes they’re collected, and they’re my own, and sometimes they’re found. So I’ve been working between a few different projects. One of them was a bunch of letters that I found, again, with my grandmother, these letters that had been written between Italy and Canada over the course of the early 1920’s right until the 80’s. So they continued on. But as people died, there were fewer and fewer letters. So I worked to have some of them translated. They were really interesting. They talked about very specific locations in northern Italy. So I started reaching out to some of our relatives that we still have there and asked if they knew where the pear tree is behind the cornfield near this little tiny town. Yes, we still get pears there.
I’m working on a project that’s related to this idea of land and memory, because so many of us during COVID started to recognize our gardens again, and the changes of seeds and where they are, it just kind of fallen off the radar for a lot of people. So I’m interested in that letter, write it again. Also my husband is from Cuba, so when he first came to Canada, there was no real access to internet, there still really isn’t in Cuba, but so he would get these letters, and they would talk about the weather or the smell of the harvest or something quite specific. That would bring him back to that kind of locative geography of home. So, again, trying to not make it like I know and understand these stories. I just wanted to think about how a photograph can speak to that loss, but also to the presence of those places still, so I’m working on that, and that one has been a long hunt because it started before COVID. Then I paused.
Then during COVID, I started looking at my own photographs that I had taken over the years again being landlocked, and I love the water. So I have hundreds of photographs of waterscapes. Like, oh, water, they’re all the same. They’re all beautiful. So I started just putting them into a file, not knowing what I would do. There’s these weird things you do in life that you’re like, I have no idea why I’ve been collecting seawater every time I travel, but now I understand. So I’ve been soaking these photographs, I printed them and soak them in the seawater, and the salt would dry on the surface and create this kind of crystalline texture to the photos. So I was thinking about those letters about loss and home and our body and tears and we’re made of salt and water. So I started making my own body seas. So mixing what would be the average amount of salts in our bodies with tap water. Thinking about that sterilisation of our connection to everything and trying to remake it, we really are just little oceans. I’m still really trying to work on that. But it’s not so easy to get access to sea water when you’re surrounded by the Great Lakes.
Rachel Thompson: 31:25
Amy Friend: 31:26
When I travel, I do it. Like the one to answer your question more specifically, there’s a project that I have no idea what it’ll be. But it is been really driving me crazy. I know it’s there. It’s just about wonder. It’s just wonder, and trying not to package everything up in these neat little ways that art is often like, here’s a serious, now it’s down here. It’s, what about all of it, the big mess of it all, the wonder of everything. I have this Rick and Rack everywhere, like little crystals and prisms that reflect late and old mirrors that I know someone must have looked at 1000 times. So there’s all of these things that come together, and I’m trying to figure out what they will become. That’s the haunting right now is, weird items for the purpose of wonder.
Rachel Thompson: 32:19
I hear that letting go of control where it’s like, I’m just going to see what this is. I’m not going to define it before I get there.
Amy Friend: 32:26
Exactly. Exactly. But again, it feels like a strange, maybe kind of the curiosity could be the way to define it. But I still feel it’s like a bit of an archive. Like, if you were to tell someone 100 years ago, packaging me up something that just creates wonder, what would they package up? Right? So I think it’s quite different than now. Or maybe not, maybe I’m totally wrong.
Rachel Thompson: 32:50
Yeah, you have me wondering. It’s already working.
Amy Friend: 32:57
Well, kids will do that to you, too. I often don’t talk about being a mom and being an artist, but you can’t help but have that kid stuff seep into. Because you get so sidetracked in this making and you know, there’s this wonder going on in the making anyways. But then I see my daughter making her own wolf fear mom, because she thinks she’s a wolf and spraying the yard with it. That’s like pure poetry, it’s pure wonder, will this work? I don’t know.
Rachel Thompson: 33:29
I love that influence. So I have five questions that I ask every guest, it is called the Quick Lit round. It’s a fill in the blank. I’ve been modified it for visual artists. But I usually ask about being a writer. So the first statement is,
Being an artist is…
Amy Friend: 33:46
I think you create the riddle, and then you have to figure it out or you create a question that needs a solution. Whether you ever find the solution is a whole other discussion, but I think it’s problem solving.
Rachel Thompson: 34:00
I am judging from our conversation, too, sometimes it’s like, the solution is different than maybe anticipated at the start as well.
Amy Friend: 34:09
I really do come across most of my end results through trial and error or accident or really a play. So that’s huge for me is the idea of play, and underestimation of the seriousness of play. So that’s really important in my work, when I’m really in the middle actually of a project and it’s feeling like to sterilise because I know what I’m going to do. I’ll pick something else out of that. Then I feel like I can go back to what I’m doing with a little bit of freshness.
Rachel Thompson: 34:45
My next fill in the blank is,
Literary magazines are…
Amy Friend: 34:50
Full of inspiration. I love the way that a word can take you 1000 in different ways, and I love the way if you pick it up a second time and read something that intrigued you, how it changes. So for me, seeing what people are writing in the now is almost like a conversation that is happening from outer space. There’s these waves, you don’t know when they’re going to hit you. But they’re happening, right? Because us having this podcast right now, I know I’m going to be thinking about some of the things I said later, and that opportunity to have dialogue, even if there’s no answer. There’s a dialogue. So, I would say that it is about inspiration, but dialogue is what’s happening.
Rachel Thompson: 35:39
I love that, that’s probably closest to my fill in the blank there that they are conversations.
Editing requires… And I think I would extrapolate that to like, I guess curation or thinking that kind of sober second thought the revision process of art,
Amy Friend: 35:55
Losing your ego. Losing ego, for sure, and opening up possibility. I love when someone else see something in my work that I haven’t seen. Even if I don’t like what they’re seeing, I still love the fact that they see something different. I really enjoy stepping back a little bit when I’m making selections, to see what people are maybe pulling in different ways. And/or more specifically, if the work is being curated for a show, why they would align me with certain artists, or why they would want to show the work with different artists, and I really enjoy seeing my response, but also learning from what I see, because I learn every time I see work installed, it could be, Oh, I wouldn’t have done it that way. So what? So it’s both that learning from it and being open enough to allow the work to be something less controlled. So I love that part of it.
Rachel Thompson: 37:04
This is somewhat related, I guess when you’re thinking about being selected for shows, but…
Rejection for an artist means or like a no…
Amy Friend: 37:14
A no? Little bit of scary. And I think… Let me just think my last no, because I get a lot of them. We all do. I think it does go back to that. It’s about wondering why. But in a good way. You know, you’re like, Oh, I’m sorry. Because a lot of the time it is so there’s so much work involved to submit. But you have to just keep making and doing. But I do think there are times where you think, Yeah, okay. I didn’t really fit there, I didn’t. But yeah, it is about learning why. I also really love following up on, let’s say I’ve applied to something, and then I get to see the selection, which isn’t always the case, but I get to see the selection. I learned from that. I learned a lot from that. Because they’re also trying to do something from their perspective. I could apply to the same thing. The next year, it fits, because of the amount of artists or whoever’s come forward. So I enjoy seeing those differences.
Rachel Thompson: 38:16
Wonderful. Then the last fill in the blank is,
Artistic community is…
Amy Friend: 38:21
Like a weird little family. Yeah, they are full of fascinating ways of seeing the world. They’re supportive. They push you, they let you know that you are not a singular creators, so get off the pedestal and work with us. I love that. But I also love the camaraderie, so important.
Rachel Thompson: 38:47
That’s wonderful. Yeah, I wasn’t sure. So I’m kind of feeling the overlap in writing community as well, too, with some of the things that you said, so that’s brilliant.
Amy Friend: 38:56
I mean, any community is, really, when we come together, there’s just all kinds of wonderful personalities, we are so different in our ways of thinking, and being creative is, I mean, my husband and I have had some pretty funny conversations because he grew up very traditional arts, where a skill is what makes art art. So he says, photography is not art. I am like, Oh, really? Well, I’m going to go to show in Paris next week. So you can just stay home, okay? But he’s created some impromptu conceptual pieces of art over discussions, and actually, they’re quite good. So, yeah, the personalities are just a wild and fun way of shaking up what you think you understand about being in an artistic practice.
Rachel Thompson: 39:47
Well, thank you so much for sharing and collaborating unbeknownst to you, I guess with me over a small period of time in these two issues. That’s just been really lovely that you’ve said yes. Every time we asked if we can publish here work and that you’re producing such work that we feel deeply when we look at it, too. So, I would argue with your husband, that it’s definitely an art.
Amy Friend: 40:11
Why did you say that, but it’s true, we have these funny conversations. I love that because you really start to wonder, well, why does that qualify this sentence? I don’t work in a traditional way, photographically, I’m not always out there shooting reality. So I kind of love that, I might feel that there’s always something missing in the photo, like I always talk about photography’s failure. I’m always needing to do something else to it, because something in it is failing me. So it’s the failure that I love. I’m like okay, something’s not working here. So what is it, about what photography can provide? Then what it can’t provide? But no, it’s been wonderful to work together, and to see the work in a place where all of these words also frame it so wonderfully. So it’s great.
Rachel Thompson: 41:02
Thank you. Yeah, I feel like the art is definitely in conversation with the writing that we published and the issue as well, too. So that has been really joyful for me as an editor and the person that is curating in a sense this collection together. Thank you so much, Amy. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me today.
Amy Friend: 41:20
Rachel Thompson: 41:22
So that was my conversation with Amy friend, the cover artist for Room 46.3 ghosts with gorgeous and intriguing image that we’ve now uncovered exactly how it was created and what it is even because it’s not exactly apparent when you look at it. That’s part of the mystery that we’ve actually debunked a little bit in this episode, or we’ve dug into the mystery of how those pieces were created.
I appreciated hearing about her artist process and discovery and you heard me reference writing instructor Betsy Warland’s sage advice to “follow the scent of the story” and I love hearing about how she followed the scent of the art, and lets this happen. As Amy Friend put it, “falling apart is what helps me”—which I think is helpful advice for all creatives. I’m particularly thinking of you, dear writers.
In fact, this week, I’m teaching my Revision Love course and passed along that same idea that in revision you can break things apart and put them back together, allow it to fall apart first so you know what the work is about and what exactly it is you were trying to say or what additionally you could say in your work. It takes a lot of trust in the process of creating, of course, which clearly Amy Friend has as she’s throwing sheets into water and nightgowns into the air to see where they land.
I hope you enjoyed that delve into the world of a different artistic practice, and of course, one that we intersect with a lot when we publish literary magazines because most lit mags have cover art. I, for one, adored learning about the magic and possibility that Amy Friend sees in photos, akin to how we think about life, trying to understand something completely ridiculous as she put it.
The Write, Publish, and Shine podcast is brought to you by me, Rachel Thompson. Sound Editing by Adam Linder. Transcripts by Diya Jaffery. Thanks also for production support from Meli Walker, who is also the community facilitator for all of my writing courses.
You can learn more about how I help writers, write, publish, and shine at rachelthompson.co. When you’re there, sign up for my Writerly Love letters, sent every week and filled with support for your writing practice.
If this episode encouraged you to let things fall apart in your writing and let go of some control to get to deeper artistry, I would love to hear all about it. You can always email me at email@example.com. I am now also posting on Instagram; follow me there @rachelthompsonauthor, just note I’m doing social my way, which means I don’t do comments or DMs, so email is still the only way to reach me if you want to engage. You can do so at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you to all of you who have been sharing the podcast with other writers. I really appreciate you for sending writers to rachelthompson.co/podcast or telling them to search Write, Publish, and Shine wherever they get their podcasts.
Thank you for listening—I encourage you to let go of a bit of control and see what happens when things fall apart and you put them back together, dear writers.
Amy Friend spoke to me from St. Catharines, the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe peoples.
And I am a guest in the South Sinai on lands of the el Muzzina Bedouin.