The 2021 Wise Women Project launches with interviews and portraits of four artists in Boulder County. The goal of the #WiseWomenProject is to recognize and spotlight women over 50 in our community. I want to recognize and give voice to the many ways these women are impacting and inspiring others. These are their stories. Want to participate? Learn more here.
Amy Guion Clay, Age 60
What is your medium today?
I would say I’m a mixed media painter working primarily in acrylic paint, photo transfer and some drawing. But I’ve worked in many mediums such as oil and encaustic over the years also. I love printmaking as well, especially solar plate etching. But I travel a lot to artist residencies around the world, and acrylic paint is the easiest medium to travel with, so that’s my primary paint. From there I might include found materials from the various places I’ve been.
Why this medium?
I love the immediacy of acrylic because it dries quickly and can be easily layered. It also is less environmentally toxic because it is water based and doesn’t require solvents etc. Working with photo transfer allows me to bring in some imagery into my abstract paintings that would be very time consuming to draw, such as detailed trees. That said, I love to draw in my paintings with graphite as well.
How has your art evolved as you have become older?
My work is all about longing and the mythical journey. I think we are a nomadic species by nature, and there is a wistfulness and mystery that beckons me toward the horizon. I’m always ready to set out on a journey, whether in my studio or real life. After raising a family, I’m now free to go where I choose, so that informs my work in a huge way!
I also love to explore new ways of making marks and trying new combinations of color, etc. My process is always the same in that I respond to the work intuitively, listening deeply to impulses and subtle clues about how to proceed.
What does art mean to you especially at this stage of life?
Art is and always has been my life. I cannot imagine not being creative. It’s so deeply rooted in my being – as a traveler and explorer as well. It’s all the same thing – being curious and wanting to go deeper into the unknown. I’m restless with the familiar, and am always looking to go beyond. As I get older, this only increases, and because I have enough experience now, I trust the process even more. I rarely let fear limit me anymore – life is too short!
What is/has been the biggest roadblock to you as an artist?
The biggest challenge as an artist for me is never enough time. I’m guessing every artist has the same lament. Often that’s related to finances because many of us have to generate other income in different ways. I have been a part time freelance clothing designer for 30+ years which helps to pay the bills. But it also takes me away from my time spent painting, which is frustrating at times. However, it gives me financial security so that I don’t rely on just selling paintings. That can be a trap in itself.
How did you/are you pushing past that roadblock?
I always make time for my art making anyway, and because my design work is seasonal and part time, I make sure to make the most of the time I do have. As a self employed person all these years, I’m very disciplined and have a solid work ethic. But I heard once that even if you had all day every day to make art, it would still never be enough time! So I just accept that is true and do my best with the time I have.
Share a favorite quote about art.
“I look for maximum lack of control to let the paint do something I didn’t think of.” Robert Rauschenberg. I love this because it’s about letting go of control to see with focus what is actually happening in front of you, staying open and curious. It’s all about being present and staying out of judgement.
Advice to anyone just beginning to experiment with their creativity and who is over the age of 50?
It’s never too late to begin! Seriously, it’s been said a million times but it doesn’t matter your age. Just start to play and learn new techniques. Do it for you, not for anyone else, and be careful who you show it to in the beginning. It’s a vulnerable stage of growth and you want to protect it from the judgement of others (i.e. social media). This is for you, for your soul, and it’s gloriously enjoyable if you can get beyond your internal critics.
Anything you want to add?
I find the 50’s and beyond to be a most wonderful time. We are mostly done with child rearing, and have a freedom and yes, wisdom, to direct our lives in the way we choose. Take good care of your body and soul and you can make this time of life wildly creative and exciting!
Amy Guion Clay began her journey in the wilds of suburban Boston. She was drawing and painting from an early age, encouraged by her working parents who had artful interests of their own. The kitchen smelled of boiling dyes from her mother’s fiber arts, and her engineer father found his voice in mid-life as a tenor in the regional musical theater.
In her graduating year of high school, she was awarded the Art Achievement Award, and she went on to earn her BFA from Syracuse University and University of East London. After exploring a career as a fashion designer in New York City and London, she cashed it all in to travel the world by bicycle and find her deeper calling through art, adventure and nature.
She landed in Boulder, CO and began her art journey, growing a contemplative painting practice/career while raising a family. She doesn’t remember how she completed the 40 paintings for her first solo show while a single mother without a studio. Since then she has exhibited her mixed media paintings widely in galleries around the US and internationally – including Spain, Italy, India and Berlin.
Her favorite thing is to combine art and travel, living as an artist-in-residence around the world. To date, she has been to over 20 residencies in 15 different countries such as Iceland, Mexico, Turkey and Ireland. Below is a sample of Amy’s work. See more on her website here. Follow Amy on Instagram @amyclayart (https://www.instagram.com/amyclayart/)
Amy was also interviewed for the WomenWordsWisdom podcast which you can listen to on Apple Podcast here.