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Sketch Pad

Amy Livingstone
Reverence for life
by Kathy Anderson

rowing up in the countryside of New Hampshire, Amy Livingstone spent her time playing in and around the woods. Amy was in high school when she left the safety and comfort of her childhood playground, moving to Florida with her parents for the next 10 years. Then, after a seven-year stint in California, she followed her heart, moved to Portland, and felt she'd come home at last. Amy's studio is in the Southwest Hills, on a knoll nestled behind River View Cemetery and surrounded by lush gardens.

Turning point
During times of heartache, Amy Livingstone finds solace by expressing her inner thoughts and feelings through art.

"Where Ashes Lie"

"My artwork is an expression of my life and experiences," she said. "As a child I was very lonely, so I drew. As a young adult, art became a way to soften the blow of disappointment. When I was entering my 30th year, painting became survival."

Losing three significant people in a nine-month period, Amy dealt with her sadness by painting.

"No one can prepare you for death and the grief that follows," she said. "That period of time was a turning point in my life that continues to influence all that I create and all that I bring to the world."

Emerging from the darkness of her grief, Amy found a reverence for life.

"As a Scorpio, I have always been drawn to those deep places of the soul and feel a strong connection to the cycle of death and rebirth," she said. "It's no surprise that the butterfly has been one of my totems since my teens. I have come to realize that this journey has been an awakening to my spiritual path."

"Butterfly Woman"

Amy is now painting a series of mandalas as part of her spiritual practice, the first being "Butterfly Woman."

Her sculptures embody similar themes and a desire to explore beauty, love and the divine masculine/feminine.

"My process is also deeply informed by poetry, literature and the sacredness of the natural world, especially my garden as it bursts into full bloom," she said.

Taking lumps
Amy never mastered watercolor and only dabbled in pastels, so she sticks to working with acrylics.

"I tend to layer my color and change direction midway through a painting," she said. "Acrylic is very forgiving in that respect."

Though she took her first class nine years ago, sculpture is a relatively new medium for Amy.

"I was considering a master's program in art therapy and the college wanted to see three-dimensional work," she said. "I had never sculpted before and immediately fell in love with clay."

In her sculpting, Amy renewed a passion for working with the human figure.

"Love is Blind"

"I was never satisfied with painting the human figure, but the excitement I feel when I take a lump of clay and create a human form out of it constantly amazes me," she said.

Feeling connected
Since Amy's art is influenced by what is happening in her life and the world, her images come from what she's feeling at the moment.

"It rarely occurs standing in front of the easel or a lump of clay," she said.

"For example, the day of remembrance after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I went to the Rose Quarter to participate in the ceremony there. I was so overwhelmed by the love and feeling of connection with the world, that on the MAX ride home I had a vision of my hands holding the world in love."

Art history is another of Amy's passions. Through her studies, many artists have inspired her, but the surrealists were the first major group to influence her work: Georgia O'Keeffe for her connection to the natural world and her independent spirit, Frida Kahlo for painting her heart on the canvas, Camille Claudel and other lesser-known artists, such as the surrealists Remedios Varos and Leonore Carrington.

"As far as contemporary artists, Karen Finley's work has deeply inspired me," she said "Many years ago in L.A., she created an installation called Momento Mori. The piece combined the devastation of the AIDS epidemic and the abortion-rights issue.

"911, Love is the Answer"

"It was one of the most moving and memorable pieces I have ever experienced. This was a profound example of the power of art to inspire, move and educate people emotionally and politically."

Sewing seeds
Amy caught the creative bug early and began by designing imaginative realms for her dolls.

"I was a solitary child and spent many hours alone, which was conducive to nurturing my inner artist," she said. "I loved crayons and coloring and the paint-by-number sets we received at Christmas."

Seeking out the Draw Me contests in the back of magazines, Amy sketched the pirate and elephant over and over again. With hopes of winning an art scholarship, Amy would then ask her mother to send in her drawings.

"Unfortunately, I wasn't encouraged in my artistic endeavors," she said. "When I asked for art classes I got sewing classes and, for a time, I found an outlet there. By age 11, I was making my own clothes."

Amy's parents and siblings are not artists, though they are creative in their own ways. Her mother put her creativity into their home, a sister is a master seamstress, another sings and her late brother was a poet and writer.

"My father, to this day, continues to be perplexed over the source of my talent," she said. "However, my great-aunt Hilda used to paint in our native Sweden, and we have two pieces of her work."

"Jane's World "

Unable to talk her parents into sending her to private classes, Amy's art studies began when she entered high school. She received her bachelor of fine arts from the University of South Florida.

"My studies introduced me to a different way of seeing light, color and perspective, but it has been through my life experiences that my work has grown and evolved," she said.

Two years ago Amy designed a workshop to support women in grief, using art and shared story to facilitate healing.

"I'm now looking at offering classes to individuals and small groups centered around creativity and spirituality," she said.

This fall Amy begins a master's program at Marylhurst. She'll integrate art and spirituality into her program by studying spiritual traditions and ethics.

Soul full
Creating art fills Amy's life and her soul.

"Last year I had the honor of making a sculpture in memory of a woman who'd died suddenly," she said. "It's a beautiful, touching tribute to a life and something I would like to do more of."

After being commissioned to do a nude sculpture for a friend, Amy began "sensuous selfs: portraits in clay."


"It was an amazing process to witness her blossoming sensuality and acceptance of her body in posing," she said. "So I now invite women to experience this same growth in the comfort of my studio."

Amy's artwork is part of many private collections and she has a memorial sculpture at Doernbecher Children's Hospital.

"Whether through my artwork, commissions or workshops, my intention is to use my creativity in a way that supports awakening, transformation and healing," she said.

Last month, Amy's art was part of "Art by Moonlight," a fund-raiser at the Core Source in Northeast Portland. The event featured local artists, wine, music, dance and a silent auction to raise money for orphans of war in Afghanistan.

Those interested in seeing more of Amy's art can e-mail her to schedule a studio visit.

E-mail Amy at amy@sacredartstudio.net. You can reach Kathy at kanderson138@comcast.net, and draw on other Sketch Pads.

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