Trail Blazer

Amy Gross’s biotope legacy
I have always been fascinated by the way individuals perceive the world around them. There is no passive looking, everything we observe is colored and influenced by our experiences, the where and how and why that have made up our pasts. A walk through a backyard or the woods is a journey that differs for each of us. We weave our individual stories into everything we see and hear and smell and touch. I discovered, after years of commercial textile designing, that time was passing faster than I had thought possible. I needed to understand the life I was experiencing. I wanted to examine change and loss, and to leave some kind of trail. For me, the natural world, insistent even in my suburban environment, could be the metaphor I used to tell stories of my inner life. 
My beaded and embroidered sculptures are the result of my attempt to make the fleeting into something I can see and touch. I call them biotopes, a word first coined by artist/zoologist Ernst Haeckel, describing an area where specific living things gather and grow. Life forms coexist or compete, cluster and tangle and mix and merge. They blend and influence and fight for space, very much the way we all do in our daily lives.  To me, biotopes are the physical morphing of things and ideas, both the forest beyond your door and the dreams you have about it. They are microcosms, reflecting larger places and ideas in a condensed, small space.
Fiber is the best way I have found to mimic the biological world. Thread and yarn twist into roots, fabric is like skin (animal and leaf), and beads are like berries and red blood cells. Sewing is the perfect metaphor for symbiosis, binding different materials together to make something new. I merge what can be seen with the naked eye with the invisible life forms we can only see through microscope lenses, because in the mind’s eye scale no longer matters. Spores and viruses resemble seedpods and corals, cilia waves like fields of grass.
I have one rule: I won’t incorporate any found object from nature. The things I bring back from my walks through South Florida wetlands go up on my wall as inspiration, but remain there. I use materials without profound or loaded pasts, such as craft store yarn, seed beads, ribbon, Styrofoam, wire and paper, and thousands of steel sewing pins. Tiny blossoms are baked polymer. I digitally alter my photographs of leaves and fungi to suit my stories, changing their size and color, often using the same images over and over again, like obsessive thoughts.  My materials will not die the way that living things do. There’s the impression that the Florida landscape remains the same all year long. I may have gotten greedy for the illusion of endless summer, and paradoxically, more afraid of the loss created by passing time. My sculptures try to hold still that very fleeting moment of blooming.
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