An Interview by David Emmanuel Noel
David Emmanuel Noel
It’s always such a pleasure to meet inspiring artists and be exposed to their wonderful work. Amber Henry is one of those artists who, aside from being an excellent painter, has highly admirable aspirations to assist charities and agencies supporting those affected by cancer. A former Laguna Beach gallery owner, she relocated from Southern California to Salt Lake City in 2011 to take care of her mother who was suffering from breast cancer.
Amber graduated from Laguna College of Art + Design with a BFA in Fine Arts and Illustration. She went on to show in local Laguna art galleries such as Fingerhut and Orange County Creatives. While in California, she was a leader in the Laguna Beach art community, served on various committees such as First Thursday’s Art Walk, and Laguna College of Art + Design’s mentoring and alumni committees. She recently featured in a solo exhibition at Alpine Art Gallery in Salt Lake City. Amber kindly agreed to talk further about her art, career and future objectives.
I love your artwork. What’s your story and how did you become an artist?
I have always been consumed by imagination and creativity. Wandering, wondering, sensitive to unique patterns in everything and the many levels of color and beauty these created. As long as I can remember, unique stories and ideas would play out within my imagination. It was as though these stories were so real I could reach out and touch them. As the creative environment traveled with me, so did my crayons, markers, pencils and torn pieces of paper. My pockets would overflow with drawing utensils and various “fascinating” objects which had been collected throughout the day. At one point, the discovery that I could create a world with paint and canvas leads to the realization that art has always lived within me and that I was destined to share this with the world and make my impression.
Do you specialize in portraits or do you work on different commissions?
Though I am passionate about portrait painting, I have and will work on any custom art. I tend to pour my soul in whatever I do, so creating custom art that will make a deep impact on anyone viewing the art, is an important to me and a large part of what I do. All of my art must evoke some sort of experience in the emotional sense. Otherwise, I feel as though my work is not complete.
I had the privilege of first seeing your work via Twitter. Can you provide further insight on how you managed to develop a theme of patient portraits?
I feel that people make an impression on the world. Every crease, wrinkle, scar, and expression, tells a story and reveals pieces of a unique journey. Eyes reflect all kinds of emotion, from love, joy, pain, passion, and in many cases more than we can ever fathom. For me, to tell a story is to create a portrait and capture every one of those details at that moment. Storytelling in a single moment in time. A moment that can appear to be only what you see on the surface yet gives a glimpse into what lies beneath the surface. I want my art to inspire people to use their imagination to interpret a particular piece and its story.
It all began with a portrait of my mother who passed away from cancer. I used this as a healing process for myself. I wanted to capture the inner light and positive outlook she most often carried. From there, my hope was to capture a likeness in a deeper sense. Yes, likeness can be captured by the artist in the physical sense. One can take a photo of a person and create a version that looks just like the person on the outside, but how many are able to successfully capture the inner person as well? It is the little nuances that matter. A certain depth and twinkle in the eye, a slight turn of the mouth, an eyebrow raised slightly higher than the other.
I don’t wish to only go skin deep when painting people. Capturing the soul is what I strive for whether it be painting a portrait of someone who has passed or one that is still physically with us.
An impression of the soul and capturing that moment in time…the essence of a person.
Are there any charities or agencies you would like to work with to develop this project further?
I would love to work with any non-profit organizations which promote healing for those affected by cancer in some way, survivors, caregivers and family of those afflicted. Currently, I am looking to raise money larger organizations like Komen as well as smaller, community-based non-profits. Since giving back is such a big part of what I am trying to do, for those who mention this interview when ordering any of my artwork, I will donate 25% of the proceeds to a charity such as Komen or one of their choosing.
Progress has been made in how the health sector uses art as part of the healing process. Do you have any ideas on how this can be furthered?
I’m no doctor, but I believe that by raising awareness on how utilizing the arts can promote healing and can bring hope and joy to so many. There is so much focus on treatments in the physical sense, like chemo, radiation and nutrition, and exercise. What about the fine arts, music, and dance? Even if it provides a creative distraction from whatever treatment a person is going through, I do believe our emotional health and personal fulfillment directly reflects our outlook and physical wellbeing. If someone can get lost in imagining the story behind a piece of my art, it’s certainly better than thinking about their battle with whatever illness or challenge they are facing. I believe anyone affected by any sort of physical challenge can be positively uplifted by creativity whether it is through their own or experiencing and enjoying the creativity of others.
What other projects and activities should we look out for?
I’d like to further examine people. People affected by various circumstances, like homelessness, poverty, etc. Based on their story, I would paint them, striving to re-create the moment in time in which their story was told. Even if is a painting of a space with no people, this would reflect a specific experience or story told.
I wish Amber the very best for the future.
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