©Amy Herman, touching noses with dad, from How to Dry a Knife
This week are featuring work seen at the Los Angeles Center of Photography Exposure Reviews.
Amy Herman has a legacy of documenting her family with a myriad of approaches, the latest being her project, How to Dry a Knife. At a certain point in our lives, we begin looking around the room at family gatherings with a new investigatory purpose–to understand those nearest and dearest in a more complex way. Certainly, 23 and Me and Ancestry have us exploring the familial past, but what about the family members that are part of our daily lives? How to Dry a Knife is a humorous and poignant look at genetic similarities.
A conversation with the artist follows.
Amy Herman is an artist based in Charlotte, North Carolina. She received her MFA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago, and her BFA in Fine Art from Michigan State University. Her photographs have been shown on the international level and are included in the permanent collections of the Kiyosota Museum of Photography, Cassilhaus, and The Museum of Fine Arts Houston. She is the Co Founder of Goodyear Arts, an artist-run residency program.
Follow on Instagram: @amy.n.herman
©Amy Herman, mom’s mom’s mom’s hands, from How to Dry a Knife
How to dry a knife (2019-current)
My photographs often begin with the recollection of a specific memory of family which warps into a visual representation. Memory, like photography, is a strange likeness in the shape of the original. These echoes of the originals embrace a surreal intimacy and examine both the power and deception of memory. I have been utilizing family snapshots in conjunction with performative acts to create time collages. I work in both self-portraiture and in collaboration with my mother and father to create an interaction with our past selves and across generations. My photographs often question genetic similarities between parent and child through masking and unmasking. They also strive to capture the complexities of how we respond to the inherited – traits, memories, and objects.
©Amy Herman, dad holding his dad’s eyes, from How to Dry a Knife
Tell us about your growing up and what brought you to photography?
I come from a very art forward family. My mom and dad both had/have interest in photography and there were lots of cameras and equipment floating around our house when I was young. I took my first photography class in high school and I was pretty hooked right away.
©Amy Herman, eye masks of my grandmothers, from How to Dry a Knife
All of your projects revolve around family. Can you speak to that focus in your work? Are your family members comfortable participating?
I think I would say that all of my projects revolve around identity and that my family is a big part of my personal identity. I fell into making photographs with my mom quite naturally – starting in undergrad. I think this was probably initially out of my yearning to have two people in the frame and as I started to understand the work and dynamics within the photographs I expanded on the themes. My mom and dad have been extremely supportive of my various projects, they *almost* never complain about being involved in the process. I have definitely asked them to do things for my photographs that push the boundaries of what we might be comfortable with but I also think that challenge is where the artmaking really begins.
©Amy Herman, daddy’s lips, from How to Dry a Knife
Have you been surprised by anything when working with your parents?
Yes and no. I feel lucky to have them support my art making but I don’t know if it surprises me. I feel more surprised that they would pretty much allow me to direct them to do anything for a photograph at this point.
©Amy Herman, bouquet, from How to Dry a Knife
Will this project continue to expand or are on to something else?
Being a self-portrait artist, I think, in a way, my project(s) are always expanding. I think of each project more like a chapter then as a completed book. There is always a new phase of life with new intricacies to explore. That being said, I am excited about a new project I am currently researching and slowly starting which revolves around my Grandfather’s time enlisted in the armed forces during WWII. This project feels very different for me because even though it revolves around a family member, it will involve a lot of travel and making photographs a bit out of my comfort zone.
©Amy Herman, fuck you (grandma’s teeth), from How to Dry a Knife
What has been inspiring you lately?
I am in a multidisciplinary artist collective in Charlotte, North Carolina called Goodyear Arts. I think being a part of this dynamic group is one of my main sources of inspiration. I love seeing and hearing about how other artists think about and create their own work.
©Amy Herman, maternal profiles, from How to Dry a Knife
©Amy Herman, mobius, from How to Dry a Knife
©Amy Herman, mom masks, from How to Dry a Knife
Amy Herman, wearing my mom’s hair as a wig, from How to Dry a Knife
Amy Herman, untitled (dhalia), from How to Dry a Knife
©Amy Herman, the tug, from How to Dry a Knife
©Amy Herman, my grandmother’s wedding necklace, from How to Dry a Knife
©Amy Herman, tucking in mom, from How to Dry a Knife