by Amy Madrin Justen
Banyan Tree Gallery
Amy Madrin Justen
Ink Wash Paintings
Amy became an artist because she found so many things that were difficult for her to express through language: insights gleaned about the human condition through observation and meditation. She focused her studies on the human figure during her education at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, through the mediums of painting, printmaking and sculpture, always with the goal of further understanding humanity and herself. Toward the end of her time at the Art Institute, Amy moved away from figurative work and became immersed in mixed media sculpture and installation, melding the elements of earth, air, fire and water in sculptures made of welded metal, handmade paper, beeswax and human hair. She considered herself a very process oriented, visionary artist, meaning that she had a “vision” of a finished project and then worked backwards figuring out how to bring this vision into fruition.
Upon graduation, Amy co-founded the Fire Arts Center of Chicago, a small non-profit foundry and metal shop, with sculptor Vincent Hawkins, as a way to continue to create her sculpture and installations. She spent several years teaching a beginning level welding class while working on and exhibiting her personal projects. During this time she became interested in public art and had the good fortune to work with projectionist Robert Collier of Technique Mirage on a project for the Field Museum of Natural History’s centennial celebration. They projected large moving images on the north façade of the museum from sunset to sunrise throughout the year. Amy also traveled to Peru and created a public mural in the city of San Bartolo with artist, Jose Aleman Sasieta.
Shortly upon Amy's return from Peru she was offered the opportunity to learn the art of tattooing. She was resistant because she considered tattooing to be a lowbrow art form, but some professional tattooists convinced her that she would excel at it and it would provide her with a steady income. So Amy returned to the human figure, only this time adorning real people instead of painting their images. She had to put her sculpture and painting pursuits on hold while learning this new medium, which turned out to be extremely gratifying and challenging. She was used to creating these sometimes large and heavy sculptures that stayed around in the studio until they went out for exhibition, to having the work she created literally walk out the door and never be seen by Amy again. It was also interesting to learn people’s stories, their personal history, and has helped her to understand humanity in a way she never could have dreamed possible. Everything came back full circle for Amy through tattooing and the desire to understand the human race through working with the human form.
Amy has worked as a professional tattooist for 19 years and has mastered the medium, with forays back into the fine art world, mostly through painting, still exhibiting the work on at least a yearly basis. She is happy to be sharing her work with the many people who travel to Lahaina from all over the world. Amy's work is in private collections throughout the country and adorns the bodies of thousands of people throughout the world. Amy continues to make art and tattoos from her home base of Maui., each piece created with aloha.