We had the good fortune of connecting with Amanda J. Armstrong and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Amanda J., we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
For me it was more of a mind set. As an artist I had to understand I am a business. I am in the art business. It was imperative to me to establish myself as a business, act as a business. Art schools do not release you into the world prepared for business, but rather leave you like a vulnerable fawn naïve to the ways of the predators. Thus perpetuating the “starving artist mentality”. Myself, I took a break from art school and attended school for business management. Then went back to art school. Because even just working as a gallerist in NYC, regardless of you art school status, they will ask about business skills, and high end retail skills. Of which I check all the boxes.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My first breakthrough project, “The Body Obscura” was the first time I felt free to create. It was rather my middle finger to the male dominated world of photographers and their softly lit female nudes, awash in photos shot for the male gaze, passing as art photography. I wasn’t really attempting to “shock” the world with my images, but just a large dose of reality. To many, the images of a larger female nude presented in sharp pictures was a little too much. But that was also a welcomed reaction. I wanted the viewer to have that internal journey and ask themselves: “Why do I find this__________?”
In my head, I do set out to create a story or feeling, but I never want to direct the story into the viewers face. I want them to take what they want, see and feel what they want. What I see in my head, when I set out to create, is my own version; I don’t expect the viewer to have the same takeaway. I enjoy when asked to explain my visuals, but I truly crave to hear back the viewers see and feel when looking at my work, both individually and as a whole, when I do a series. Perception is so vast, and I use my images as an act of listening.
I try not to overcomplicate things; it can be unnecessary at times.
I do enjoy research aspect of things. There has been a photographic collection or two that has sent me down the research rabbit hole, so to speak, looking into the images I see in my mind. On this journey, the backstory became cerebral, but on the surface on the finished images were just the opposite. Creating a circus-like fantasy, in a surreal world, by hand, in theatric style, with a scientific backstory is fun for all. It just requires a lot of pretty layered research.
My stead fast rule is, do it all, try it all, but if you find, in the end, your execution and presentation sucks, it’s a hobby (and enjoy it). Yeah, there have been times where I thought I could do it all, and goodness knows I tried, but you will never know what you could be missing out on. My work is a representation of getting out there and doing it, learning and sharing all the way, because I refuse to have regrets!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I think I did a good solid decade and a half living in Downtown Denver, a lot has changed but there are still some areas I enjoy. But it involves getting out of the city center. Still to this day a stroll down South Broadway is the best way to spend a Sunday. The antique stores and unique boutiques are just teaming with diversity. Many small shops have changed, but there is always another one that pops up in its place just a kitschy at the one before it. My starting point for as long as I can remember is Mutiny Cafe for coffee and used books. The vibe just sets the bar for the rest of the day. The best thing about South Broadway was the ample opportunities for day drinking!
Getting out of the city and exploring the neighborhoods of Denver is an adventure to itself, I am not going to lie, a lot of it does involve craft breweries, and small business boutiques. But in the Tennyson Neighborhood is Oriental Theater, were on many Fridays you can catch “Lucha Libre and Laughs”. This is a must, this is a hybrid show of Lucha Libre wrestling, and stand up comedy. Denver does things like this, like the Comedy and Bicycle Fest (now in Trinidad”.
On First Fridays, 40 West Art District is an eclectic walking tour, and it all starting at the (In) Famous Casa Bonita! West Colfax (WestFax) is gaining popularity due to its art walk, and artist loving community. WestFax also backs up to the Sloan’s Lake/Edgewater, again breweries and shopping but the Edgewater Public Market is something to see. Art, and yes, a Yak Burger. The Edgewater Public Market is the new form of grown up mall with an upscale food court and bar.
Getting away from it all, I head to the hills, but down South. Starting off with Trinidad. This up and coming town is on the cusp of the next big thing. Now the home to the “Goat Head Fest”, and “Bicycle and Comedy Fest”. This old town is flanked with old wester stucco store fronts, and come peculiar architectural sculptures. It also serves at a gateway to the San Luis Mountains, and incredible white water rafting.
My next mountain stop is Salida, its a little bit more on the bougie side but I also had the best sandwich of my life at “Sweeties”, and The Sherman Market is a bazaar of makers from all over the State. This little mountain town has the a small downtown of historic buildings, and many places to visit. But just outside of the limits is breathtaking scenery.
To me, the Colorado I love is more than just Downtown Denver. There are many communities of small business, artists and makers ripe for discovery and exploration!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’ve stumbled, blazed, trekked my own path, I have learned from a lot of mistakes, and never been shy about jumping into something new. I also learned from doing a lot of the opposite if what I was taught, such as “focus on one thing”. But along my long journey I have taken strength from the incredibly strong womxn of “Gen Z”! Their awe inspiring strength and passion for being heard, and seen. Not only in the art world but in life. They have turned the rules upside down and are making their own. Coming from the younger “Gen X” crew, we tried, and started somethings, but our voices were still somewhat stifled. I was still told to do this do that. But I thank you “Gen Z”, keep doing you.
Art by Amanda J Armstrong and Art Dealer Street