Oldies But Goldies: Amber Jean Young’s Art Exhibit At Subliminal Projects, Friday October 17th 2014
Since I have just learned about the death of Pegi Young, I thought about the magical evening when I ran into Pegi and Neil at Shepard Fairey’s studio. Their daughter Amber Jean Young had an exhibit at Subliminal Projects, and the entire family was there, to my great surprise. Their son Ben, who suffers from cerebral palsy was even there, although he didn’t stay very long.
Pegi and Neil were married for 36 years, In addition to her music career, Peggi founded the Bridge School in 1986 to help kids with severe speech and physical impairments and the Bridge School Benefit in Mountain View is raising money for the school every year. Pegi died on Tuesday after a yearlong battle with cancer. She was 66.
If I didn’t really talk to them (how could I have?), Neil generously posed for a few photos with Amber. This was the day when I met Neil, Amber, Pegi, and this is what I wrote at the time:
I have the chance to get invited every time Shepard Fairey has a new art exhibit at his Subliminal Projects Studio in Echo Park, and this time, the name of the artist, ‘Amber Jean Young’, didn’t ring a bell right away… I have to admit I didn’t read the press release coming with the invitation for the opening reception when I received it… otherwise, I would have been very excited. But when I finally read it, just before going to the reception, I got the surprise to learn that Amber is, yes, Neil and Pegi Young’s daughter! Silly me, I hadn’t even decided for sure if I was going or not! But Neil Young will certainly not show up I said to myself while walking to the Studio… I looked around and actually, he was the first person I saw at the party! Neil Young with his disheveled hair and this malice in his eyes, smiling and looking at me while I immediately reached my camera to take a few pics…. ‘Is that Neil Young?’ asked me a guy entering the studio at the same time ‘Yes! And it’s unbelievable!’ I answered. No, it wasn’t unbelievable that Neil was there for his daughter’s first solo art show in Los Angeles, but it was unbelievable that I was there, among all these people. Amber was attending, of course, as was Pegi, her mother, and even Stephen Stills showed up! He was quietly talking to people the whole time, nursing a drink.
And the most amazing part of the story? I didn’t see a lot of press people around, just one guy with a camera, which let me think Neil’s visit was not advertised at all. When Neil saw that I was taking pictures, he put his arm around the shoulders of his daughter Amber and another nice looking girl and they all volunteered to pose for a few pictures! I thanked them profusely and needless to say, I was totally star struck! One of his sons who has cerebral palsy did a tour of the exhibit in a wheelchair and I witnessed some cool and caring interactions between Neil and his son….
Amber’s art is very interesting and original, the studio was filled with a series of fabric sculptures, quilts, and wall hangings, mixing the ancient art of quilting with the recent technology, photography, in a more or less abstract manner, evoking destructured nature landscapes. This is what was written in the press release to explain Amber’s creating process:
‘Young’s recent work explores place and memory through the combination of photography and quilting. Her interest in quilting is influenced by the practice’s long history in the domestic sphere. Inspired by the landscape of her childhood house and the surrounding environment, Young prints photographs she took of her rural Northern California homeland onto fabric. She plays with color, contrast, and aspect ratio in the printing process to create varied versions of the same image. The printed fabric is then cut apart into a myriad of shapes and the scenery is disassembled.
Young integrates these pieces of fabric into her quilts, visually restructuring her memory of the landscape as montages on linen. Her choice of linen and upholstery fabric as the base material, as well as her practice of quilting, directly reference household items and American traditions.
However, Young takes these references to the home a step further by providing a visual display of how images in memories fade and fragment with each passing moment yet still maintain their strong connection to what was once known, present, and familiar. The photographic strips of fabric represent compositions of her actual childhood residence that have become dissipated or distorted with time. Despite their piecemeal existence, the sense of place and familiarity derived from the original subject matter still feels tangible and present, like a lingering memory or nostalgia that mentally shrouds one in a protective blanket of comfort.
By “remaking” these memories, Young emphasizes what is forgotten as much as she emphasizes what is included. Her work, therefore, retains a ghostly, contemplative, and folkloric abstraction. This practice is a meditation on the incomplete nature of her personal memories. Each piece is both a homecoming and a departure, possessing a slippage from the real. The process of dismantling a familiar and dear place provides her with the opportunity to build new worlds unbridled by reality. The resulting landscape is recognizable but fantastical, familiar but garbled. By traversing recollections of place and personal history, Young contemplates her memory’s inclination to forget.’
Fragmented quilts as fragmented memories, recollection, destruction, and reconstruction, a lot of thoughtful work went through the making of these quilts. ‘There’s A Shape In These Hills I Know’ will be on display at Subliminal Projects (at 1331 W. Sunset Blvd) through November 15th, but I don’t think Neil will hang around the place this long.