“On Friday March 24th, after a long, grueling day of completing the installation, and even though I had to be at the airport at 5:15 am the next morning, filled with the hope of watching giant leatherback sea turtles lay eggs, I took a late-night excursion to one of the Surinamese shores and had the privilege to bear witness to this magical and ritualized yet skillful process. It is not (well) known how leatherback turtles continue to survive their long journeys between where they feed and where they lay their eggs. The life of the artist is also about navigation. It is not clear how or why we choose to do what we do over the course of a lifetime, but we, as the leatherback turtles, make the journey over and over again. It is the travel, metaphorical speaking, that keeps us afloat.”
Artist and professor Margery Amdur traveled to Suriname to install Amass #17, her large-scale mixed-media, site-specific wall construction, on one of the main atrium walls at the new U.S. Embassy in Paramaribo, Suriname. In addition to installing her work onsite, Amdur was also a visiting artist and part of the American Embassy’s Art and Cultural Exchange program. She conducted multiple workshops with students of the Nola Hatterman Art Academy (NHAA) in Paramaribo. The focus of the four-year program is to educate a diverse student body of mixed backgrounds and ages about what it takes to become a successful professional in the fields of visual arts and design.
The exchange was set up in close coordination with U.S. Embassy Paramaribo and the Director of the NHAA, Sunil Puljhun. Classes were conducted with the assistance of Razia Barsatie, one of the teachers at the Academy, and began on Tuesday, March 21st. At the beginning of each workshop Amdur gave an overview of her own thirty-year career, introduced the students to multinational, contemporary artists with whom they may not have been familiar, and shared how these artists have inspired her practice.
Amdur worked with two different groups of students over the course of two days. These students had completed their secondary education and were currently seeking to support their artistic development with additional instruction.
During the preparations for the exchange, Amdur requested that she work with students for an extended period of time. “I have found that longer workshops are more about process not product and with that process a sense of community also can be established …and I, in turn, learn more about the various local communities and the experience is for both students and teacher. These ‘experiential gifts’ greatly contribute to my personal development as an artist, a way for me to give back.” Amdur also brought and donated materials from her studio in Philadelphia that the students were able to use during the workshops in addition to widely available, on-site materials in Paramaribo
The students from the morning workshop were invited to observe as well as participate in the installation process at the U.S. Embassy on Wednesday morning, March 22nd. It is not often that a group of young artists has the opportunity to be in direct dialogue with both a curator and an artist, who can explain in great detail how an art work is created in the studio, prepped for shipping, and permanently installed in an exhibition space.