“Facts, pedagogy, mythologies, policies can be readily found and shared over the internet, but the unexpected occurs when people come face to face. I went to Riga with much curiosity. I left Riga wanting to return and further engage with people there.”
In September of 2016, Margery Amdur travelled to Riga, Latvia, to install her artwork, Amass, which is created out of cosmetic sponges coated with pastel pigment, at the Residence of Ambassador Nancy Pettit. In addition to the installation at the Residence, the artist conducted a series of workshops and lectures for a variety of audiences as part of an Artist Exchange program.
On the first evening of her exchange, after having spent the day installing her work, Amdur presented a talk at the Latvian Academy of Art. “The presentation was an overview of my career—trained as a painter and printmaker, traversing and exploring terrain related to those of textile and fiber artists.”
The following day, the artist and Embassy staff returned to the Latvian Academy for Amdur’s first workshop with a group of students. The emphasis of the workshops was on “how repurposing and/or recycling everyday materials extends meaning and potentially create new possibilities.” Each student had been asked to bring in at a least hundred pieces of the same material. The materials needed to be small and lightweight and “as an artist and leader of the workshop, I wanted to focus on how repetition and accumulation can play a significant role in the creative process.” One of the students who participated in the workshop emailed Amdur and mentioned the ways in which the workshop led her to new inspirations in painting and thanked Amdur for sharing her “experiences in overcoming a creative crisis.”
After the workshop, the artist visited the Museum of Decorative Art and Design, and met with the deputy director, Velta Raudzepa. That same evening, both the artist and her work were featured at the opening event for the Art in Embassies exhibition at the Ambassador’s Residence, during which Amdur spoke in brief about her “somewhat unorthodox process for making artwork” to the guests at the reception, the arts community of Riga.
On Wednesday, September 21, Amdur travelled to Daugavpils, about three and half hours outside of Riga, to conduct a presentation and workshop at the High School of Art and Design, Saules Skola. The students attending the workshop came from many disciplines including textile, interior design, fashion, and advertising. At this school, the presentation by Amdur focused on ”stretching the meaning of the term ‘mixed-media’ and its expansion into forms of art known as hybrids.” In the afternoon, the artist visited the Mark Rothko Art Center in a former fort. Rothko was born in Dvinsk, which was then part of the Russian Empire and is now Daugavpils, Latvia.
On Thursday, September 22, Amdur travelled to Rezekne where she presented an overview of her own work and that of other contemporary artists who create site specific work. Her presentation at the Rezekne University, School of Education, Languages, and Design was titled Bend and Stretch, and the overarching theme for the presentation and the workshop that followed was” that artists remain agile, able and willing to ask difficult questions. “
The artist’s last day of the exchange was spent in Riga, conducting a workshop at a youth art school on the outskirts of the city. The students, aged between ten and fifteen years old, participated in a workshop titled Between-My-Selves and was aimed to “expose these young students to materials that they would have never thought could be used for making art.”
“It was the sum of the parts that made this experience so rich, including the range and age of students I interacted with,” said Amdur of her experiences in Latvia.