I create artwork that delves into the oxymoron of life, it’s walking ability to both be beautiful and terrible at the same time. I work subtly in colored pencil, though it looks like a painting.
Amber Marie is best known for her colorful colored pencil works of women with symbols of life and death such as flowers, skulls, and animals.
A lifelong journey of drawing that started when she was young and tracing favorite cartoon images off of a television screen as an escape from growing up in an abusive household, has evolved into a project that delves into symbolic portraits that show the experience of living with, going through, and healing from trauma.
The pieces for her project are made predominantly of colored pencil on wood, with other media mixed in as suits the work as it emerges. Working in this unique way to the fine art world gives a different feel and look to her images. They retain a hand-made mark while elevating pencil to a painting.
It is estimated that about 70% of people have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their lives. This equates to approximately 223.4 million people in the United States of America, just one, small section of the world. Along with this sobering fact, as many as 275 million children worldwide are exposed to violence in the home.
I am one in that very large statistic. In my youth, I was raised by my biological mom, an alcoholic and a drug addict that seemed to have no outlet for her emotions except her child. Her boyfriends would use me as well. When I decided to get married, I ended up with a very abusive man. He was controlling and manipulative. I lost all sense of myself, to the point that when I finally left him, it took 2 hours to choose a face wash at the store because he wasn’t there to tell me what to get.
I was able to change my life from those circumstances. I sought and received a lot of counseling at different stages in working diligently to break the cycle I grew up in. It colors my existence, and I strive to put into practice to be myself, not what I was told I was.
My artwork is about living with, healing, and working through trauma. My pieces are mainly portraits or the occasional still life. I take people and surround them with flora, fauna, and skulls. Every part is planned, every part is symbolic and heavy with meaning. The animals I use take their context from dreams, spiritual or religious canon, and my own or the model’s interpretation of them. I research my pieces, working from photos, up to 30 at a time. I work primarily in colored pencil, because I feel the hand-made mark is expressive in my tightly rendered drawings. They have a surreal feeling to them, though there is so much realism present that when I was going for my Bachelor of Arts, a student was disconcerted by a penis in one they felt they had to cover it with a post-it note.
My current project is going beyond my own experiences and utilizing the stories of others. I put a call out for models, asking detailed questions about what has hurt them in life and how they found their way through it. I am humbled by how the models have opened up to me and am creating a body of work from these stories.
I have searched for validity my whole life. I found it through my own artwork, telling my experiences and others. We are valid for still existing after what has happened to us, in a moment, in a lifetime. I want people to be able to see it and talk about it; to be able to say what they are, that there is hope, love, and support in this world, and know that they are traumatically beautiful.
– Amber Marie
1. www.ptsdunited.org. PTSD Statistics. Accessed 11 June 2019. http://www.ptsdunited.org/ptsd-statistics-2/
2. www.unicef.org. Behind Closed Doors The Impact of Domestic Violence on Children. Accessed. 11 July 2019. https://www.unicef.org/protection/files/BehindClosedDoors.pdf