Arts Lifestyle

Amy Genser Perfects the Art of Paper

Amy Genser at work in her studio. Photo credit: Tracey Weiss

West Hartford artist Amy Genser draws on nature and the elements to create her in-demand pieces.

Amy Genser. Photo credit:: Paul Lowicki

By Tracey Weiss

For artist Amy Eisenfeld Genser, going with the flow means doing something she loves every day. Right now, she’s working on commissioned pieces that will last her through the end of the summer, gaining attention from her installation called “Shifting” at the Fuller Craft Museum, and continuing to gain momentum through her pieces at private and commercial spaces all over the country.

Genser uses paper, metal, paint, wood, and color to create her pieces. “Nature is my biggest inspiration, how it’s irregular and ordered, perfect and imperfect,” she said. Her website, amygenser.com, says it best: “She is fascinated by the flow of water, the shape of beehives, and the organic irregularity of plants, flowers, rock formations, barnacles, moss, lichen, and seaweed. Her pieces bring to mind aerial landscape views, satellite imagery, and biological cellular processes.”

A close look at the dimensional aspect of a piece called “Material Girl,” that artist Amy Genser made for someone in the Hollywood Hills, CA. Photo credit: Tracey Weiss

The town native started creating her signature brand of artwork after she took a paper-making class more than two decades ago while working on her Masters of Fine Arts in graduate school at The Rhodes Island School of Design. “I loved it,” she said. “I loved the medium itself. I made sculptural forms. I just couldn’t stop making things.

“I love texture and colors and the process of it,” she continued. “I love getting lost in a process. I love playing and experimenting and using these ingredients in a different way.” 

Amy Genser at work. Photo credit: Sarah Winchester

Her artwork is created using rolled and cut pieces of paper of all sizes and colors. She doesn’t make her own paper anymore; she is simply too busy, plus handmade paper gets lost in the work she does now. That’s where her assistant, Jenni Freidman, comes in. Freidman has been helping her for the five years she’s been in her studio on Arbor Street in Hartford.

“This is a happy place,” Freidman said. “We have fun.” 

One of the reasons Freidman, who is a printmaker and taught at the University of Hartford for 13 years, loves her job with Genser, is the paper. “It’s just so beautiful. I make the pieces. It’s really improvisational. I never make the same piece twice.”

The two have a strong bond. “Jenni helps with everything,” Genser added. “She helps with the process of creating the paper. I ask her for different combos as I go. It’s like working on a puzzle.”

Genser said she likes to leave something unfinished at the end of a day, “so I can pick up the thread the next day. It reminds me of where I was,” she said.

Amy Genser at work, in her studio in Hartford. Genser said she likes to leave something unfinished at the end of a day, “so I can pick up the thread the next day. It reminds me of where I was.” Photos by Tracey Weiss

When a piece is done, she said, “it’s varnished so it’s protected – placed on mesh and then the excess mesh is cut away.” It took quite a bit of experimentation to figure out the process, she added.

Genser has been showing her work since 2002. She has exhibited at galleries and museums throughout the country, including the Longview Gallery in Washington, D.C., Real Art Ways in Hartford, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and more. From the early 2000s through 2014, she participated in juried craft shows throughout the country, including cities such as Philadelphia, White Plains, Boston, Cambridge, Milwaukee, and New York City, the latter of which included the Architectural Digest shows. Her work has been displayed in Europe, too, at galleries in the Netherlands, Germany, Brussels, London, Hamburg, Stockholm, and more.

Amy Genser. Photo credit: Paul Lowicki

Of all of the places she has pieces hanging – hotels, lobbies, workplaces, private homes – she is particularly fond of doing pieces for children’s hospitals. There’s a quote that hangs in her studio from the mother of a child with a brain tumor who had a moving reaction to Genser’s work, called “GalaxSea,”  that hangs at the Ronald McDonald House of San Francisco: “When the new hospital opened, I sat down in front of your piece and I was shocked at how moving I found it. I have never been so affected by an abstract piece before. For me, your work evokes a curious blend of micro and macro, the cells that make up our consciousness and sometimes malfunction, the dust that forms galaxies, the curious order that emerges from order and disorder. I want to thank you for helping me to find a certain peace during a time when there were no real answers.”  

Genser has also been featured in some of the art world’s most prestigious publications, including Fiber Art Now, Luxe Magazine, and Colossal, the latter of which is where her work caught the attention of Beth McLaughlin, Artistic Director and Chief Curator at the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, MA.

Amy Genser’s work is dimensional and takes every shape imaginable. More like it can be seen in her installation at Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, MA. Photo credit: Tracey Weiss

“I’ve been familiar with Amy’s work for seven or eight years,” McLaughlin said. “As a craft curator and an art lover, I was drawn to her work. I was fascinated by the process. When the time was right we met and walked through the space. One of my favorite parts of the job, is working with the artist and letting them loose on the space. We planned for over 18 months, really expanded beyond what we talked about initially. 

“We have a gorgeous space. We have 10 acres on water, in the middle of an urban area, and when Amy was here, she decided to base her work on the seasonal transitions of the museum. I love that she decided to reference our institutional identity. I was very pleasantly surprised to see how she created the immersion into a magical experience.”

Paper, in all sizes and colors, is rolled and cut to create Amy Genser’s artwork, set up in containers in her Hartford studio. Photo credit: Tracey Weiss

McLaughlin also loves Genser’s use of paper. “What strikes me about her work is the way in which she works with humble materials and elevates it to an art form. As individuals, we all have so many early experiences early on creating art out of paper. It’s inherently accessible and it allows viewers to connect with it right away. 

“I walk through it every day and I am still amazed at what a brilliant colorist she is. I still see areas I never noticed before. It brings me to my knees. I also love that she used this opportunity to stretch herself. We watched her use dimension, which activates it in such a beautiful way.” 

Genser is proud of her installation but compares it to “that feeling you have after you finish a marathon,” even though she hopes to do another one someday. 

She and husband Geoff Genser, a therapist and social worker, are raising three children – Milo, 19, Jonah, 18, and Ezra, 14 – and her hope is to also continue to take her art to the next level, even “do outdoor work and morph my materials into an outdoor environment,” she said.

“I have to do this,” Genser said. “I don’t know why. It calms me – puts me in the flow of making things. I’m very lucky. I also work very hard and I’m happy to be here. I love my job.”

For more information, go to amygenser.com.

A version of this story originally appeared in the March 2023 issue of West Hartford LIFE.

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