Copper in the Arts

September 2007

Amy Kupferberg, Alchemy and Meaning

By Sarah S. Edmonds

Amy Kupferberg with her work Amy Kupferberg in her Brooklyn studio

Photograph by Dan Leathersich

Like any good artist's studio, Amy Kupferberg's working space reveals more than simply a collection of finished products. The sense one gets upon entering her industrial space in Brooklyn's Bushwick section, is a true glimpse at the process Kupferberg goes through as she transforms humble materials like paper, beeswax, steel and copper into delicate, yet commanding installation art.

To arrive at her finished work, Kupferberg culls burn marks from arcing copper welds into desired values and shapes onto her beeswax saturated paper. As she pulls a trigger on her welding gun, an electrified copper wire is fed from the tip of the welding gun, and as the wire touches the steel, an electrical arc occurs, producing enough heat to fuse the steel together. A fire is started with each weld.

Each fire marks the paper in unique and unpredictable ways, and every 'drawing' is marked with residues of copper, smoke and wax. Kupferberg arrived at this process accidentally as she worked on fabricating a steel armature for a sculpture piece. As she describes it, the practical act of using a paper sketch to weld her steel armature into the correct shape lead to a fascination with, "traces of light and the activity of the electrodes that usually go unseen by the naked eye." Now visualized, she finds each mark as, "an offering intended to uncover another beautiful truth." Truth comes to the viewer as they are dwarfed by Kupferberg's wall in waves, and this truth is named by associated words: sublime, transcendental, infinite.

Amy Kupferberg installation art Fractal Tellellation, Mig Wleder on Waxed Masa Paper

Amy Kupferberg installation detail Fractal Tellellation, detail

Photographs by Dan Leathersich

In her 2006, Fractal Tellellation, hive-like constellations multiply on the walls building up to a 17' x 23' space. A two-dimensional hexagon knits up to its slightly altered twin, and then those irregularly slide up to another shape, and then another. This congregation unexpectedly vacillates between geometric and organic statements as it amasses not only a pleasing aesthetic, but also a deeply felt spiritual and ritual body. Upon seeing Fractal Tellellation, I was reminded of a passage I read recently in Joan Didion's, The Year of Magical Thinking , where she posses that to see someone in ritual is to see that person engaged in an act of faith. Amy Kupferberg's demonstration of faith is seen in her work with her repeated use of simple shapes and common materials and her appropriation of a white walled space. Her combination of each of these knowns create an alchemy of meaning greater than the sum of its parts. This test of ritual and faith fulfills, and from the minute you see her art, her intentions and enthrallment in both the work's finite parts and infinite whole are apparent. Amy Kupferberg (whose last names translates from German as Copper Mountain) is currently working toward her next exhibition, and works as a Lighting Technician with NY Local 52. Her work has most recently been featured on HBO's The Sopranos, as well as in galleries and intuitions such as eDavid Gallery, in Bethlehem, PA, Denise Bibro, NY, Schafler Gallery, Brooklyn, NY, Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY, The Arts Student's League of New York, and at the Williamsburgh Art & Historical Center, Brooklyn, NY.

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Amy Kupferberg, Brooklyn, NY

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