Symbiotically Creative: A profile of artist Amber Stucke

On April 11, 2013 by rarw

  “I started in 2009 and I have been basically obsessed with it … it’s not fulfilled yet.”

-Amber Stucke on her Symbiosis series

Amber Stucke’s art is so detailed it takes amberstuckea few looks to confirm it is done in graphite by hand. The ideas behind it are, if possible, more detailed and intricate.  Stucke’s current series talks about symbiosis—not just the science-book definition—although she certainly has studied that—but broader meanings that could come out of that understanding.

Amber Stucke’s studio looks a bit like a naturalist’s lab. The windowsill is lined with specimen jars and science books are stacked high beneath her desk. Stucke explained how this came about in her MFA program at California College of the Arts, “I really want[ed] to talk about science and research … and placing imagination within research.” Stucke struggled with what type of project she wanted to do, the first pieces were “describing people without their bodies” and “how to think about people without their bodies, people I knew, people I didn’t know …  had random conversations with.”  However, she really hit a sweet spot with her current series, talking about Symbiosis.

These pieces draw from the growth of Lichen, algae, fungus, or even parasites. However, Stucke doesn’t want the viewer to be able to pick out the specific organism; as she says, “I want you to question along with me … well what is this?

When I probed her more about what her art depicts, she explained in a vague way, “the lichen is having this relationship with … this imagined form.” The imagined form, however, is in a way, the brilliant part of her art, allowing the viewer to fill in whatever they think it is. Stuck admits she’s gotten a lot of guesses: “there is this kind of play with, they’re definitely organic … people say they look sexual, they look like organs … that allows your imagination to come into play.”

amberstucke3It doesn’t stop there, though. Amber Stucke explains how she wants people to stop and think about the medium, which is why she uses graphite: “it has to do about consciousness, and the body. You’re talking about the hand, and how it takes the hours and the labor to create a piece.” She has definitely put in the hours—the show she has up now at Electric Works in San Francisco, includes work she’s been creating since she was in her MFA program, where she graduated in 2011. She explains that each piece takes her a week … and that’s if she works around the clock. It shows, though. The incredible detail is what makes her pieces whole, taking them to the level of scientific illustrations. Conceptually this is also interesting, because as she says, “when you have the hand in the process … there is something there that you’re not seeing.” The artist is creating what they want, and it is not science, it is not fact—it’s hard to say where science leaves off and Stucke’s imagination begins. Wherever that place is, though, that’s where you want to be.


See more of Amber Stucke’s work at …


Electric Works Extension Gallery in San Francisco


Kala Art Institute & Gallery in Berkeley


Drawing in the University Today: International Conference & Exhibit on Drawing, Image and Research at the University of Oporto, Porto, Portugal

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