Amy Medford has two works of sculpture titled Metamorphosis, both male figures. One she carved from a block of white ordinario marble: a solid base framed by the smooth, almost delicate curve of his widespread legs; the small torso and head are wrapped in what appears to be lengths of linen. The other is a bronze casting, similar in concept though not structure. The torso and head of the bronze Metamorphosis are also wrapped, but he is in a crouch on clearly defined muscular legs, planted firmly on the floor with his feet and yet appearing poised to spring.
“The foundation of all of my work is based on the human figure,” says Medford. “I am a portrait artist and I have been designing jewelry forever, but my sculpture is what I focus on. Designing jewelry is very relaxing as opposed to my sculpture, where there is a lot more work involved; it’s very physical and the intent is greater. When I’m creating sculpture, I’m trying to work out a language through the work.”
She began studying that language in earnest with a post-college apprenticeship at the Johnson Atelier Technical Institute of Sculpture in New Jersey, where she studied bronze casting and mastered the “lost wax” technique. She met her artist husband Leonid Siveriver there; soon after they married, the couple moved to Pietrasanta, Italy, famous for the quality of its marble and a siren song for sculptors for centuries. “I had attempted stone carving in college, but it was through the artisans in Pietrasanta that I really learned it. It has followed me through my life.”
She cites two disparate but equally meaningful influences on her work. “The three artists that had the greatest impact on my visual sense to start creating my own visual language were Alberto Giacometti, Marino Marini, and Giacomo Manzù. And most of my work has been influenced by Middle Eastern and Northern African ancient culture, particularly Syria and Egypt.”
Ashtoreth, carved of statuario marble, represents the Syrian goddess of fertility. Medford’s single-footed cast-bronze pieces such as Conception, Dialogue, and the trio that make up The Conversation are evocative of ancient Egyptian burial figures known as ushabtis. Her newest work — simply described as “Seated Figure” — is a departure in that the material is terra cotta and the form geometric and segmented.
“It’s trying to find the elegance, the essential line, the minimal movement that will be understood to be a figure,” says Medford. “I have always been on a quest for that, and here I decided to reduce it to what the essence is. I’m looking for the grace in form, something of the human spirit, vulnerability within the heaviness of the material. I try to let the material help me work through what the piece will be.”
Five years ago, the couple left the Northeast and found a home in Weaverville with enough property to build a sculpture studio that they share. “We got lucky. We love living and working here. “