written by Trisha Daigle
Have you ever walked past something ordinary like a park bench carved with names and hearts, or perhaps a crumbling fence and felt a sense of intrigue or beauty? Maybe you noticed the way the sunlight struck at just the right angle, and suddenly you felt like you were looking at a painting. This accidental art is what inspires much of Amanda Burnham’s drawings. The human imprint on the composition of the city.
Baltimore has not only been the subject of her work since she moved here to take job teaching at Towson University, but it has also influenced the direction her work has taken. Amanda used drawing as a way to explore the city, often drawing the view from her window, or from a corner of her neighborhood. At first, she just admired the city for it’s architecture. But, her interest in Baltimore changed as she started talking more with the people of this city. Often, she would be out drawing and someone would come over and start talking to her, or she began noticing how the city was never the same from one day to the next. It was then she began to see how Baltimore was less like a tapestry, and more like a living, breathing organism.
At first, Amanda was creating two-dimensional drawings, but her work changed when she began thinking of the city as fluid and always changing. She notes that drawing privileges a particular point of view, and she wanted to move beyond that limited scope. Here she moved her work into the third-dimension. By expanding her drawings beyond the page, she was able to represent multiple perspectives. Viewing her work from different angles, one can get a sense of the city as both narrow and expanding, but also that the same scene can look a lot different when seeing it from the other side.
Another way Amanda explores the concept of how things change depending on our view was through her use of light. She began working with light as a means of creating mood and tone in her installations. She said: Light is powerful. It plays a huge role in our perception of a space. When we walk through a neighborhood and we see lights on in houses, we see that people are home, that light shapes our feelings of the neighborhood. It’s inviting and cozy. A much different experience then if we walk through a dark neighborhood.
Though she doesn’t feature people in any of her drawings or installations, the human presence is evident in her work through her representation of architecture. She believes architecture reinforces our interconnectivity. Buildings are connected via pipes and wiring and how they connect to the city. In her more recent work, she has started doing more interactive pieces that allow people to add drawings or writings to the installation thus increasing the human presence in her work further, and representing more deeply the human impact on the fabric of the city.