For Amanda Koss, there is a connection between her art and healing. She turned to her creative process after her son was born prematurely, when her mother was diagnosed with cancer and a few years later, when she was diagnosed with cancer.
“My whole art journey not only fulfills a dream, but it helps me get through really hard times in my life,” Koss said. “I was 35 and diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer, and I had two little kids at home. It was just a really hard time in my life, and art really did help propel me through that.”
The Detroit-area abstract expressionist will showcase her ArtPrize 2023 paintings "Self" and "Dustbin Timberlake "at the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan office at the Steketee’s Building, 86 Monroe Center St. NW, in downtown Grand Rapids. Koss is excited about the visibility that comes with the location.
“I liked having a window spot compared to being inside of a building," Koss said.
She was invited to feature some additional artwork and will also be showing the paintings, "Hide and Seek," which won an Honorable Mention award at the Anton Art Center in July, and "Monumental,” an 18-inch clock. All pieces were created using robot vacuums, which Koss named Betty and Gunther, that will be on display, too.
Her multi-piece installation is a fusion of bold brushstrokes, textured layers and patterns created by robot vacuums, inviting viewers to embark on a visual journey of introspection and discovery.
By attaching different materials and objects to the vacuum, Koss manipulates its movements and transforms it into a dynamic instrument. Beyond its aesthetic impact, she hopes the use of a robot vacuum in art production raises thought-provoking questions about the role of automation and technology in society.
“Part of my process has always been using found objects, and one of the objects I found along the way is a robot vacuum,” Koss said. “One reason why I like abstract art so much is because you can kind of make up your own rules and make it totally your own.”
Living a lifelong dream
A resident of Macomb Township, Koss paints part time from her studio in Dearborn ArtSpace while volunteering and raising her two children.
She’s also an independent art curator and coordinator at multiple sites in and around Detroit.
Koss is a member of the Detroit Society of Women Painters and Sculptors, which is one of the oldest self-sustaining women's art organizations in the United States, founded in 1903. She is a member of the Detroit Fine Arts Breakfast Club. In August 2021, Koss was recognized by Umoja Fine Arts Gallery in Southfield as one of Detroit’s most up-and-coming artists.
Koss has wanted to be an artist since she was child. She remembers turning her bedroom walls into an art gallery showcasing her work, then dressing up to visit her show. Her love of art led her to study graphic design in college, and she worked in that field for a decade before going out on her own.
“My husband is my biggest supporter, and he's always pushing me to go a little further – to get a studio and to do shows. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be where I am today. He wants me to have fun with it. Thanks to him, I get to pursue my dreams and create that real-life art gallery that I dreamed up as a kid.”
This is the second year in a row her work has been featured in ArtPrize. She loves the inclusivity of the competition and that it's a homegrown Michigan event.
“We go and we have a good time. There's music and dancing and it's like a giant art party,” Koss said. “It feels like a giant celebration as well.”
ArtPrize is happening in downtown Grand Rapids Sept. 14-Oct. 1, 2023.
Photo credit: Amanda Koss