18 March 2012

Artist Bio

Amanda Jane Eicher, b. 1976, Washington, Pennsylvania
lives and works in San Francisco, CA

In my practice of community-based and relational artwork, I am examining how individuals and groups activate and come to terms with social, cultural, and personal change and exchange.

I came to California in 1999 looking for an environment in which to explore collaboration, generosity in artwork, and cultural exchange. In 2001, with Andrew McKinley, owner of Adobe Bookshop, we opened The Back Room Gallery, a project space gallery within the bookshop which I curated for three years and which went on to become one of ArtForum's picks of 2010. 
Upon leaving the gallery, I became a participant and ultimately the lead artist for The Colima Project in El Salvador, an art and development artist residency and short-term study abroad program through San Francisco State University. 
This program has now become a project of METAS, a weekend enrichment program at Contra Costa College, through the La Raza studies department where I teach, for families to gain cultural proficiency and academic and employment competency for success.
I also teach courses in art and social practice in the Art Practice Department at UC Berkeley, where I received my MFA in 2010.

Throughout my career as a teacher and a student, I have worked with collaborative projects such as the art and food collective OPENrestaurant; The Citizens Laboratory, a group of artists addressing art's role in civic and public life; and cultural exchange projects such as Tillers of the Horizon, a research fellowship in Rwanda looking at women's approaches to community-building and design; and B'Dom, a CEC Artslink residency in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan where we designed art programs and a studio for children at B'Art, a contemporary arts center in Bishkek. 
I am currently developing projects as a member of the curatorial board at Southern Exposure, as well as continuing collaborations with OPENrestaurant, with the UC Futures Working Group of the UC Faculty and Botkyrka Residency Center outside of Stockholm, Sweden. 

Work statement

by Plinio Hernandez, UC Berkeley MFA 2011

Within the world of art there are certain disciplines of production that have long been established and legitimized as valid art practices that have not anchored themselves among popular culture. When confronted with the Social Practice based work of artist Amanda Jane Eicher most people are forced to let go of their traditional ideas of what art is, and its intentions. In addition, when looking at Eicher's work the viewer is faced with a practice that provokes one to think of not only the different roles that artists embody but also one is triggered to deal with topics that aren't just related to art, but how the work also relates to ideas of activism, education, research, social responsibility, cultural dynamics, migration, the local and the global, collaboration and ethics, just to name a few.

For the past 7 years Eicher has been part of the San Francisco State University-based Colima Project, a community arts program based in the country of El Salvador and for five of those years Eicher has been the project coordinator and instructor for the pertaining course at SFSU. For a month each summer Eicher has taken a group of multi-disciplinary students from SFSU to the small community of Colima to engage with its residents in whatever way they see their discipline fitting to the community's voiced needs. The results are organic projects that engage the viewer in a meta-narrative that comes out of workshops, dialogue and close listening.

In the summer of 2009 some of the projects culminated in the production of the first map created by residents of Colima; a cookbook project based on health and local gastronomical traditions; the learning, teaching and sharing of folk dance; and a mural centering on local environmental conservation issues; as well a road sign to warn speeding drivers of pedestrians. This deeply personal and continuous engagement with the community of Colima is central in understanding Eicher’s commitment in creating relationships between the local and the global or as Eicher would put it herself,  “I think my love for this way of working comes from an interest in amalgamations and all other kinds of mixing, in which contrasting influences and ideas create a little chaos and a lot of power for generating new possibilities”. The truly beautiful that is inherent in Eicher's work is precisely the "new" or endless "possibilities" that can manifest themselves not through preconceived ideas and actions of the artist(s) or Art itself, but from a impetus of truthful story telling and a sincere love for engaging people and community.

(Text by Plinio Hernandez)