How Amanda Schutz's lichen art lets you see the Edmonton River Valley in a totally new way

By Michelle Ferguson September 14, 2018

Amanda Schutz will be featured in the 2018 edition of Gifted, Edmonton Made’s gift catalogue, which will be released September 19 -- Chris Onciul/EEDC

Amanda Schutz was in Jasper searching for a wedding venue when she discovered an unlikely muse.

Though she’d come across lichen before, the Edmonton-based artist suddenly found herself drawn to the crust-like growths that carpet Alberta’s rocks and trees.

She was so enamoured with these bizarre organisms — the result of a symbiotic relationship between fungi and algae or bacterium — that she dedicated an entire body of work to them, which will be on display at the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts starting Sept. 21.

“Usually when I get on an idea it can kind of snowball,” says Schutz, who received an Edmonton Arts Council grant to complete the project.

Partnering with a lichenologist from the Royal Alberta Museum (who provided microscopes, specimens, and research assistance), Schutz created 30 pieces of original artwork focused on lichen species found in Edmonton’s River Valley.

Showing that range in a grouping will be helpful for some people who, when they see abstract art, think ‘What the hell is this?’

Amanda Schutz

Amanda Schutz wears a scarf displaying one of her abstract lichen surface patterns -- Chris Onciul/EEDC

The series includes three different interpretations of each species: a delicate pencil drawing, an expressive ink painting and an abstract surface pattern. The juxtaposition of the different art styles is meant to guide patrons through the creation of abstract art and hopefully challenge their appreciation of this often-misunderstood style.

“People are going to see the three interpretations of each species in clusters,” Schutz says. “Showing that range in a grouping will be helpful for some people who, when they see abstract art, think ‘What the hell is this?’”

Schutz is excited to share her enthusiasm for lichen with patrons of the Nina. Ultimately, her goal is to create a physical installation within the River Valley that would educate the public about native lichen species.

“[The River Valley] is a huge part of our lives. I’m sure it’s a big part of many people’s lives, given that it cuts through the whole city,” Schutz says. “I feel like the lichen is just one aspect of the River Valley that can be explored and appreciated [further].”

But for now, Edmontonians will have to enjoy Schutz’s lichen art indoors.

Her collection will be on display at the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts (9225 118 Avenue) from Sept. 21 to Oct. 14. An opening reception will be held on Sept. 27 at 5-7 p.m.

During the exhibit, Schutz will run workshops at the Nina thanks to a second Edmonton Arts Council grant. Nina students will get the opportunity to collect their own lichen species from the River Valley and interpret them using a variety of mediums. The works will be displayed for the public to see in 2019.

Amanda Schutz Illustration will be featured in the 2018 edition of Gifted, Edmonton Made’s gift catalogue, which will be released September 19. There are over 100 products featured in the catalogue by over 80 different Edmonton businesses, including Schutz’s Botanical Lichen Greeting Cards.

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