Cover photo source: Christopher Michel
The process of meeting the various people and groups who are registered on the Cultural Resource Directory inevitably leads to ideas and issues that are quite complex. Amy Bogard explores the of place in her art and her writing in ways that reveal how rich this concept can be. The problem of place and even displacement are central to much of the work of Urban Appalachian Community Coalition. Almost by definition, UACC works with the problem of place and places with respect to people who maintain a sense of their home while creating a life in a place that is becoming home. This is at the heart of Amy Bogard’s work.
Amy is from Middletown and currently lives in Cincinnati, but she has traveled all over. As her CRD bio explains, her Appalachian roots go back to Jackson, Breathitt County, Kentucky. Amy told me her grandparents are from this part of the country, and “they provided a real sense of stability for me growing up. That Appalachian heritage definitely played in part in forming who I am.” Amy calls Cincinnati home now, but she is a traveler by nature.
Amy told me that she grew up in a somewhat nomadic fashion and this led her to explore the very concept of place as she began to express herself in artwork. Amy explained: “Living in a lot of places, I ironically never developed a sense of ‘place’ for myself. As a result, I am fascinated by the concept of place.” In her artwork and in her writing, Amy Bogard takes you all over the world. Just a quick glance at her art and her blog takes you to Antigua, Guatemala, Ireland, and back to the U.S. via New Mexico.
During our conversation we talked about how complicated the concept of place can be. She describes herself as having “a classic southern Ohio life that is rooted in this region, but a local sensibility without limitations that can come form being in one place.” The nomadic perspective is linked for Amy to home in such a way that home and the world can freely mingle in the way she approaches her work. This complex perspective makes it possible for Amy Bogard to take an outsider’s eye to places and things that are close to home.
For example, her website showcases visual and written work that takes inspiration from what is right at home as easily as it profiles the views from around the country and the world. Sketches of airplanes and airports provide a window into movement itself. Her work moves quickly between images of nature and the seasons to frank ruminations on the profound loss that has come with the COVID-19 pandemic. Amy’s creative imagination does not recognize arbitrary boundaries, and the fluid sense of place is her driving influence.
Amy told me that much of her work is inspired by a sensibility derived from landscape. She explains: “I have this sense that our relationship to the landscape has much to do with how we view the world. Where people live in a fixed place, they tend to become insular, resistant to change, not trusting of stranger, etc.” She continued: “But getting out in the world changes this and you develop a different sensibility to the world around you.” However, Amy also pointed out that by being rooted in a fixed place, people are able “to take a deep-dive into those places. They are able to really learn and understand the deepest details of a place, and this has its own magic.”
Amy Bogard’s Appalachian roots are expressed through these ideas and her art. Amy told me that having Appalachian grandparents who were so stable for her shaped the way she works and her artistic approach to the world. It is the tension between a fixed place and the many places that come from traveling that makes for dynamic art and writing. It seems that Amy’s work involves making her own place as a fulcrum between rootedness and wandering. Perhaps her own words from her blog will say this better than I can: “It is a strange thing to be a slow-cooker in a microwave, insta-pot kind of age. And yet sinking into my own pace, my own slowness, affords me the deeper work I strive for.”
Amy Bogard is an artist and writer with ties to the urban Appalachian community that filter down to her from her grandparents. Like many of us who are second and third generation Appalachians in greater Cincinnati, Appalachia is a distant place geographically, but a place that is in us even when we are not consciously aware of it. Artists such as Amy Bogard can be found on the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition’s Cultural Resource Directory at https://uacvoice.org/directory/ Check out Amy Bogard’s blog at http://www.amybogard.com/
Mike Templeton is a writer, independent scholar, barista, cook, guitar player, and accidental jack-of-all-trades. Check out his profile in UACC’s new Cultural Directory. He lives in downtown Cincinnati with his wife who is a talented photographer. They spend their free time walking around the city snapping photos. She looks up at that the grandeur of the city, while Mike always seems to be staring at the ground.