Making Art in a Pandemic: MFA Student Amrita Stützle
Combining her Austrian roots with her Upstate New York upbringing and her appreciation for family land in eastern Washington, artist Amrita Stützle says her international outlook makes its way into her photography and video as she tries to examine aspects of identity.
One of the 14 second-year students now in the Master of Fine Arts program at the Weitzman School, she had been a photography major at Syracuse University. She worked at Light Work, a small nonprofit there that supports emerging photographers, for five years before coming to Penn, assisting other artists as a printmaker and architect of educational programming.
Stützle decided to continue her own artistic education to focus on her practice as a photographer and video artist, but also expand upon those pursuits. She was starting to take her work into installation and sculpture, but then the pandemic hit. With the campus closed last spring, she returned to her home in Syracuse, New York, and went on walks and runs and gardened with her mother.
“I felt like everything shifted and understanding what was important before had to be reconsidered,” says Stützle. “Some of that has seeped into what I’m making now, considering the body in a certain landscape, farming, agriculture, spirituality, and in the summer and this fall that became part of my research. What I’m choosing to focus on is directly affected by the moment we are living in.”
Stützle’s work “appears elegant and discreet. Over time, deeper associations and meanings reveal themselves” says Ken Lum, a practicing artist and the Marilyn Jordan Taylor Presidential Professor and chair of the Fine Arts Department. “She’s is a precisionist. Her work is very precise regarding image construction.”
In the fall semester Stützle used the darkroom in the Charles Addams Fine Arts Hall to create her silver gelatin prints, and the studio space at the Morgan Building to edit her photos and create an installation of video projection incorporating fabric.
She’s been working on a film about the land in Washington, the agricultural business there now, and the use of the land in the past. She is researching Depression-era photographer Dorothea Lange, she says, thinking about how agriculture was used as a justification for colonization of the West.
Regularly shooting photographs and sifting through those she took during the summer, she is considering creating a book. She will be teaching a photography course to undergrads in the summer 2021 semester.
“This is a moment of recalibration. Honestly considering why we make work, what work is important to make now, and what is driving us, has been something really fruitful,” she says. “In terms of making work for my thesis, I feel like I’ve pushed myself, and I hope to push myself more in the spring, and hopefully the work reflects that.”