Bringing stencils to the studio

Amanda Marie’s work is like formal street art

Krystal Baugher | Boulder Weekly

She is not Banksy, but she is still badass. Amanda Marie Ploegsma’s first museum show — Purity & Credence — is on now at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (BMoCA) and there is no sign of her badass-ness slowing down.

Painting is the go-to medium in the art world. It is the easiest to make, sell and ship. The two-dimensional framework forces artists into one plane — into one distinct set of images — to make a statement and connect with an audience. It’s rare these days to find work that pushes the medium into a new realm, but Ploegsma — she goes by “Amanda Marie” in the art world — finds a way through her adaptation of materials, specifically stencil and spray paint. Her work has a more gallery-specific style, but with charming street-art flair.

Ploegsma grew up in a small North Dakota town and eventually made her way to Colorado, where she attended the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design for a couple of years before dropping out.

“I felt I didn’t have to pay a bunch of money to be an artist,” she says.

And it’s worked out well so far, with a European tour coming up, an opening this week at Illiterate Gallery in Denver, a recent mural painting in Fort Collins, and the BMoCA show.

“I am making a living off of my art,” Ploegsma says. “Of course, I’m married and we have a dual income, but it all goes in the pot to pay the bills, etc. We’re not rich or anything. We lead a simple life and do what we love.”

The love shows through in her work — a mixture of illustration and painting with characters reminiscent of the 1950s.

“I always wanted to be an artist,” she says, “I wanted to work for Disney when I was kid and have been illustrating ever since. But illustrating can be confining, and I just loved the freedom that painting gives me. I’ve finally learned how to combine both.”

She often uses both a girl and a boy image that have been stripped out of a children’s book and thrown into an unknown space. The in-between is both frightening and fascinating.

“Ploegsma’s sophisticated stencils and spray paints transport us to a dream world where fantasy and reality merge,” David Dadone, executive director of BMoCA, says. The use of color makes many of the pieces seem whimsical yet slightly unsettling at the same time.

Some of the pieces at BMoCA were created on 2008 Obama campaign posters, which give the work a deeper political layer.

“It’s awesome when people find these things in my work that I hadn’t originally seen,” Ploegsma says. “For example, the mural I did before the [BMoCA] show at a skate park in Fort Collins was of this cement monster that has come to life surrounded by land and rubble; lots of people asked if I was trying to make an environmental statement, but I didn’t see it until they pointed it out.”

Her work has a graceful quality, while being charming and clever at the same time. It touches an emotional chord of nostalgia and playfulness.

“It is refreshing to see images in this emerging genre of ‘stencilism,’ which are not the overtly violent or super-sexual images that might have originally attracted audiences to the genre,” says Hyland Mather of the Adenken Gallery in Amsterdam. “As ‘stencilism’ matures, Amanda Marie’s work is keeping pace with an evolving and discerning eye.”

Since she uses stencil and spray paint, Ploegsma could easily be a street artist, but chooses not to, since she likes going back in and creating more details.

“I tried it, but wasn’t good at it. I couldn’t put down a stencil and feel finished,” she says.

Her work carries the freshness of street art combined with the more developed layers, precision and technique of classic paintings.

“Honestly, my work is mostly just about me, and my life,” she says. “I just love to chill in my rocking chair, zone out to some good music, think about what happened throughout the day … week … month … year, and paint.”


On the Bill:

Where to see Amanda Marie’s most recent work:

Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, Sept. 29 to Jan. 29 Illiterate — Denver, Oct. 7-28 Moniker/Freize — London, Oct. 12-16 Stroke 05 — Berlin, Oct. 12-16