COUNTDOWN TO MEMORY #16: Creative Juice

Amy Stacey Curtis - Pyragraph

T-Minus 16! This post is part of an 18-post countdown to Amy Stacey Curtis’ next and final solo biennial in Maine mill space. After MEMORY, her upcoming biennial, she will have completed nine solo biennials over 18 years, with 81 massive interactive works, all told. She’s been unloading her process on Pyragraph as we countdown to MEMORY. Read the series here.


Toward my solo biennials, I’ve worked 8-to-14 hours most weekdays, plus half days most weekends, 22 months of every two years, for the past 17 years….

Often, I wake (hear this sound in your head: “PING!”) and begin working at 3am. My work day ends at 5pm, the day’s length determined by how early my eyelids popped open with that ping-y sound.

My brain is at its peak creative-juices-flowing-in-my-noggin time first thing. So, I start with tasks benefiting most from this level of cranium-ness. I conceptualize. I visualize. I draw. I write grants. I write proposals. I write books.

When I was at the start of my 18-year project, I was 28 years old.

After lunch, all my creative juice is in my belly. So, I do repetitive physical labor (“pre-production”) in my studio, as well as less-juice-is-needed administrative tasks (budgeting, researching materials, querying businesses about material donation, completing drawing sales, querying mills, recruiting volunteers, reserving U-Hauls, addressing postcards, updating my website…).

By 5pm, my creative juice has settled somewhere at the very bottom of my feet. I take my feet for a little walk with my dogs, where this juice squishes and swooshes against the tar with each step.

Or, if I’ve already taken a walk or exercised for the day, I tuck my creative-juice-filled feet deep into the warmth of my sheets where I put my plate in my lap, and let movie images pass in front of me on our bedroom’s television, done thinking and moving for the day, except to raise my fork to my lips, then under my food, then to my lips, then under my food…

I stay awake as long as I can. I lay down. I fall asleep.

Just about every day.

When I was at the start of my 18-year project (nine solo-biennial exhibits in nine Maine mill spaces), I was 28 years old, I could focus on one thing for a day, enter a sort of meditative zone of repetition (for example installing 4,900 vials of water and ink for 26 straight hours with short-stretchy-water-drinking-food-eating-bathroom breaks so evaporation levels would be consistent). Toward the middle of my 18-year project, I worked on multiple projects, every day, progressing each task each day for a short time before switching to another.

Even at the start of my long-term project, I knew that to avoid brain sludge, body failure or catatonia while my creative juice was in my brain, body or feet, I should get out once a week, even if for an afternoon, to set aside my own creative juice, to hear about other artists’ and friends’ juices, to get my brain, body and feet somewhere else, even for little whiles. While most times this would be a pure break from the flow, sometimes this would add juice to my head that wasn’t there before.

Entering the 18th year of my project, I look forward to setting aside my creative juice for longer whiles. To see if when this project is done, this juice fills other parts of me, even beyond me, or if this juice will just be a constant, little trickle, a dribble, throughout the day, throughout the night, throughout the day…or if this juice will be stored within me whenever I need it, whenever it’s necessary, because I won’t need it all the time anymore.

About Amy Stacey Curtis

In 1998, artist and writer Amy Stacey Curtis began an 18-year commitment to interactive installation art, nine solo-biennial exhibits from 2000 to 2016. In the end, Amy will have installed 81 large-in-scope, participatory works in the vast mills of eight or nine Maine towns. Each solo-biennial exhibit is a 22-month process, each exhibit exploring a different theme while requiring her audience to perpetuate its nine unique installations. As part of each biennial process, Amy scrubs by hand its respective mill; the spaces averaging 25,000 square feet.

The Maine Arts Commission’s 2005 Individual Artist Fellow for Visual Art, and recipient of numerous grants including those from the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, and the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Amy committed to this ambitious and ephemeral project to convey that everyone and everything affects everyone and everything, no matter how small or fleeting the impact. MEMORY, Amy’s last solo biennial, will be open for participation September 17-October 28, 2016 in a Maine mill to be announced. MEMORY will be worth the trip from wherever you are.

Amy (and the thousands of objects she stores to mount her massive exhibits) lives with her husband Bill in Lyman, Maine.

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