Making the animals in her art speak

by Sara Knight

If Durango artist Amy Felker’s sculptures could speak, there is no doubt they would tell their stories with as much enthusiasm as she does. Their personalities would match their brightly-painted pelts and they would smile and smirk and as they told their tales.

The purple and yellow princess snake, all covered in crystals with a feather boa and a tiara would tell about the curious art lover who was terrified of snakes.

“The woman was actually even afraid to approach one of my snakes,” Amy explains. Felker had to convince her to even see the piece, but once she did: sold.

The tiara-in-tow snake would proudly pat Felker on the back (if it had hands, of course). After all, what better affirmation could there be for the biology/zoology student in Felker, whose earliest vocabulary included the word “Plecostomus” (“kind of like a tiny catfish”), and who would run out on a frigid day to her outdoor pond to rescue her goldfish from the cold?

Through her quirky animal sculptures, the Durango native hopes to introduce people to the idea that animals are not all that we think they are.

“We think we know what animals are doing, but really we don’t,” Felker laughs. “I know my dogs do that. We think they just sleep all day, when, in fact, you come home and the fish food is all eaten and there are paw prints on the ceiling!”

Such a silly scenario may seem absurd, but Felker’s wild works could be up to anything, and possibly even everything, much like the spirited sculptor herself.

Felker works full-time at Zuke’s. She is also a wife, the mother of two teenagers, two dogs, three cats, six chickens and some goldfish and she’s a cancer survivor. But none of that has slowed her down. She’s still learning, going to artist retreats, and keeping a sketchbook filled with ideas.

”I have tons of things stewing! Last year, I started a great bunch of head mounts,” Felker says, as the zoologist within her glows with glee.

Felker’s cranial collection, like her other critters, are formed with chicken wire, covered in celluclay, spray painted, hand painted and decked out with personal touches to match their temperaments.

Clyde the ram is more than 3 feet tall, sticks out more than 3 feet from any wall and is painted a mischievous mauve.

A month or two after Clyde sold at a gallery, Felker ran into John, a builder she knew, who seemed a bit bothered at best. Apparently, John had been building his sister’s house in Grand Junction when she bought Clyde. Felker says, “He had to change the entire floor plan around it … because it’s such a huge piece.”

Felker’s pieces are rarely such rascals, though, and some even take a more serious tone. “At one point I did a series of endangered Colorado animals,” Felker says.

She’s also sketching out some ideas for a series around the value of animals.

“Everything has a price tag. So that’s the only way that humans seem to see things,” she says.

Here’s a slightly better tale, of Amy’s inspirations. It starts with Ron the firefighting beaver and fire mitigation.

Ron, just like Amy, loves everything he does from chomping tree trunks to fighting off fires. Just after the Missionary Ridge Fire, Ron was taken home by the wife of a firefighter … whose name was also Ron.

“His wife thought that was just the funniest thing in the world.” And so does Felker.

There is a lot to Felker, and to her work. While her colorful critters are amazing, they are only a fraction of her portfolio. She also does a lot Day of the Dead pieces, and every year, since its beginning in 2001, she has created a furniture piece to the KDUR Furniture as Art fundraiser.

Somewhere in there Felker also finds time to contribute to other organizations including the Durango Arts Center, Woolfwood Refuge in Ignacio and many others.

She says her pieces “are all doing what they love, or what I think they would love.” And really, so is Felker.

Amy Felker occasionally shows work at Studio &. Check out her stuff at www.AmyFelker.com.

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