Old Garrison Avenue building inspires Amy Scoggins’ exhibit at FSRAM

Old Garrison Avenue building inspires Amy Scoggins’ exhibit at FSRAM

“I have always been drawn to the stories of old things — from vintage clothes to historic buildings,” says artist Amy Scoggins. “As a painter, my preference is to work on site, immersed in the place that I’m painting. From the street I could see into this building, a former antiques store in my hometown — empty, mostly gutted, with light streaming through upstairs windows down a staircase to the dark cavern of the first floor below. It looked like a holy moment.”

The location was the Gotlib building at 1110 Garrison Ave. in Fort Smith. And the project, which Scoggins pitched to the building’s owners as a two-week undertaking, “inspired nearly two years of work.” The result is “Reclaimed: A Solo Exhibition,” on show through July 21 at the Fort Smith Regional Art Museum.

The Gotlib building, explains Scoggins, was once an antique store owned by Eva and Jerry Gotlib.

“He was a Jewish labor camp escapee and she, a survivor of Auschwitz,” she explains. “Eva never covered the tattoo they placed on her, wanting to never forget those who did not survive that hellish period.

“The store closed in 2014 and sold to Propak Logistics. When the world chaos of covid halted renovations, Propak welcomed my wandering spirit to explore the building, neither of us anticipating that it would hold my intrigue for two years,” Scoggins continues.

“Clues to its former beauty remain: a Victorian chair in the shadows, 10 foot tall pocket doors, a wall of delicate floral wallpaper suspended where a long-gone mezzanine once existed, an entire second floor painted glowing pink,” Scoggins envisions the location with words. “Thick with the smell of warm oil, the hydraulic elevator clunk clunk clunks the curious to the third floor: a mortuary housing the remains of a forgotten flock of trespassing birds, math equations worked out on a bathroom wall, and a sprawling view through her cracked windows.

“Initially, I was drawn to it as an interesting subject matter,” she says. “What occurred in addition to that was more of a personal artistic cocoon stage. I emerged from the quiet contemplation of that place ready to launch my studio practice in a wildly different direction.”

Scoggins is the mother of two, ages 14 and 16, that she has home schooled for most of their lives. She’s also been chasing a diagnosis, an answer to an “intense medical mystery.”

“It was two years ago, in the midst of my meditative cocoon in the Gotlib building, that we finally found a diagnosis for not just my daughter but our whole family,” she explains. “It turns out that this mystery monster is a genetic syndrome — Ehlers Danlos Syndrome-Hypermobility — so it also solved decades of questions in her brother, father, aunts and cousins. I hadn’t been crazy. Something had definitely been wrong, and we learned the name.

“That confirmation unlocked a lifetime of chains for both my kids and myself and materialized in me as a creative hurricane-force of inspiration to use my art to try to spare other families from floundering in years of misdiagnoses as we had,” Scoggins says. “I had to tell our story and educate others as loudly and quickly as possible.”

The paintings in the FSRAM solo exhibit are, “in their simplest summation, paintings of an old building,” she explains. “Those perhaps seem utterly disconnected from the giant 3D electrified mixed media collage I have since created. However, I see them as greatly interwoven — this body of paintings was a crucial path that prepared me to embark on a studio practice of medical advocacy, and it remains a studio practice that I return to when medical thoughts get too heavy.”

“Reclaimed” includes 35 of Scoggins’ artworks, most of them oil paintings, ranging in size from 5-by-7 inches to “Final Farewell,” which is 3.5 by 5 feet.

“To help tell the story of the experience, I built a bit of the environment with a stack of dust-laden chairs salvaged from my main painting site, the initial charcoal studies, and my sketchbook, which is full of supply calculations and curious bits of inspiration,” she adds.

“The Lord allowed this dilapidated structure to be a place of rest and renewal for my weary self. Though the pains of our lives are not comparable, I often wondered if this place was a similar refuge for Eva [Gotlib] in its days of grandeur. The building, and I, were reclaimed.”



‘Reclaimed: A Solo Exhibition’

WHEN — Through July 21; hours are 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday & 1-5 p.m. Sunday

WHERE — Fort Smith Regional Art Museum

COST — Free

INFO — https://fsram.org/amy-scoggins-reclaimed/

Categories: Galleries