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Early life and education
Sillman was born in Detroit, Michigan, and the winding story line of her early years led her to work in a cannery in Alaska and a feminist silkscreen factory in Chicago, and to train at New York University as a Japanese interpreter for the United Nations. She finally landed at Manhattan’s School of Visual Arts, graduating in 1979. Then she spent more than a decade content, as she has said, with “learning how to make paintings—just working, not showing.”
In a 2006 Artforum article, Jan Avgikos wrote that Sillman’s paintings “mine the edges of abstraction, meshing patches of color with bursts of chaotic line and web-like compositional scaffolding.” Embracing a modernist reverence of inspired imagination, Sillman defines honesty as the most enduring quality of painting and speaks of painting as “physical, like an extension of my arm.” In a New York Times review of Sillman’s 2006 exhibition at Sikkema Jenkins & Co., Ken Johnson wrote, “The paintings are especially gratifying up close, where you can study the richly complicated textures and colors.” In 2007 Sillman completed four etchings at Crown Point Press, and of this experience, she has said, “Everything that is done in my painting was taken apart layer by layer in printmaking. You take one hundred layers apart and figure out which six will work.”
In a 2007 article in Artforum, Linda Norden wrote of Amy Sillman’s “fearless, tenacious pursuit of a painting that might accurately register the discomfort, incoherence, and absurdity that can characterize painterly experience—and experience in general,” and speaks of “her increasingly influential place among younger painters in both New York and Los Angeles, where she regularly shows, and her growing currency even among contingents of European painters.” Art critic Roberta Smith compared Sillman to similar women painters such as Elena Sisto, Margaret Curtis, and Sue Williams.
Sillman began showing at the Brent Sikkema Gallery in New York in 2000. She is represented by Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York, and shows at Capitain-Petzel in Berlin, at Thomas Dane Gallery in London, and at Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, Los Angeles. The first large scale survey of her work, curated by Helen Molesworth, premiered at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston in October 2013. The exhibition will also travel to the Aspen Art Museum and the Center for Curatorial Studies and Art in Contemporary Culture at Bard College. Her solo show “Third Person Singular,” the exhibition of a year-long project of portraiture and abstract painting, was on view at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, and travelled to the Tang Museum at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, until 2009.
Sillman’s paintings are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York as well as private collections including the collection of CJ Follini and Renee Ryan.
In 1995, the same year she received an MFA from Bard College, Sillman was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in painting and the Elaine de Kooning Memorial Fellowship in 1995. In 1999 she received fellowships from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation and the Joan Mitchell Foundation, and in 2000 was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2012, as part of the fifth anniversary of the Brooklyn Museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, the museum presented Sillman with the First Award, a prize given to 15 women who were first in their fields.
Amy Sillman was a Guna S. Mundheim Fellow in the Visual Arts at the American Academy in Berlin, Germany, during the Spring of 2009. During the fall of 2010, she was a Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. In May 2011, the Montserrat College of Art awarded Amy Sillman an honorary doctoral degree in fine arts.
- Ted Loos (September 26, 2013), Blobs and Slashes, Interrupted by Forms New York Times.
- Aviglos, Jan (Summer 2006). Artforum International 44 (10).
- Roberta Smith (June 17, 1994), Art in Review New York Times.
- Amy Sillman Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York.
- Amy Sillman American Academy in Berlin.
- "Collections Search | Museum of Fine Arts, Boston". Retrieved 30 November 2013.
- "Sillman, Amy - The Art Institute of Chicago". Retrieved 30 November 2013.
- "MoMA - The Collection - Amy Sillman". Retrieved 30 November 2013.
- "Whitney Museum of American Art: Amy Sillman". Retrieved 30 November 2013.
- "FineArtViews". Retrieved 30 November 2013.
- "Amy Sillman". Artnet. Retrieved 2013-10-06.
- Melanie Ryzik (March 12, 2012), Brooklyn Museum to Honor ‘First’ Women New York Times.
- "Guna S. Mundheim Visual Arts Fellow, Class of Spring 2009". American Academy in Berlin. Retrieved March 12, 2012.
- Commencement 2011: http://www.montserrat.edu/blog/
- In 2006, Gregory R. Miller & Co. published Amy Sillman: Works on Paper (text by Wayne Koestenbaum).
- The Saatchi Gallery; About Amy Sillman and her art Additional information on Amy Sillman including artworks, text panels, articles, and full biography
- Amy Sillman at Sikkema Jenkins & Co. Gallery
- Amy Sillman at Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects
- Critical guide to Amy Sillman's New York career