Amanda Dalla Villa Adams

BFA, 2007

A doctoral candidate in Art History at VCU, Amanda specializes in post-1945 American art. Her dissertation is titled, Sally Mann’s Photographs and Theories of Nostalgia. Amanda earned her BFA in Sculpture from VCU and her MA in Art History along with a Certificate in Museum Studies from the University of Cincinnati (UC); her thesis considered the work of Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Before returning to VCU, she worked as a Junior Specialist in Fine and Decorative Arts at Cowan’s Auctions Inc. and taught studio art at Virginia State University. She has held curatorial internships at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and Cincinnati Art Museum, as well as worked as a Gallery Assistant in the UC Campus Galleries. In addition to teaching at VCU and serving as a VMFA Statewide Speaker on the Arts, she has presented her research at McGill University, the Southeastern College Art Conference (SECAC), the University of Iowa, Indiana University, and the University of Illinois at Chicago. Amanda currently works as an Independent Curator and is a regular contributing art critic to Style Weekly. She has curated the exhibitions, Emily Erb: Loosely Loaded (2016) andHoss Haley: YIELD (2017), both at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond. Her writing has also appeared in Artforum.comext.1708, AEQAI, Burnaway,Sculpture Magazine, the Archives of American Art, the graduate journalMontage, and the peer-reviewed journal Art Inquiries (forthcoming).

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What have you been up to since graduating from VCU?

For a long time, post-graduation had meant a MFA and straight pathway to tenure-track, studio professor. Life had other intentions. I realized that even though I knew a lot about contemporary art, I had very little knowledge of the history of art. To ameliorate that problem, I earned a MA in Art History and am currently pursuing my doctorate in the same discipline. I’ve taken breaks from academia along the way: working as an arts specialist at Cowan’s Auctions Inc., teaching studio art at Virginia State University, working as a studio assistant, writing, lecturing around Virginia, and interning in museums.

What advice would you give a current VCU Sculpture student?

Follow after a smart art historian, Thierry de Duve: Learn how to look. Looking is a skill that we take for granted in our media-saturated culture: slow, contemplative attention are substituted for quick, sidelong glances. Likewise, take every opportunity to immerse yourself in art: Go to guest lectures, ATTEND CLASS, get an internship, visit studios, or catch a gallery/museum opening. Finally, construct a good work ethic: In addition to artist, you are now marketing manager, website guru, bookkeeper, HR rep, etc. Minimalist musician Philip Glass said it well in his recent memoir: “Working artists live very regular lives, rising early and working all day – a fact almost completely unknown to most people.” Figure out how to make work happen.

How did VCU prepare you for your current situation?

Art school taught me how to deal with rejection. I am in the thick of dissertating, which is one of the hardest, most humbling challenges I’ve encountered: thinking deeply, failing, pressing restart, and repeat. But the foundation for dealing with that rigorous intellectual thinking was laid at VCU, where I met the same opposition – albeit on a smaller and different scale – which taught me how to make criticism and rejection useful methods, rather than debilitating roadblocks, for improving my own work.

How do you define success?

Faithfulness to the task at hand. And that task keeps changing as life moves forward. As an undergrad, I would have confidently proclaimed: “tenure-track professor.” Now success is aligning itself closer to personal contentment. Parenthood can do that to you. I’m learning that success is to fill life with those you love and figure out how to spend as much time with them as you can. Who or what is beside you when you die? Certainly not that CV.

Why did you decide to study sculpture?

Somewhere along the way while growing up, I created this false dichotomy in my head: I believed that artists couldn’t be academically gifted or vice versa. So, the last year of high school, I kept taking art – as I had since a child – but ran hard in the opposite direction thinking I could prove my worth through non-artistic academicism. After acceptance at the College of William and Mary I ironically registered for an art class, 3D Design, taught by a wonderful instructor who talked about form and space in such an intelligent way. Things clicked and reality was made clear: by January I had transferred into VCU’s School of the Arts, knowing I wanted to pursue sculpture.