“Playful” is likely one of the first words that come to mind when assessing local artist Amelia Briggs’ work. As in a recent show at North Nashville’s Elephant Gallery, her signature abstract sculptural “inflatables” are made from a variety of materials and invoke something whimsical and fantastic, with generously-rounded features, bright colors and unconventional shapes.
But her work is more than merely “playful” in the sense that it is experimental and zany. It also speaks to some fundamental and powerful elements of “play”: nostalgia, world building, fantasy and more. Most recently, her studio research has been built around fairy tales by Hans Christian Anderson, whose work persists as a bedrock of childhood imagination.
This research has informed “Playlet,” Briggs’ latest exhibition at Belmont University’s Leu Center for Visual Arts, open from December 16, 2019 to January 24, 2020. Within, Briggs deploys her work to help visitors recapture some of the power of play that they may have forgotten and to help them escape into worlds of fantasy of their own.
“‘Playlet’ focuses more specifically on the idea of play, the jumping off point to an invented world,” according to a press release from the gallery. “Comprised of inflatables as well as textile pieces, this show references the toys that function as tools to create or invent abstract worlds. As such, Briggs explores the means by which a child can use a simple prop to enter a vast world of their own making.”
In one example from the show, Preservation, Briggs has created something unlike anything else a visitor is likely to have seen. It embodies the inflatable nature of much of her work, but a furry exterior and colored, reflective material in the center makes it all the more imaginative. The combination of materials and shape, as well as its sheer fantastical boldness, may instill a feeling of exciting yet comfortable whimsy in a viewer — the perfect “jumping off point” for them to explore their own playful fantasies.
Briggs is a local gallery director who regularly exhibits her own work at studios throughout Nashville (as well as the rest of the country) and has been featured at Red Arrow Gallery, Zeitgeist Gallery and David Lusk Gallery, among others. She received her Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Memphis.