The Rapidian Home

ArtPrize Artist Profile: Abbey Adams connects to nature through art

Abbey Adams combines her love of nature, art and science, painting and drawing with all three.
ArtPrize 2012 Entry "Cicada"

ArtPrize 2012 Entry "Cicada" /Abbey Adams

Underwriting support from:
ArtPrize 2011 Entry "Jellyfish"

ArtPrize 2011 Entry "Jellyfish" /Mary Adams

/courtesy of Abbey Adams

Science and art may seem like they are on two opposite sides of the creative spectrum, but to painter and illustrator Abbey Adams, they literally go hand in hand. Through art, she is able to be closer to the topic, critter or scene and get a better understanding of what each is all about.

“I enjoy exploring the parallels between art and science,” she says. Adams definitely sees aspects of art in science and in turn, aspects of science in art. Both rely on processes of discovery.

Hailing from Royal Oak, MI, Abbey Adams graduated from Adrian College in 2004 with a BFA. Her interest and love for both nature and art fueled her decision to attend the Rhode Island School of Design’s continuing education program. After graduating in 2010 with a certificate in Natural Science Illustration, she moved back to Grand Rapids to be close to “the blossoming art community and the beauty of Lake Michigan.”

Adams' 2012 ArtPrize entry is a painting whose subject and title are "Cicada." She is fascinated by this insect for many reasons, and she finds it amazing how it symbolizes Grand Rapids. Cicadas can spend up to 17 dormant years underground and when they emerge, they shed their skin and sing for the rest of their lives. Known for being symbols of good luck, rebirth and immortality, Adams compares the cicada's journey to Grand Rapids and how this city has sort of been reborn and somewhat forgotten until recently.

“[Grand Rapids] is starting to emerge with new life, beauty and a song to sing to others about its presence. I find that people don't get out and appreciate nature as much these days so I like to bring it inside and make it larger than life.”

An art lover since she was very young, Adams says her favorite memories involving trips with her mother to the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum, where as a child she once explained to a stunned older woman her knowledge of pointillism in a Seurat painting. An “artist in residence,” named Picture Lady at her elementary school also had a great impact on Adams' love for art.

“In school, I got good grades and was interested in a lot of things but when it came time to write down my possible major when I was looking at colleges, I thought I'd rather pick something that I really loved than something ‘practical’ and just got good grades in.” 

Adams is nspired by a variety of things in life such as the beach, walking around Anthropologie, the soundtrack for the movie The Social Network, Baz Luhrmann movies and Gwen Frostic (an artist who gave a lot of her money back to Western Michigan University's Art Department). It is safe to say that Abbey Adams draws from a very well-rounded list of sources. “This year for my ArtPrize piece, I've been listening to the same playlist over and over again that just includes a lot of songs I love, a lot of 90's music—some 'November Rain' (Guns N Roses), Notorious BIG, Radiohead, Foo Fighters to George Michael.”

“I'm learning that you have to believe in your work and be comfortable putting yourself out there. Meet and talk to people who are doing it or are in the field you want to pursue, go to events and shows… follow your dreams, pay attention to signs and look for meaning, take a risk to do the things you love instead of push them aside and find the easier path,” she says.

Adams feels driven and knows what she wants in life. Art makes her happy and it is her passion, but if she wasn’t an artist, she would love to be a naturalist or biologist or veterinarian - or cheesemonger: “I wanted to be a cheesemaker or even just a cheesemonger and had an opportunity to, but put it on hold for now to concentrate on building my business as an artist.”

In Adams' definition, art is making something for a purpose in order to tell a story or to represent an idea or even just for the therapeutic process.

“Art is something that starts inside us and is a way of expressing it to other people, a different way to communicate,” says Adams. However, she finds it very difficult to judge art because it is so personal. She tries to keep an open mind and understand what the artist is trying to convey. “Some art might be considered bad because it lacks skill or understanding of the subject... I think you can tell when a person is just copying what is trendy now but there's no real idea behind it or personal connection.”

She believes that there are many reasons art can be considered good, whether it is because the artist is trying something no one has ever done before or makes a strong statement, or because the work is technically strong.

“I like art that is clever or smart, pieces that make one stop and look and think longer," says Adams. "I don't always know why some things resonate more than others but that feeling should be present.”

Adams loves ArtPrize and is happy with all of the amazing things it has done for the city in bringing people and art together.

“It connects people here and I love hearing people talk about art in everyday conversation. I can't say enough good things about ArtPrize,” says Adams.

More information about Adams' work can be found on her website.

"Cicada" is showing at St. Mark's Episcopal Church located at 134 North Division Avenue, at Pearl.

The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.

Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.