Emma Amos and the Profound Role of Memory in Her Paintings

Emma Amos, “Targets” (1992) (© Emma Amos; Courtesy of the estate of the artist and RYAN LEE Gallery, New York)

Maps define the spatial relationships between places and objects. They guide our journeys and direct our course. They chart landmarks as we center ourselves, plotting our routes and destinations, and without them we would be lost and directionless. Yet for those suffering with Alzheimer’s disease, accessing memory becomes a devastating challenge as the cognitive maps of the brain become compromised. However, for some sufferers, photographic images can become visual catalysts to rediscovering lost memories.

Examining the work of the late artist Emma Amos (March 1937 – May, 2020) through her use of family photographs reveals the important role that memory plays in her work. When Amos passed away in May due to complications related to Alzheimer’s, her daughter India shared a thread of memories about her mother on Twitter, including stories about her practice, influences, and her wicked sense of humor.

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