AMELIA FORD

Updated: Oct 24

INTERVIEW BY PENELOPE DARIO


The inimitable and multitalented painter, Amelia Ford invited Petit Mort into her studio for a candid talk about independence in the art world and how sex work influences what she makes.


PETIT MORT (PENELOPE DARIO)

Can you start by telling us about your journey to becoming an artist and when you first realized you wanted to be one?


AMELIA FORD

Okay. Well I say I decided I wanted to be an artist when I was 12, but before that I just really liked art. Ever since then it’s just been art.


PM

What was the first medium that you felt really woke you up to your skill?


AF

Honestly, I used to do graphite drawing for years, just like straight-up pencil and paper. But that’s also because I couldn’t afford all those art supplies that were really expensive.


PM

I know, it’s so expensive. Did you go to art school? Was that part of your journey?


AF

I did, even before college. My elementary school in Charleston South Carolina was art focused.


PM

Wow, so this has been your whole life.


AF

Then I went to Charleston County School of the Arts for high school. For undergrad I went to an all girls school called Converse College where I got my bachelors in art therapy. Then my masters in fine art is from USC- South Carolina, not Southern California.


PM

How was that, studying art in the south?


AF

It’s based on effort and not talent. But I think there’s a lot of places like that.


PM

What’s your favorite medium?


AF

I would say acrylic paint because it dries fast, but everything. I’m really getting into pastels, oil pastels. The creamy colors are beautiful. I want to work with everything- I’m very interested in getting into sculpture. But right now I would still say acrylic paint.


PM

That’s great. And you like working big I see.


AF

Yes. Oh my goodness. In the past I couldn’t really do larger pieces, but now that I have the space, that’s solidly what I like to do, large paintings.


PM

Where do your influences come from and where do you draw your inspiration for your work?


AF

It always stems from a mood, a feeling, or it’s a commission, usually a mood or feeling I want to portray. Or other times I’m just in the mood to paint and if I’m happy it comes out on the canvas, if I’m sad it comes out on the canvas. I would say 70% of the time I have no solid direction. I just go with colors I think look good next to each other, that’s where I am now.


PM

I can definitely see that and I love your use of color. It’s so expressive. And it does convey a lot of emotions. So, how do you feel about the art world today?


AF

Oh god! I think that the art world today is very gate-kept. A lot of it is based on if you can even afford to be an artist. What’s the cost of being an artist? That’s a great question. I’d also say that the art world today is very boring and lacks charisma.


PM

Do you think it’s very academic?


AF

It is very influenced by pop culture in a way, very mundane. A lot of what comes out feels like I’ve seen it before. But you know like many other industries, the art world is very opportunistic. I refuse to work with galleries, so there’s that.


PM

Why do you refuse to work with galleries?


AF

40-50% of your painting earnings goes back to them. For me as a sex worker, that’s not going to work. Y’all ain’t gonna pimp me out.


PM

Exactly. And your art being such an extension of yourself it really feels that way sometimes.


AF

Yeah and oftentimes they don’t really care about the art itself, they only care about the price tag. I can’t do that. Also- because I care so much about my art, I want to be forming those relationships with my buyers.


PM

That does make a lot of sense. It really speaks to the independent spirit of sex workers. Like, no, I’m not going to work through you. I’m not going to use a middleman. I’m going to do this myself.


AF

Yeah.





PM

Despite your disillusions with the art industry are there still some artists today that you really resonate with?


AF

Yes. Mr. Star City, Carrie Turner, Yayoi Kusama, Damien Hirst.


PM

Can you tell us a little bit about why they resonate with you?


AF

Yes, well Damien Hirst, I love all of the colors he uses and the fact that he has a sugar baby. I love her. Then Yayoi Kusama for so many reasons. Mr. Star City and Khari Turner are both young and intriguing. I wish there were more contemporary artists like them. I really admire their diversity, their tenacity, and how much they are able to produce.


I’d really like to say Kara Walker but at this point I feel like her style hasn’t evolved much. It’s like my favorite music artist releasing the same album over and over. That’s the problem with some artists, when they get successful they get put into a stylistic box. Then when you are working with galleries, they start to tell you to do more of whatever they think is going to sell.


PM

And then it doesn’t become an authentic expression. I feel like you really are connected to this idea of the artist’s evolutionary process. Do you see yourself going into sculpture and still wanting to keep painting? Or do you see yourself going through?


AF

Oh for sure I will always paint. But yes, I want to do large metal sculptures like the ones you see in parks and monuments. There are a lot of artists these days who don’t even touch the work they make, they have entire teams that do it for them. I want to be the one making my work like back when Alexander Calder was making his own sculptures.


Thinking about concept art, is a con artist even an artist? I can’t deny the work it takes to think up these ideas. But it’s crazy because the most expensive art today isn’t even being made by the artists themselves. Maurizio Cattelan doesn’t make his own work but he makes millions of dollars from it. He’s the one who did the banana on the wall.


PM

I mean, at the end of the day, that’s business. You know what I mean? When you want to make money, you have to turn your art into a business.


AF

Yeah that’s it! The business of art is good and bad. I like to collect artworks. I just bought a Keith Haring piece I really like. But at the same time, I don’t think dead artists need money, so get it while you can. In a way I do agree with the business of art, but only when it benefits the artist while they are alive.


PM

Are there any other methods or mediums that you want to explore as an artist other than sculpture?


AF

I’m interested in getting involved with NFTs.


PM

I’m not an expert by any means but this is an interesting space conceptually. I think that right now there is a lot of controversy around the amount of energy they use. But I think they definitely have a future in the art world.


AF

I am all for recycling and being eco-conscious, but sometimes it’s hard to understand the impact of some of these things.


PM

This brings up a really interesting question, especially amongst marginalized communities and artists. We are presented with new technologies that could potentially change our lives but then are told we shouldn’t use these tools because of ecological implications. There is a very hard give and take there. Where is the balance between morals and survival?


AF

Okay, but now talking about sex work, don’t we also have to do that sometimes?


PM

Do you feel like becoming a sex worker was a big hurdle to cross mentally? Or do you think that because you’re an artist, you could kind of see it as more of a creative expression?


AF

Doing it was not hard. But accepting it, and accepting myself after all the conditioning I grew up with was hard. That’s when a lot of my ideas on religion started to shift to a more spiritual and universal understanding of life.


PM

I feel there has always been a connection between sex work and art, especially for women, throughout history. How were women going to get the independence and money to invest in their projects if they weren’t doing sex work?


AF

Exactly, or any kind of free time or leisure for that matter. How were they supposed to explore their passions?


PM

I’ve thought a lot about how we’re connected to that lineage of female artists who were also sex workers. How do you feel sex work influences the work that you do and vice versa?


AF

Oh my goodness. All of it! It also influences the amount of work I can do because of having more time and resources. But the subject of money comes up a lot in my artwork, the balance of power, money, and women. And also the duality of a person. I relate to Hannah Montana daily because we’re one person, but we are also so multifaceted between who you see, who I can be, and who I really am.


PM

Do you feel like sex work in a way is an extension of your creative expression?


AF

For sure definitely. A lot of my artworks, from now and in the past, I’m almost always standing next to it naked or in lingerie. I felt bad about that, or I let people make me feel bad about that, until I saw Kusama doing that in the 80s. Like you said we’re a part of this lineage, I’m not the first person to do that.


PM

I love that. And I love that you mentioned Kusama. I remember watching her documentary, and she was talking about how she would go to these galleries. And she would just be like, who is the richest man in the room and she would just go and start flirting with him, shamelessly.


AF

This is what I have to do! This is how you get boyfriends to fund your career.


PM

I think she was just so brilliant. She just got it right away. There’s parts of it that feel very disheartening in a way because you can see how she influenced so many of these white male artists in New York at the same time. So that definitely makes me feel like I’m a part of this lineage. Was your artist persona ever separate from your sex work persona?


AF

It was for a while! When I started on the backpage I didn’t even think about it. I kept them separate. Two years ago I joined Twitter, and then a year ago I decided yeah, why not. I needed to show how I was interesting and different than everyone else, but also I wanted to attract clients with similar interests. Now a lot of the people I see are very interested in art or are artists themselves. I also sell a lot of my art to clients and other providers.


PM

It’s really special when clients are interested in you, not just what you can provide erotically. Your content online is so authentic, I can imagine your audience feels very connected to you. Can you tell us about something you are excited about right now?


AF

Art Basel, I can’t wait to go this year.


PM

Can you tell us a little bit about what you’ll be doing there?


AF

You have to be represented by an art gallery to go to Basel, so I made my own gallery. It’s like a miniature art gallery with some of my smallest paintings. I sent in my information, got accepted, and paid the 18k booth fee. I’ll be heading down the first week in December with some of my paintings!


PM

Let me get this straight, you just created your own gallery to apply to Art Basel?!


AF

Yes! I was reading about the requirements and I saw that because of COVID they were waiving their rules on how long your gallery had to be open in order to be considered for a spot. When I saw that I was like, YES, found a loophole!


PM

This is amazing! We love to see it. This whole process is so creative, it feels like a work of art in and of itself. We can not wait to see how it goes, and will be keeping tabs on your rising star this upcoming year.





AMELIA FORD INTERVIEWED BY PENELOPE DARIO

PHOTOS BY PENELOPE DARIO