Amy Rader’s butterfly works fly out of the studio.
Visual artist Amy Rader grew up in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, dubbed the “Hit Recording Capital of the World” for the scores of musicians who flocked there to record their work. Though that industry has faded, the town on the Tennessee River is still known as a hotspot for creative types.
“My mom always took me to music festivals, Renaissance festivals, art festivals—there was a lot going on,” says Rader. “And it had an influence on me [creatively].”
That influence started at an early age, Rader recalls. “I’ve always been an artist; I always loved to draw and paint. I never took classes; I just knew how to draw, do photography or work on sculpture. By high school, I was using oil paints.”
The one thing Rader, whose work is now repped by Jennifer Balcos Gallery in Buckhead, didn’t know was how to make a living as an artist. “But it was all I cared about. Art was my obsession.”
That fascination blossomed when Rader received a full scholarship to the Art Institute of Atlanta in 1993. She earned a degree in visual communication and started her professional life as a graphic designer. But the urge to express herself on canvas didn’t fade.
“I bounce back and forth between fine art and design work,” she says. “It’s hard to explain to people that fine art doesn’t mean you have an intown studio without heat or air conditioning, and that you’re covered in paint all the time.”
In reality, Rader’s three-story house has her graphics office on the top floor and her art studio on the bottom, where she focuses on creating mixed-media works that tell a story with beauty and depth.
“I like layering the story and the subject matter,” she says. “I tend not to do things that are too heavy. I love animals, curiosities and unconventional textural materials.”
Rader’s love of butterflies, in particular, has increased her popularity. Working with interior designers has helped her creations find homes in private residences as well as buildings such as the Icon Buckhead apartments on Peachtree Road, but the “butterfly” series of portraits, in which faces are layered over with wings, has caught on through social media. Since incorporating different shapes, colors and sizes of preserved butterflies that she orders online, the pieces have, well, flown out of the studio.
“I call it ‘the butterfly face,’ but it’s a combination collage, photo, mixed media and real butterflies over the face of the work,” she says. “It’s complicated; it takes about 50 steps to finish each one.”
Connecting with clients over social media has an additional perk, Rader says. “I love working directly with homeowners. I can go in and get a vibe for what will work by taking a quick tour. And I can deliver art right to their homes.”
Being confined to her home and studio since the pandemic took hold last year has made her productive in ways she never considered, Rader says. “My art has started selling like crazy. It’s been the strangest year of bad and great things!”
Jennifer Balcos Gallery
51 Peachtree Hills Ave., Suite 419
Atlanta-based writer and editor contributing to a number of local and state-wide publications. Instructor in Georgia State’s Communication department and Emory’s Continuing Education division.