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amanda curreri

Amanda Curreri poses in front of her work "We Cannot Live on Clams Alone" at the University of New Mexico Art Museum on Thursday, Sept. 21.

Amanda Curreri feels like the blue swirl emoji

 Amanda Curreri – artist and Assistant Professor of Painting & Drawing – and her graduate students have been identifying themselves in their creative processes as emojis. She is the blue spiral, Curreri said, and she goes far out.

Curreri’s art is part of the University of New Mexicos Art Museum’s current Hindsight Insight 3.0 exhibition. She initially approached curator Mary Statzer because she wanted her 2019 piece RopeWalk — a giant tapestry of ropes created by over 300 people — to have another life.

The hundreds of mussel shells suspended in front of a gingham-painted wall in RopeWalk and We Cannot Live on Clams Alone, are the centerpieces of her section in Hindsight Insight 3.0.

“This is a body of work that enables me to be with people and learn about things that are culturally shared — these histories of labor and immigration,” Curreri said.

Curreri said she inherently always wanted to be an artist, but growing up with a working-class, Italian-immigrant family meant it was not economically encouraged. Despite her interest, she did not assume it was a job possibility.

“It was a really long path to figure out how to say yes to myself,” Curreri said.

After she began to learn about art, Curreri was not immediately interested in teaching, and instead focused her attention on the former. Eventually, she returned to her childhood roots and coached and refereed sports in her birthplace of Boston.

“I realized there’s a beautiful thing about this kind of teaching – being an artist educator,” Curreri said. “It feels like service. I do this work in a social justice framework.”

Carla Lopez – an MFA student in Painting & Drawing – has taken two of Curreri’s graduate classes. Curreri now serves as a chair of her committee, as well as a mentor, Lopez said.

“Obviously they’re incredibly knowledgeable and such a wonderful artist,” Lopez said. “But they’re also such a trusting person to go to, where I can feel comfortable being vulnerable and sharing the parts of my experience that have been difficult.”

Hannah Knight Leighton, who graduated in 2021 with an MFA, took Curerri’s graduate painting seminar in her last semester at UNM. Curreri asks students piercing questions and encourages them to engage deeply with material, Leighton wrote. 

“She tactfully holds her students accountable for their own pedagogical journey,” Leighton wrote. “Curreri provides her students with abundant resources and materials to dissect, interpret and unravel.”

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Curreri teaches Painting, Drawing and Interdisciplinary Studies. Before formally studying art, Curreri received a bachelor’s degree from Tufts University in Sociology and Peace & Justice Studies, where she was taught how to organize and participate in traditions of nonviolent civil disobedience, Curreri said.

“She’s a master of embracing a multitude of viewpoints while always keeping the core question central to our class conversations and debates,” Leighton wrote.

Curreri wants to communicate a feeling of connection when people interact with her work and wants students to evoke a sense of agency and productive confusion. She described it as the result of negotiating how we make meaning for ourselves.

“In all of the classes and conversations I’ve had with her - that reminder that we’re not alone in the world, and that as artists and as makers and thinkers, we really need to think about connecting with people and building relationships,” Lopez said.

Curreri listed her general artistic inspirations as risk-takers, anarchists, radical intellectuals, Queer people and those who do work for freedom. She prefers not to name specific people to remain mindful of what lineages she puts down and holds up.

“I’ve learned a lot from friends in the context of telling your own stories – in interviews, around our work,” Curreri said.

Curreri’s most recent exhibition is Fluid Gaze, a group show that opened on Sept. 30 at 516 Arts in Albuquerque. It features work by LGBTQ2S+ artists, including a 20-foot collaboration between Curreri and graduate student Claudia Hermano, Curreri said.

“I’m learning so much living here,” Curreri said. “A lot of the art is on the ground. It’s both geological and it’s here, in people, in storytelling, in Pueblos, in the culture.”

Lily Alexander is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at or on Twitter @llilyalexander

Lily Alexander

Lily Alexander is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted on Twitter @llilyalexander

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