Amber C. Van Galder

MFA Candidate


Amber Van Galder is a queer mixed media artist who works primarily with wood, metal, and various found objects that bring meaning and sentiment to her work. An Evansville, WI native, Van Galder has 20 years of experience in metal finishing, fabrication and art education. Her work stems from a passion for metal that started young. She grew up surrounded  by classic cars, motorcycles and drag racing, rooting her understanding firmly in automotive finishing and metal work. Informed by her own lived experience, Amber’s subject matter is situated in the counter narrative and illustrates the multi-faceted stages of familial grief. 

Artist Statement

In 2012 I lost my cousin and best friend to an incomprehensible accident. For at least six months after the unexpected death of Jerad, at the age of 29, I became obsessed with tracking down childhood toys, 45 records, even specific copies of Hot Rod Magazine, items that anchored us to one another. At one point I combed my parent’s property searching for club house ruins that only existed in the trace: stacks of field stone and cinder block. The objects that existed within my periphery were emanating with energy -Jerad’s energy. These objects represented memories and allowed me to travel back in time.  

Each assemblage created for this thesis is constructed from objects that I gathered from my family’s Wisconsin farm, if I was unable to find specific objects, I re-created them from memory or from photograph. Each work performs as an incarnation of a vivid dream where I am aware of my body and the overwhelming emotion of grief. The repeated pattern of black and white tile signifies transitional space. Various tools, ropes and machines parts communicate as displaced fragments of a working farm, or industrial space.

I seesaw between representation and illusion where I question an object’s ability to represent people, memories, and the emotions that emanate from our bodies.  The works in this collection arise from individual, and familial grief. Each piece investigates the trauma that happens to a member of the family throughout the experience of losing a loved one and situates in in the shared knowledge and memory of the one who can no longer share in our lived experience.