“I was a studier,” she says.
Long time Detroiters might remember Falvey Motors, run by Amy’s father. The foreign car biz was not for his younger daughter. My classmate from Kingswood School Cranbrook got her Ph.D. from the U. of M. with professor Theophil Staehelin. She followed him to Switzerland to do still more research on protein synthesis.
Returning to the U.S., Amy worked at the National Institutes of Health, where she also met Bob, her husband of 41 years and father of children Rob and Katherine. She then taught cellular biology at George Washington U. She also took a photo class at the Smithsonian. For one assignment she visited the US Botanic Garden to photograph the annual orchid exhibition.
“The beauty and diversity captured me,” she says.
Amy learned that Darwin was overwhelmed by the diversity of structures in orchids. That discovery propelled him to develop his theory of evolution. He reasoned that orchids evolved complex forms and colors to attract pollinators and secure their reproduction.
EVOLUTION TRIVIA—When Darwin saw the tendril-like angraecum, he argued that there must be an insect that could extend into its exceptionally long and narrow tube to collect pollen. Other scientists disagreed. More than 30 years after Darwin died, in Madagascar a moth with a long proboscis was found to be the pollinator.
Amy says, “As a human being, I’m the lucky passerby with the eyes and mind to interpret this wondrous process.”
Amy began photographing orchids. “I was an amateur, just having fun with photos,” she says. She happened to read an art review in the Washington Post. David Adamson, a professor at the Corcoran School of Art & Design, produced the first digital art exhibit in Washington, D.C. Amy, who lives in nearby Bethesda, visited the show as it was being dismantled. It was the mid 1990s. Adamson, she learned, was a pioneer in digital printing of fine art. He printed for William Christenberry and, later, for Chuck Close and other famous photographers. Seeing Amy’s close-ups of flower blossoms, Adamson agreed to create large prints for her.
For her first show, “Fortunately, I could afford a really nice invitation. I sent it to galleries. Two actually called.”
While her first pictures were being framed, a couple walked in. They were serious collectors. The framer reported their interest. They wanted to meet Amy.
“It was Christmas eve of 1995. I acted like I knew what I was doing. The couple ended up buying 3 prints. I said to myself: This could work.” Her first patrons have since bought additional work and become good friends.
“Luck is being in the right place at the right time,” she says. “And being ready.”
Amy, who grew up Episcopalian at Christ Church Cranbrook, considers spirituality “how everything connects through structure and form. Visual beauty can be distilled to wave lengths of light. Butterflies and other insects perceive in the ultraviolet spectrum. Birds, in the ultraviolet and visible light spectrum. Humans, in the visible spectrum.” (There, faithful readers. Your biology lesson for today.)
Amy has gone on to show her close-up photos of flowers and fruit at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Chicago Botanic Garden and the American Institute of Architects. Her work may be seen at Steven Scott Gallery in Baltimore, MD, Etherton Gallery in Tucson, AZ and Staley Wise in Manhattan. And at www.amylamb.com.