Art is an international language, and Margery Amdur is advancing the conversation.

As part of the U.S. State Department’s Art in Embassies program, Amdur’s “Amass #17,” an installation built from thousands of miniature hand-crafted foam fragments of makeup sponges, is on display and in the permanent collection at the U.S. Embassy in Suriname in Paramaribo, the country’s capital and its primary business and financial center.

The pieces are glued together onto an upstretched canvas and colored with pastel pigment, gouache and ink prior to becoming a three-dimensional form when installed.

“What at first appear to be building blocks soon seduce and become invitations to touch,” she said. “The invitation is ultimately a tease as the pastel pigment is generously applied, not entirely fixed and easily transferred.”

Imtiaz Hafiz, a curator for the Art in Embassies program, which encourages cross-cultural dialogue and artistic exchange between countries, said the work resonates because of its rich colors, use of modest materials and landscape qualities.

After installing “Amass #17,” Amdur led workshops for art students, with another Art in Embassies curator, Welmoed Laanstra

“She helped these young artists understand that their art is part of a larger process and community,” Laanstra said.

collaboration with local artists is an important aspect of the embassy program, which strives to engage, educate and inspire global audiences, showing how art can transcend national borders and build connections among peoples.

Amdur said she became serious about art when she began taking classes at CMU as a high school sophomore.

“I experienced a rigorous yet nurturing environment where community and collaboration was encouraged,” she recalled.

The aura didn’t change during her collegiate years. “People were on a mission, both students and faculty. CMU gave me the courage to believe that I had what it took to become a professional and successful artist,” said Amdur, who earned her undergraduate degree from CMU’s School of Art in 1979 and master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 1982.

She had been an associate professor at the University of New Mexico for 12 years prior to returning to Philadelphia, where she is an associate professor of art at Rutgers University – Camden.

Patricia Bellan-Gillen, a professor in the School of Art for 29 years until her retirement in 2016, earned her master’s degree from CMU the same year Amdur finished her undergraduate work. Bellan-Gillen said they have a rich friendship and collegiality.

“Margery has always had a passion for learning about art,” Bellan-Gillen said.

In an art world increasingly focused on representational work, Bellan-Gillen said Amdur’s work continues to create lasting impressions, as evidenced by its selection for the U.S. Embassy program.

Amdur said she wants her “undulating abstracted landscapes” to offer people a pause from their everyday busy lives.

“My practice is meditative in nature, and I continuously attempt to slow down time. In the end, I hope that the work is bold, dynamic and seductive enough to get people’s attention,” she said.

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  • Amass #16 is on display at the residence of Nancy Petit, current U.S. Ambassador, in Riga, Latvia 
  • Amass #17 is part of the U.S. Embassy Collection in Paramaribo, Suriname.
  • Amass #18 will become part of the Pennsylvania Convention Center’s collection this summer.