Amy Cuneo

Painter and poet Amy Cuneo is a familiar face to most involved in the local cafe scene. Along with her husband Josh, she owns At All and Sundry, arguably one of the best cafes in the entire region. Foremost in Amy's interests is a love of the arts, with both literature and visual art vying for her attention, each informing the other. We caught up with her for a quick chat ahead of her new exhibition opening in our gallery soon...

Black Gold: Your new show is titled Still Renting. Can you tell us a bit about it?

Amy Cuneo: Sure. It's basically a compilation of watercolour and ink works on paper that I've been working on over the last 12 months of moments, imaginings and internal landscapes. I may throw in a couple of poems too in the same theme. I guess the title Still Renting and the works are looking to explore the notion of not growing up at least not entirely.

The title evokes thoughts of arrested development, is that a place you currently find yourself, or are you looking back?

I think of it as a place I am straddling awkwardly, neither here nor there. I definitely am feeling the weight of more responsibilities in life and seeing that they aren't all bad, but I am also always looking for little escapes and ways to not conform to 'adulthood'.

Your work appears to not only look to current escapes, but also shine through an essence of childhood. Does parenthood play a part in that or are you looking back to your own upbringing?

Watching Jesse (my son) learn and interact with his environment has sparked so much creativity and dormant joyful memories. I have never viewed 'childlike' as such an aspirational quality until now.

That's great, the term childlike can so often be viewed in a bad way as being too simplistic, but there is so much beauty and wonder to be found in a child's gaze. Have there been any other foundational influences in your work, I guess specifically for this show, but even in general as well?

I am always influenced by the natural world and how we interact with it, as well as being interested in colour, line, naivety and design to name a few...

On top of being a great artist, you and your husband Josh also own a cafe a few people around here might know of, the wonderful At All and Sundry. How do you find time for art whilst juggling your own business and motherhood?

To be honest Josh takes a lot of the load and deserves some sort of sainthood for encouraging me to create amidst such a hectic schedule. We are in a fortunate position where we have really great staff so we don't feel that we need to be in there every waking hour. I spend a large portion of my week at home chilling with Jesse and twice a day he has nice sizeable sleeps that allow me to paint - I guess what I am saying is I have time paint but not to do the dishes!

Perfect, God bless nap time! Despite the two of you moving here in the last few years it seems like you've settled in really well with the community and carved out a great niche in the Woonona area. How did you find the process of moving here, setting up shop, etc.?

Man I love Woonona. It was a gamble, we didn't really know anything about the area before we moved here. We just sort of looked at where we could afford to rent and ended up moving from Newtown area into a fibro shack in Bellambi!

Then with the shop we found this ugly old menswear shop in a fairly empty alley way in Woonona and Josh just said, "Yep, this is the spot!" The rest is history. People came out of the woodwork and made us feel so welcome and supported us from day dot. The sense of community here was something that we had always aspired to encourage and be a part of, but we were shocked that it actually worked!

That's awesome, it definitely seems like you guys came along at the right time. You also have art rotating on the walls of the cafe. Are you the curator of those delights?

I am. My background is in Fine Art and Literature and I didn't want to lose my love of art in the crazyness of starting a business. So we decided to have a six-week turnaround of local (as much as possible) artists to put up their work for free. It's damn hard to make an income for creatives so we wanted to support that in a simple way.

That's a really sweet thing to do, money has to be one of the biggest frustrations for all creatives. It seems like you've managed to carve out a nice middle ground. Either way, we're looking forward to hosting your show! What can people expect for the opening?

There will be a mariachi band of monkeys to welcome everyone at the door as well as a flying fox set up for people to coast down down to their cars. Ha! No, but for reals people can expect a low key night of art and beers and friendly company. Can't ask for more than that on a Thursday night. Maybe All and Sundry might even whip up some nibbles...

...and that in itself should have everyone frothing to attend!

Join us for all that and more when Still Renting opens Thursday, November 12, 5:30-7:30pm. Black Gold Gallery, Shop 1 / 269 Lawrence Hargrave Drive, Thirroul (above Finbox).

See more of Amy's work online at amycuneo.com.