Six weeks ago, our annual jury reviewed the artwork of 65 applicants and welcomed 20 new artists to the fold. All of them are noteworthy, but one stands out for her sheer youth: Amanda Marie Harner, whose career as a professional artist began almost by chance—with a visit to the Torpedo Factory in 2012.
“My friend’s family was going to Alexandria for work, and they invited me to come along,” says Harner, who at the time was studying photography in high school. “They thought I would enjoy the Torpedo Factory because of my interest in art. I walked into Pete McCutchen’s studio and was so embarrassed, because my friend’s dad started talking about how I was a photographer. I was just thinking about how everyone must come in and say that to the artists!”
Harner ended up following McCutchen on Facebook—and when McCutchen, in turn, saw Harner’s photography, he encouraged her to submit her work for exhibition. At 17, as a junior member of the Art League Gallery, Harner won third prize in the September 2012 All-Media Exhibit for a portrait of a white-faced saki monkey at the National Zoo. She has since been accepted into more than a dozen juried shows across the country at venues such as Photoplace Gallery in Vermont and 1650 Gallery in Los Angeles.
Then, in March 2014, she took another chance, with extraordinary results: She gathered together some of her best work, submitted it, and was juried into the Torpedo Factory—at the age of 19.
Harner, who’s currently studying media arts, design, and computer science at James Madison University, calls her Torpedo Factory membership “a pivotal moment” and says that she’s already taking a wider view of her future than she did just two months ago.
“It means a lot to be part of a community of such incredible artists,” she says. “It really solidified my confidence in my abilities and set the stage for my future. Before, I wasn’t sure I would be able to pursue a career in photography, but now I feel it’s more attainable. And maybe one day I’ll have the opportunity to have my own studio and guide someone else in the way Pete McCutchen has guided me. You never know!”
Later this month, see Amanda Harner’s work in Essex Junction, Vermont, at the Darkroom Gallery, where her photograph “Late” won the best-in-show Juror’s Choice Award in the exhibition “Hue,” and follow her on Facebook.