169 Amy Fisher Price

Born New York City, NY, 1980 / BFA, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago / Lives in Detroit

When you’re playing bass in a Bikini Kill cover band in high school, you need the right outfits to complete the sound. Amy Fisher Price didn’t know where to buy matching leopard-skin fits for the band, so she made them herself. Since that punk rock origin story, the sewing machine has never been far from her side. It’s an attitude and ethos that runs throughout her work to this day.

“It’s my own rule—I only make from what I have,” says Price, surrounded by stacks on stacks of rolls of fabric reaching to the ceiling of her city studio. Price grew up in New York before heading to the Midwest to study “electronics, neon and stop-motion animation” at the Art Institute of Chicago before eventually landing in Detroit.

There’s no search for perfection in her work, but that’s what makes it so perfect, charming and funny. Price gives it her own idiosyncratic spin. Whether words sewn onto flags and hung from a dilapidated house, or a recreation of fading liquor store advert, Price’s work speaks to you in a well-worn language we’ve already grown accustomed to in the city. 

It could be a fashionable necessity, like an array of homemade overalls for her and matching outfits for her beloved dog Banana. Or it could be hanging a flag she made that reads “I did my best” from a derelict home slowly returning to nature, which was from a body of work Price admits reflected how she was actually feeling at the time—the colloquial “dark place.” 

The city under the siege of change and cleanup reflects itself in Price’s work. She’s putting the peeling paint back together in her image. And what Price has, ultimately, is a great eye and appreciation for Detroit’s unique relationship with hand-painted signs, like those lovingly captured in David Clement’s “Talking Shops: Detroit Commercial Folk Art” in 2004. 

It’s a staple of the city’s feel—a fast fading one in Price’s eyes. She tours the city searching them out, often attracted to the weathered, barely-hanging-on ghost signs continuing to fade as the City of Detroit ramps up efforts to police, ticket, and ultimately eradicate obsolete signage.

Party store signage, in particular, pops up all the time in her work. Imagine a textile sign with fringe blowing in the wind that reads “BEER – WINE GROCERIES HOT SANDWICHES ICE GREETING CARDS LOTTERY.” She’ll hang these on poles that used to have actual signs just like that on display, leaving them to the elements or for collection by fans or random passersby.

That’s on the small scale for Price. When she thinks big and works big, her work becomes physical theater for people to actually step in and interact with. She once created an entire party store out of fabric from the exterior to the entrance to the walls inside. She’s teamed with others, like musician Tunde Olaniran, to recreate a brick building facade and stoop that were whisked away into separate pieces in a music video to illustrate a sense of memory lost.

At an actual defunct party store on the eastside at Kelly Road and Hayes Street, Price created a flag to fill in where the bricks had fallen off the building, leaving a fractured version of a hand-painted sign that showed off what was for sale inside (party balloons, lighters, a deck of cards, pop and candy), and left it there. It’s a street level performance that many people don’t even realize they’ve paid (no) admission to. 

A recent large-scale work of hers was a recreation of “Monumental Kitty,” a 3,000-brick installation of a cat’s head by journeyman bricklayer-turned-artist Jerome Ferretti. For years, Ferretti’s original sat at the pedestrian overpass that stretches over I-75 at Cochrane Street in north Corktown. Around 2019, it was declared deceased due to weather and the destructive habits of idiots who slowly beat the thing down. Price lovingly recreated Ferretti’s work with fabric, placing it right where “Monumental Kitty,” now mostly broken bricks, debris and trash, once proudly stood.

Price gets evasive when you try to pin the “preservationist” label on her, but it’s clearly part of her drive to create. But maybe “preservationist” isn’t the word at all. Maybe her work is about memorializing something that’s dying right before our eyes on the blighted blocks of Detroit. Sometimes the weather takes it. Increasingly, it’s city hall that takes it away. However it goes, Price’s funny, loving creations help us remember it in their own perfectly imperfect way.

Ryan Patrick Hooper, June 2023

Copyright Essay’d