Working in tandem

Local artists collaborate on new works

Stratum Panels (L-R): 26 and 22 by Amy Kollar Anderson and Kate Huser Santucci

By Joyell Nevins

What happens when two artists who both embrace nature and the power of details, but work with different colors and materials, come together in the design process? The result is a new collaboration called Stratum, on display at the Dayton Visual Arts Center (DVAC) from Feb. 22 to Mar. 24. The collaboration is the brainchild of local artists Amy Kollar Anderson and Kate Huser Santucci.

Stratum consists of 40 8-inch circular birch panels, covered in layers of paint, wax, and three-dimensional objects such as string and corkscrews. The colorful panels are displayed along with a log of the process, showing notes Anderson and Santucci made throughout the collaboration.

It all started at a DVAC get-together in 2016. Anderson knew of Santucci’s work and, coming off of other successful collaborative projects, suggested they develop a proposal for a show featuring new pieces they designed together.

Santucci was just coming out of a long art-making hiatus she had taken to raise her twin boys, and Anderson had recently left a position as a gallery coordinator to make her own art full-time. DVAC accepted the proposal—and the solo artists had to figure out a system for working in tandem!

“Amy was the driving force behind the collaboration, and both of us jumped in with both feet—possibly recklessly!” Santucci said.

The decision was that they would start with a plain birch panel. The circular shape represented the “cyclical connections between the micro and the macro,” as they wrote in their proposal. Anderson started with 20 panels, and Santucci had 20 panels—and then they traded. And traded. And traded.

“The panels were traded back and forth until we reached a point where, when we were exchanging them, we both agreed that they were resolved,” Santucci explained. “Each piece had the hand of both artists intimately involved.”

She noted some of the panels were traded more than eight times before the artists were satisfied! The layering process they used is reflected in the name Stratum. It is a geological term referring to the layering of rocks or soil. The women painted, carved, built up, tore down, and even brought in the power tools.

During the layering and trading, one of the main rules was that once the panel was out of their hands, the other artist had free rein.

“We could use any material in our arsenal, and layer over or remove elements as desired. Nothing was sacred, no action malicious, just working towards a common goal of a satisfying work of art,” Anderson said.

Each artist brought their own skills and inclinations to the table. They note that Santucci gravitates towards an earthier palette of greens, creams, and browns. She mostly uses oil-based mediums, focusing on encaustic, pigment, and bone.

Anderson, on the other hand, employs a wider range of vibrant jewel-tones with metallic and glitter for an intense effect. She normally uses water-based materials such as pouring medium and mica.

Both women said it took some adjusting before they truly felt comfortable tweaking a fellow artists’ work. But once they jumped that hurdle, the creative floodgates opened.

“We definitely spent some time considering and letting go of the ‘preciousness’ of our work. Agreeing to the rules that allow some individuals to make those changes is scary, but it is freeing,” Santucci said. “The collaboration went from being careful, as neither one of us wanted to step on the other’s toes, to feeling strong and confident in one another’s choices about where we were pushing the piece.”

Anderson agreed, “We are taught that artwork is precious and the creative process sacred, but there is great freedom in releasing those preconceived ways of working and allowing chance or another person’s marks to interact with your own.”

That freedom showed up in experimentation with new materials or new ways to use their familiar mediums. They also started to banter about the others’ habits and predispositions.

“How sparkly Amy could make something and how fast I could cover it up became a running gag,” Santucci said.

As they shared the panels back and forth, they also gained a deeper understanding of each other personally. A friendship began to bloom.

“As we traded panels, we would discuss our challenges, areas we found successful or those that needed work. We talked about how events in our lives blended into the work or stalled it,” Anderson said. “We came to know each other better through our artistic choices and life experiences.”

They’ve also seen influences of each other emerge in their own work. Santucci noted she sees Anderson’s effect in how she uses color and how she approaches her own pieces.

“There is more internal dialogue, more ‘push and pull’ during the creation of new pieces, and more overall complexity,” Santucci said. “The process has moved me forward.”

Anderson and Santucci hope their final designs will not only be enjoyable to view, but also encourage other artists to push their own boundaries.

“We hope that it inspires other artists to explore limitations and look outside their comfort zones for creation,” their treatise states.

Stratum runs Feb. 22 to Mar. 24 at the Dayton Visual Arts Center, 118 N. Jefferson St., Dayton. A gallery talk will be held from 6-8 p.m. Friday, Mar. 2. For more information, please call 937.224.3822 or visit

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Joyell believes in the power of the written word, a good cup of coffee, and sometimes, the need for a hug (please, no Tommy Boy references). Follow her on her blog “Small World, Big God” at or reach her at

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