Amelia McKnight explores the idea of animals as personal icons in her work. She is interested in tracing a personal history by studying and recounting interactions with animals and believes that the experience of the animal can begin to inform and define the individual. She confronts the complexity of her subject matter through experience, research, and collection.
As part of her studio practice, she is dedicated to gathering exposure to interactions between humans and animals. She regularly visits the zoo and volunteers at an animal shelter. The zoo offers a space dedicated to the animal, while also sparking serious ethical dilemmas concerning captivity and entertainment. The animal shelter is filled with caring and devoted individuals, but exposes issues of domestication, poverty, abuse, and euthanasia. Instead of dissecting these issues and providing an answer, her work lives somewhere within the discontent and confusion. The record of these experiences manifests itself in the form of photography, gouache illustrations, creative writing, and books. The animal form is featured prominently and is celebrated in her visual work. She treats the animal with reverence but her work can also be playful.
Writing is a vital component of her work. Written responses to experience often supplements visual work. She often uses the animal as a kind of filter in order to talk about the personal. In addition to personal reflection, she writes short stories based on real events. She collects and responds to stories of zoo attacks and escapes, exotic pet tragedies and successes, veterinarian memoirs, trends in taxidermy, and the plight of animal-activists. These stories often complicate and blur our image of the animal. Though she sees the state of mankind reflected in how we view and treat animals, her work aims to move past the political into the enigmatic personal.