This is 5 Questions. Each week, we send five questions to an artist featured in Under the Radar, our weekly email highlighting the best art on the ArtSlant network. This week we seek answers from Amanda Joy Calobrisi.
What are you trying to communicate with your work?
The first language that I learned to read was body language. Being a cautious but curious child, cursed by shyness, it was (and still is) my primary language. Observing the adults was preferable to playing with the kids. I gathered expressions, gestures, and stances into a sort of dictionary of my mind and tried to figure out how they connected to verbal language. The body more often than not seemed to defy the words, undo them and render them useless. I think my interest in these contradictions lead me to visual art and figure painting in particular. Through the process of looking at the photograph and thinking it through the painting, I ponder the appearances of things, give them form and still the disappearing revelations.
Amanda Joy Calobrisi, Moon Bridge (Topsy Turvy), 2016, Graphite, gouache, acrylic on canvas
What is an artist’s responsibility?
The responsibility of an artist is to be open and receptive, to wander outside of one’s shoes, to pose good questions and to dig deep. The sage spirit John Berger describes this responsibility in Steps Toward a Small Theory of the Visible as “going in close.” He says: “To go in close means forgetting convention, reputation, reasoning, hierarchies and self. It also means risking incoherence, even madness. For it can happen that one gets too close and then the collaboration breaks down and the painter dissolves into the model. Or the animal devours or tramples the painter into the ground.”
Tell us about a work you want to make but never will:
Interesting that you ask… I was recently laying in bed with a migraine in that liminal space between pain and sleep when I imagined making a full length, narrow, vertical painting of my father. He was standing life sized, almost facing me. I then rotated the long painting and hung it horizontally on the wall in my studio. I felt a sense of quiet as the canvas’ orientation abruptly shifted the subject from living to coffin. I spent the next few weeks mentally tortured by how I could make this painting, when images of my father were scarce: a few blurry Polaroids from occasional visits my mom and I made over the 17 years that he was incarcerated. I have been dealing/not dealing with my non/relationship with my absent biological father for decades. Now dead, he lingers even more.
Amanda Joy Calobrisi, Solitary Surveyor, 2017, Acrylic on canvas
What are you currently working on?
I have most recently been working on a series of paintings made from photos taken in the 1920–30s by an amateur photographer whose nom de guerre was Monsieur X. The looking that goes into the painting of these photos is a form of, albeit imagined, camaraderie. Through painting I attempt to understand and try on the feelings of these liberated anonymous women to reveal their sense of humor, frank sensuality, prowess, and courage. I have little interest in exactitude—instead the photos are starting points, departures into paint. Her expressions, the eye behind the lens, and my reading of the body language mutate on the canvas allowing for painterly discoveries to interject. The heightened color, patterns, and textures are an attempt to create a commotion that works against the stillness inherent in painting. The figures take on a new life in paint celebrating physical intimacy with their own bodies. The man behind the camera is gone. The revealed vulva now represents the figure’s interiority, functioning as a symbol of introspection and the complexity of her private life.
Who are three artists we should know but probably don’t?
—The ArtSlant Team
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(Image at top: Amanda Joy Calobrisi, Vulva Numinous (Sacra Vulva) (Anasyrma 1), 2014, Oil on canvas)