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 Santina Amato.
What are you trying to communicate with your work?
I am wanting to capture the delight in things I felt as a child: the absolute thrill of watching things transform, move, grow, change. I grew up in an Italian immigrant household in Australia and participated in the process of cooking for the family with my mother. Watching her make dough was one of my absolute favorite things to experience as a child. The way her body moved, kneading the soft, white material, folding it over and onto itself, pushing the dough into existence with her whole body, was captivating. My imagination would run wild waiting for the dough to rise and transform, as it was left it alone in a bowl on my bed, covered in blankets.
My work is embedded in psychoanalytical thinking and so there is a perverseness to the work, but I think that is only because we are adults looking at the work and have the experience of sex and how it affects us as humans. Desire/horror, strangeness/foreignness, intimacy and vulnerability, self and Other, presence and absence—these are the underlying themes in my work. I am interested in how we transform, both psychologically and physically, throughout our lives by our experiences of life itself and how that transformation can be either a delight or horrific.
Untitled Dough Project (Self Portrait), 2015, Video still, Duration 00:08 loop
What is an artist’s responsibility?
I’m not one to dictate how others should and shouldn’t exist in the world but I do enjoy Marina Abramovic’s An Artist Life Manifesto. For me, being an artist is about owning the unconventional, the unruly, the natural inclination to live a life outside of society’s expectations based on gender, race, age, sexual orientation, and the role people assign to you simply because it is convenient to them. I have lived a non-chronormative life, so the saying “you are never too old” is totally relevant with my existence.
Show us the greatest thing you ever made (art or not)?
I think I ate it! I’m a huge cook and when I’m not in the studio making art, I make food. But in terms of my arts practice, my latest work is always the greatest thing I’ve ever made because it has eventuated as a result of all my previous works. It holds the history of my research, my stumblings, my successes, my failures, my experience. And so my greatest work that I have ever made continues to become, to transform, to change, to move, to grow, and to be continually created.
Re-Performing Sculpture 1, 2017, Video Still, Duration 61:05
On view September 2–October 1 at Governors Island Art Fair. Building 405A. Open every weekend in September.
Tell us about a work you want to make but never will:
Never say never because when you do, I will be more determined to make it happen!
Who are three artists we should know but probably don’t?
My bestie Katya Grokhovsky, who has been profiled on Artslant and was a recent showcase winner (we were both finalists in the same category!). We met in Australia in undergrad at the Victorian College of the Arts and both of us came to America soon after graduating. We have now graduated from the same undergraduate and graduate programs (School of the Art Institute of Chicago) so I consider her my art twin. Her work is messy and all just “too much,” reminding me of a quote from Jill Soloway’s TV series adaptation of Chris Kraus’ I Love Dick: “I was born into a world that presumes there is something grotesque, unspeakable about female desire. And now all I want is to be undignified, to trash myself. I want to be a female monster.”
Mohadeseh Rahimitabar was a peer of mine at SAIC and has just moved to NYC. She is an exceptional craftsperson and her thesis work had its foundation in an Iranian proverb: اگر دو پا داري ، دو تا ديگه هم قرض كن و فرار كن The English translation is: If you have two legs, borrow another pair and run. There is an elegance to her work and a desire to touch. She finishes the wood in her sculptures to a seductive finish.
Liz McCarthy was recommended to me by one of my mentors here in Chicago. It so happened that she was assigned to be the ceramic tech at ACRE residency program at the same time I was to be artist in residence. I had never worked with ceramics and learnt a lot from this spunky woman. Her Whistles Built For Many sculpture series invites viewers to blow inside the ceramic vessels, their breath mixing, merging, and swirling around together, as they commune in sound. I just LOVE this idea.
—The ArtSlant Team
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(Image at top: Re-Performing Sculpture 1, 2017, Video Still, Duration 61:05)