I thought it would be intriguing to ask painters this simple yet complex question. This query comes with no ground rules—it’s up to each individual artist to find their own approach and direction.
This project will be an ongoing exploration … let’s see where it takes us.
What is Painting?
Featuring Amanda Joy Calobrisi
Painting is looking, both verb and noun. Painting is a series of decisions recorded in actions left as marks, the finished painting a document of a search. If provided adequate time and headspace, in front of a canvas, the present falls silent and minutes cease to exist. When making (or viewing) a painting, I am wooed by its surface into a liminal space. In this space, time travel is encouraged. This kind of looking or experience of painting requires a consciousness of the past; both ancient and recent, as well as a slight awareness of what is to come. Glimpses of all that and more happen while I am standing in one place. The canvas becomes a world and I its receiver and silent reveler. A mutual agreement, a secret pact or sorts is formed between my self and it. The chaos or the calm embraced. This utopia goes on until the phone rings or the security guard says “you are standing too close”. In the moment it takes to recover my spoken language or take a step back from the canvas I am abruptly returned to the present.
What is painting? Painting is a form of communicative behavior, it is a language with its own visual lexicon; forms, materials and techniques all of which embody meaning.
Language is the basis of communication. When finding words is a challenge one finds other means to produce language. Through miscommunication and broken pacts, as a small child I realized the power and the inadequacy of spoken words. The fear and pressure of (mis)communication guided me toward introversion- nose in a book, music lover, romantic, head in the clouds daydreamer-I was a deathly shy teenager and a hesitant 20 something. With my hoarded observations, intuition and my guts I chose to develop my eloquence- my fluency through painting. Now a few years shy of 40 I bask in the transformation of ideas and responses, body language, gesture and action into paint. The canvas provides a space for contemplation and a means of communication.
My painted forms reveal themselves through heightened color, loose pattern and uncouth texture. Figures, patterns and voids push and pull at each other creating psychologically charged spaces. The photographs that I take in preparation for the paintings are like composing a mirage, a vision that I use as a point of departure into paint. I have no interest in replicating the photo. I let everything mutate on the canvas allowing my imagination to interject. I shift colors and their temperatures and discover rhythms to translate patterned passages. Organic shapes and tangled marks executed with a loaded brush allow the figures to exist in a field of constant motion despite painting’s persistent stillness.
Recently I have been looking to ancient art to find powerful depictions of women. The ancient Greek anasyrma pose is the lifting of skirts and exposing of genitals. It is a form of exhibitionism but not for the purpose of sexual arousal- instead it is used as an apotropaic device, a gesture of power, healing and fructifying in both the physical and supernatural worlds. I have borrowed the pose as to rethink it in a contemporary context and emphasize the numinous qualities of the vulva and penis rather than as erotic or signifiers of gender. The figures in my paintings are often both feminine and masculine simultaneously (as we all are). I find it necessary to paint these two qualities co-existing in a state of mutuality; overlapping, intersecting and dependent on one another.
Amanda Joy Calobrisi, Fascinum and Invidia (Anasyrma 2), oil on canvas, 54 x 48.5 inches, 2014
Amanda Joy Calobrisi was born on January 22, 1978 to a single mom who found the experience of her arrival “full of joy” enough so that it became the child’s middle name. Raised in various apartments in White Plains, New York. She played in parking lots, rescued baby birds, made foreign language picture dictionaries and occasionally got in trouble for writing curse words on walls. She devoted herself to helping care for her little sister and various down on their luck kittens. She graduated high school by the skin of her teeth. Her undergraduate studies began with psychology but finally culminated with a B.A in Art at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. She began painting on her own in a dreary basement apartment in Boston with 4 tubes of oil paint yellow, blue, red and white, from photographs she had taken of herself. She completed a Post Baccalaureate degree from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston in 2005 and obtained a MFA degree from The School of the Art Institute’s Painting and Drawing department in 2008. She has taught drawing at The School of the Art Institute, Dominican University and presently at Saint Xavier University in Chicago.
The What Is Painting? Project – More Featured Artists