Launching her newest series, Slippery When Wet, New York based sculptor Amanda Dow Thompson explores the realities of being a female in today’s culture and the vital concerns surrounding it.Opening this December 15th in New York, with Causey Contemporary at Central Booking, Amanda’s increasingly brazen sculptures, series and techniques will be an ode to female strength and capability, each piece in Slippery When Wet is crafted from a single slab of lumber. We sat down with Amanda to learn more about her work.
- What sparked you to begin a career in the arts?
I first started painting in London in the 80’s. I would create backdrops and wall hangings for bands, clubs and shops. I remember making giant Victor Vasarely inspired optical illusions, which would glow in the black lights of clubs, and hand painting the walls of shops in Soho – applying fake pony skin clouds to the ceiling –it was a wild and creative time in London, it was fabulous. I did that for years until I started to yearn for a more formal training. At that point I went to Rhode Island School of Design. I have been working and showing ever since.
- What was it about sculptures that intrigued you the most?
Originally trained as a painter, my work first became sculptural as a way of looking at things from different perspectives simultaneously. Each piece offers multiple layers and asks the viewer to consider, prioritize and reflect. A piece may be very graphic in form and drag you across the room only to hold you there with a quiet fragile detail or a shadow. I like this duality, this ability to represent the soft and the hard, the loud and the quiet and to have literal layers/levels within one piece. The idea to contort the wood by stretching, bending, twisting or unraveling it, also came as a way of expressing tension, angst, frustration, fear, depression.
The sculptures represent all the directions women are pulled in, all the personae we must embody and display in order to flourish. Literally how stretched we are, how we can feel as if we are falling apart but hold it together – mother, career woman, artist, wife, lover. These contortions are also in reference to the abuse, that women are routinely subjected to both physically and emotionally. I am a sexual abuse and sexual assault survivor, one of many of my peers. Although it does not define me, it has shaped me to some extent – twisted or unraveled me.
I am interested in how we contort ourselves in order to fit into the mold that has been created for us. Injecting ourselves to appear younger, starving ourselves to become thinner, waxing ourselves to remain prepubescent, straightening our hair to appear more professional … All of these things – which we do to ourselves – take away our power, unless of course we use our sexuality, and men’s inherent weakness in this area, to our advantage. My new triptych Role Play specifically looks at the stereotypes placed upon woman at various stages of life, another new piece Political Hair references the stereotypical expectations placed on women in the work place. A third piece, Beholden looks as if it is being pulled apart or unraveled only to offer a glimpse of steel rods beneath the exterior. Pretty and delicate on the outside.
- Where do you draw your inspiration?
I draw my inspiration from everywhere, but I am particularly fascinated by forms and shapes within the body, shoulders, ribcages, forearms, muscle and bone. I am also the mother of two daughters who inspire me every day with their strength and their intellect. I am deeply impressed by them and their friends, the support system they offer each other. They give me hope for our future.
- Is there an artist that you admire the most?
I am particularly inspired by the large installations of Olafur Eliasson, Anish Kapoor and Bill Viola. I also love Do Ho Suh’s (a peer of mine at RISD) floating muslin buildings. I yearn to have the resources to create a large installation, something people could walk through, climb on or sit. Fingers crossed!
- What has been your biggest achievement so far in your career?
A real highlight for me was have a piece installed at the Grand Rapids Public Museum during ArtPrize 2010. I also feel honored to have a voice, to be able to express my views through my art and in these interviews. I think given the current situation politically it is ever more important to make art with purpose. I am very proud to be having my upcoming solo show at Causey Contemporary on the lower east side on December 15th!
- Any advice for aspiring #creators?
Yes. Be tough, be tenacious, work hard. If you believe it, others will start to. I know it sounds trite, but I believe in “never give up on your dreams.” In a time when everything can be bought – status, power, beauty – talent and drive are all we have that money can’t buy. Even if you don’t have the money for lessons and you have to make your artwork as your third job, keep at it. It is your power and it won’t fade as you age.