Photographed in Brooklyn by Skye Parrott
Across cultures and millennia the moon has constantly loomed, quietly reminding us of the power it holds; it can pull ocean tides, control birth cycles, make men crazy and illuminate the darkness. It is the serene, ever-evasive contrast to the energetic, persistent sun, maintaining a subversive influence that has served as both a guide and goddess for women throughout history.
Caris Reid’s mythology-inspired symbolism and Amanda Valdez’s personified shapes both embody this subtle lunar strength. Drawing on sexuality, feminine symbols, lore, figuration and abstraction, both artists animate their paintings through color and infuse depth through a thorough investigation of our collective history. Though their respective bodies of work appear formally disparate – Caris creates abstracted figurations and Amanda showcases figuration into her abstractions – each relies on a shared interest in times past. And, in fact, the women are currently working on a two-person show stemming from their collaborative research on the moon and its phases. Having met through via a common connection to Dossier, the pair has continuously collaborated, sharing influences and cultivating a continuous dialogue about work and process. Their show “Time & Tide” will be on view April 7 to May 15, 2016 at Denny Gallery in New York.
HOW DID YOU MEET?
Caris: Amanda and I were both working remotely as arts writers (and later contributing arts editors) for Dossier. It was several years into working for the publication that we actually met.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE OTHER’S WORK TO A STRANGER?
Amanda: Caris works in series that shift and evolve around her subtle concentration on the figure. I have loved all the places she finds within each series. Sexuality, interiority, and symbols are powerful themes she wields in her colorful, flat, and clear paintings. Over the last year, she is taking the female figure to a place of totemic heights and loading it with potent symbols that feel contemporary and ancient, simultaneously. Her approach to the body, specifically the female body, continues the work of so many important artists re-imaging the woman in the eyes of a woman, like Dorothy Iannone and Nancy Shapiro.
Caris: Amanda’s paintings are highly vibrant. She has a seductive color palette, her work is abstract but often references the body and bodily fluids. The shapes are organic and feel as though they are in a constant state of mutation. She combines bold fields of flat color with controlled patches of texture, areas of intensive weaving — of thick paint, of fabric or a drip caught mid-melt. There is an excitement and tension that exists between the chaos and control within the work.
HOW IS YOUR WORK SIMILAR?
Caris: We both crave a certain intensity within our color palettes. We both have sharp articulations of our shapes, lots of crisp edges. We both engage in periods of heavy research that feed our work. We share certain artistic influences, like Hilma Af Klint and Ellsworth Kelly. Our work both fluxuates between reduction and addition.
Amanda: While we oscillate in the apparent use and influence of the body, we are sharing an articulation of sexuality. Mine is hidden in my shapes and in Caris’s work I see her taking us up to a certain suggestive point, without being heavy-handed.
HOW IS YOUR WORK DIFFERENT?
Amanda: In both of our practices, we rely on research to spur our work on and have it connect with larger human history and art history. Since Caris works within representation and figurations, she’s able to cull her references directly into the paintings. The clarity of that I find very attractive. Within my abstraction, the research I do seems buried a little further in. Working with various physical materials, the histories of those are embedded into the surface so it’s a quieter investigation to suss out the references.
Caris: Amanda’s work is more abstract than mine. She flirts with figurative references within her abstraction, but it’s never quite a body. My work is figuration that flirts with abstraction; I’ve reduced the figures down to a flat plane of color, but they still register as a face or a hand.
WHAT LUNAR STAGE BEST DESCRIBES YOU?
Caris: I struggle with full illumination. As much as I desire the spotlight, a part of me always wants to hide behind the curtain. It’s probably why I make paintings— they get to stand in the spotlight for me. I’m most comfortable in a state of partial reveal, a space of building tension and increasing energy, like the Waxing Moon (which is the phase between the new moon and the full moon). It’s also the period associated with creativity and new projects.
Amanda: I feel similarly to your response. For the sake of shaking it up, I will say I love the couple days leading up to a full moon. I love the excitement and anticipation I feel knowing that the full moon is coming. That is how I often feel leading up to a big project, work period or travel. I challenge myself regularly to grow and transform so the days leading up to full moon allow me to harness that energy again, check back in with myself and re-focus.
YOUR FAVORITE PHOTO OF THE OTHER
Caris walking her painting over to the gallery Sargent’s Daughters for an exhibition.
I love this photo of Amanda intensely focused during her residency at Bemis.
WHAT IS A DREAM YOU HAVE FOR EACH OTHER?
Caris: It’s a shared dream, but I’d love to see our work hanging together on a museum wall!
Amanda: Double that!
WHAT IS A QUALITY YOU ADMIRE ABOUT ONE ANOTHER?
Caris: I’m grateful for Amanda’s presence in my life as a fellow painter and as a friend. Amanda has inexhaustible energy: She’s running marathons, painting six-foot paintings, attending residencies in Latvia and reading more books in a month then I’ll most likely read in a year. She’s constantly challenging herself mentally, creatively and physically, and that energy is an inspiration to be around. Amanda is also a total enthusiast, which is what I love most about her. She’s as excited about my newest painting as she is her own.
Amanda: Caris is wildly independent. When we first met I was in grad school and I really admired that she had the clarity and, more importantly, the independence to know that the grad-school environment would be stifling to her practice. In some ways, the route of grad school is very cookie-cutter and the expected thing to do. So I thought that Caris’s level of confidence, in knowing what was truly right for her work, was refreshing, challenging and bad ass. Knowing her more intimately now, I love her introspective and intuitive nature. It’s a muscle she’s developed and I witness it serve and guide her to a place that’s wholly her own.
A SHAPE THAT MAKES YOU THINK OF THE OTHER
The hand! Caris’ use of hands and the articulation of them in her work is very potent. It reminds me of Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. The whole story is told through her hands, from seduction to demise.
You know me well. For Amanda, I would pick a Reuleaux Triangle, which looks like a triangle’s more organic cousin. It’s created by the intersection of three circles, which I envision as being the rich space where all the facets of Amanda’s mind intersect.
Edited. For full version, visit http://www.doubleor.com/amanda-valdez-and-caris-reid