“I was born in Japan and raised in London and have always felt like a foreigner. I was always trying to put my best face forward, whatever that was. I don’t think I realized what I was doing in the beginning but a lot of the shapes that I make have to do with feeling anxious and separated. That’s how I express myself; with my hands,” Amanda Dow Thompson said, showing me her tiny workspace in Astoria, Queens, where she has wrapped artwork scattered about and a new piece she just started. Her newest feminist series Slippery When Wet opens in two days.
I ask if she is allowed to make a new piece so close to the show’s opening date. She laughs and genuinely asks, “Who’s going to stop me?”
Amanda passionately describes her most recent art. “My work has totally evolved. I want to say it’s stronger but that makes it sound better and I don’t know if it’s better. It’s less apologetic. I used to make such frail and fragile sculptures. As I’ve become more confident, my work has gained a type of armor. The pulling, twisting and angst is still prevalent but the pieces are protected by a stronger framework.”
There is a piece called Beholden, named in reference to the phrase, “In the eye of the beholder.” It is about beauty and the specific standards that are associated with that idea. Amanda describes the fascist symbol that inspired her, “I was obsessed with these emblems that encouraged such shallow standards of what beauty should be for the media and fashion industry.”
Strength and confidence didn’t come easy for Amanda. She said, “My work used to be terribly tasteful. I played with muted colors that melted on the wall. It was my timidity showing through. Now I’m using bright red with studs and I’ve moved my pieces to the center of the room, to be in your face. I’m still working with holes and shadows but everything is magnified. The pins I’ve been using lately are upholstery pins so they’re very dainty but they’re surrounded by this strong protective armor.”
Slippery When Wet is about being a woman and having certain expectations associated with that. Role Play looks at three distinct stereotypes that are placed upon women at different stages of life. The outside framework of the piece is a tree trunk filled with holes. Within the holes there is a twisting object that is very fragile. The point being that the delicacy is evident but is safe within the strong armor.
“For me, the piece Political Hair has to do with reaching and shattering the glass ceiling. It has to do with people telling me to smile when I’m walking down the street. I really believe that if I were a man, some of my traits would be much more appealing.” Amanda points out that she does appreciate the way gender roles have evolved. “Who is home looking after my girls, cooking, doing the laundry? My guy. He’s there to support me while I’m working all day and all night.”
We somehow come full-circle and find ourselves in a colorful discussion about how Amanda never truly felt at home while living abroad. “I touched down in New York City ten years ago and I knew this was what I had been looking for. People work their asses off here. Everybody works and hustles. You have to be hungry and I get that,” she said.
Slippery When Wet will be open from December 15th to the 28th in New York, with Causey Contemporary at Central Booking, 21 Ludlow St, NY, NY 10002, 6-8pm.