by C.P. Chay
Flint-based artist Amanda Simons has created the female form in an array of poses seen through the gauzy lens of dress patterns.
Says Simons, "I use dress patterns because the medium speaks to the fact that they designate a female trade—learning how to sew. When someone sees a dress pattern even now in contemporary times, it represents a woman; someone who has been brought up to act a certain way … on that level you have the historical link and on the conceptual level, you think of placing someone in a hole … the patterns give a feeling of a blueprint … like you are predestined to be this way. I like using patterns as a foundation to weigh my figures that are running parallel with the idea of fitting into a diagram or a blue print."
Simons starts out with a basic canvas and draws a design of a figure with an acrylic under painting. She then layers on the pattern carefully so she can see through the dress pattern when it's put down. "Once that's done I'm locked in … I have to be very careful with anything I do on top of the pattern as I can't go back," says Simons. This technique is similar to decoupage, but then she uses oil paint to accomplish her images.
The result is "The Conductivity of Lovers' Embrace"—a life-size painting of two women in a romantic embrace which looms in defiance of social rules above the gallery floor—a testament to Simons's bold statement of expression bound in the traditional blueprint of the patterns in which society holds them captive.
"Attention to Detail" is a full-on portrait of a woman that could rival the Mona Lisa with her secret smile, but this lady's look is orgasmic, and she's not hiding anything. Says Simons, "She's looking back at you … it's almost like you're looking at a reflection; it's engaging … it says, 'Look back at me because I'm looking at you.' Once viewers enter the painting, they are sucked into the diagram of the dress pattern … you get the feeling you are drawn into the idea, 'I'm in a diagram … I'm in a blueprint.'"
Simons is not afraid to contradict what is considered the norm as the naked lady in "Convention Contrary" pulses with defiance, while her figure runs the gamut of unconventional sizes which are still restricted by the dress patterns. The figure is painted as if it were a filmstrip … Simons cleverly moves the figure as in an echo from left to right, while the lady plays with her clothes.
Lately, Simons has been working within the three-dimensional space of Plexiglas. Stacked in three panes, the figures of "Once a Bridesmaid" are lined up like Rockettes. "Everybody is in the same dress and shoes, all holding flowers, so you have a progression moving from left to right.… in the background is a series of words that are talking about domestic partnership. It asks, What relation is your partner to you? Spouse, Child, Parent or 'Other,'" says Simons.
Today, Simons equates her feminism with lesbianism and the LGBT community whose struggle has erupted into a frenzy for equality. Says Simons, "Especially now with the current shift in politics from the extreme right to the left end of the scale, the gay rights movements are starting to pop up." Simons compares the gay rights movement to the women's movement, "You see the same kinds of things historically where there's a fight … the country is going back and forth with the question, 'Are we equals?'"
Says Simons, "It's a power struggle; it's the idea that one group is going to lose power and another group is going to gain it.… I think this is the core of it. There a lot of women who believe in traditional values of getting married, getting pregnant, and going on about their lives in the traditional sense." Yet Simons does not mirror the traditional woman; she believes women have to embrace the ideal that they are equal. "You have to believe with all your being 'You can’t oppress me… you can't say that I'm not equal because I am,'" says Simon.
Just when you think feminism is dead, a rising star in the art world has picked up the baton. It gives many feminists hope that despite the 'blockbuster' movie, Julia & Julia (resurrected with great expectations by giddy fundamentalists spewing that women are more then willing to stay home and cook), women like Amanda Simons are pushing throught the BS with their brushstrokes.
Follow Amanda Simons on Facebook or her website.
© C.P. Chay, 2009