44 Amanda Greive
Amanda Greive is a phenomenal painter from central Illinois. She began painting professionally in 2007 and her works might best be described as Symbolist, playing at times with Trompe-l'œil, and with certain references to Surrealism. In the 13 years Amanda has been painting, she has exhibited throughout Illinois, as well as in New York, Los Angeles, Missouri and Kentucky. She's won an Arcadia Contemporary award, a Rehs Contemporary Award, an Ann Metzger Award, Best of Show at a Liturgical art exhibit, and first place at the Illinois State Fair. She has been a HATCH project member for the Chicago Artist Coalition, a board member for the Taylorville Area Arts Council, and a member of several other arts oganizations.
'Dutiful Housewife', 2013
Amanda Greive grew up in Illinois to an artistic and musical family. Nevertheless, she tells Manav Singhi (Artospective, 2017) that she initially planned to be an epidemiologist. She graduated from U of Illinois at Springfield in 2001 with a BS in biology (cum laude), and continued there to earn a masters in public health. But, almost immediately she knew this career wasn't right for her. A few continuing ed drawing classes, and she knew she had to switch to fine art. Amanda then re-enrolled at UIS, this time getting her BA in visual art. All the while, she worked as a legal aid for the 4th District Appellate Court, and as a professional muralist.
Amanda's art revolves around several major themes. She tells Singhi (2017):
"I have always been interested in the human condition--why we feel the way we do, how we address and cope with feelings of loneliness and isolation. I'm also interested in how this concept intersects notions of gender equality and stereotypes inherent in gender."
'Woke Up Like This', 2017
"In my art-making process, the portrayal of relationships symbolically through the interplay of objects and the female figure has been a priority. I have found that traditional representation has, thus far, best suited me in my exploration of this topic, and my imagery references both classical and contemporary symbolism and iconography. While my paintings are singular to my own experiences, it is my hope that they also have a universality to them, wherein the viewer is able to relate his or her own relationships to the portrayals, making the act of viewing the painting an experience in its own right. As such, this body of work serves as an exploration of the human condition, that irreducible part of humanity that connects all of us. We all inherently have a propensity to search for purpose, a sense of curiosity, a desire to be loved and to give love, an acute acknowledgement of the inevitability of isolation, and a fear of death."
'The Girl with the Flower Crown', 2016
"The primary motivation behind my work is to tease out the nuanced emotions embedded within the human condition and to confront isolation and anxiety born of gender-based stereotypes. The floral element of each painting symbolically draws attention to femininity as a source of possible societal, emotional and personal conflict for the figures portrayed. Too, each work is painted photorealistically, so instinctively there is an emphasis on technique. I look to comment on the contradiction between creating realistic imagery and portraying emotional rawness, as well as the uncompromised truth in the imagery portrayed versus its symbolic ambiguity."
'The Feeling of Falling', 2016
In this short interview (with a student named Dmitris), Amanda says her work is about, "Love, maybe not the perfect, blissful aspects of love, but the really tough and painful, and jilted part of love." She says that the still-lifes with skulls represent a victim's point of view - refusing to see what's right in front of you. She also explains why she shifted from canvas to painting on wooden panels - the smoother surface allows for greater detail.
Amanda has been so kind as to agree to an interview about her art. Please read and enjoy, as there's lots to learn from:
1. Let’s start by talking more about your childhood and family. I read that your family is both artistic and musical. Could you go into more detail? What do your parents do for a living? And how artistic/musical were you as a child?
"My family is very musical. My grandfather was in a local band and played several different instruments, and my mother and her brothers all played guitar. My sisters and I also play instruments. All that said, someone is always strumming or singing at family gatherings. Too, both my mom and my grandmother were artists. They would both paint in the evening after the kids were asleep. I suppose I was fairly artistic/musical as a child, though I was more interested in playing sports than I was creating art. Art and music were things that were ever present in my life growing up, so it was really just normal to always be creating."
2. According to your interview in Artospective (2017) you decided to study art seriously at a community college after you had just earned your masters in public health. I’m curious who the professor was that pulled you into art, and if it was more that or just the experience of being in the studio, drawing. And, surely you must have shown some talent beforehand. Did you always long to draw before, but didn’t see it as viable?
“Art making wasn’t something that I aspired to until later in life. I was working in legal research at the time, and my boss allowed me a lot of flexibility. I decided to take a drawing course at a community college. The professor ended up being a childhood friend of my mother. I suppose I showed some talent for drawing, and he really encouraged me to take more classes. And honestly, drawing and painting just really made me happy. I was lucky that I had just an understanding boss and a professor who pushed me.”
'The Point', 2015
3. So, from 2005 to 2009 you were a full time painter, muralist, and legal aid – when did you sleep???
“Haha! Well to be fair, I wasn’t a full-time muralist and legal aid at the same time, but I did work full-time at a paying job and painted fine art in my spare time. Before I had my daughter, I would work during the day and then paint in the evenings and on the weekends. I’d end up painting about 40 hours a week, so I guess it was like having two full-time jobs.”
4. So far as writing a biography, I’m just curious when you met your husband, got married, and how many children? Also, I’m curious, since on your website you make a distinction between art painted before 2015 and art you created after – is this distinction related to your life changing as a wife and mother?
“I met my husband in college and we married a month after we graduated. I have one daughter. I make the distinction between art made before and after 2015 for a couple of reasons. First, I was starting to have quite a few paintings on my website, so I wanted a way to organize them. But probably the bigger reason was that, originally, I painted primarily still life paintings. After I had my daughter, many people around me assumed that I would no longer paint, now that I had a child. They didn’t assume that of my husband. That small gesture really opened my eyes to inequalities that exist between genders. At the same time, I became more interested in painting the figure, and that presented a pretty concrete divide between the work I started creating in 2015 and what I had created prior to that time.”
'The Nail Nest', 2011
5. When I first saw your work, I wondered at the symbolism of everything, the duct tape, the broken dolls, the flowers. I get that the flowers represent womanhood, but could you talk about some of these other symbols, and what they mean to you?
“I loved painting duct tape. To me, it was a very masculine symbol, and I felt like it was a very effective way to represent the binding or holding back of something/someone. I also liked being able to create a trompe l’oeil effect with it. It made me giggle to watch people try to pull the tape off or touch it, thinking it was real.”
'Last Judgment', 2013
6. These symbols relate to gender stereotypes. Could you describe these stereotypes as you see them, and your opinion of them? What effect do they have on our lives?
“As I mentioned, duct tape, to me, is a very masculine symbol. Plants and flowers, traditionally, are seen as very feminine symbols. In my paintings, the placement of the botanical elements has meaning. Is the plant acting as a buoy or a weight? Do you see the traditional view of what it means to be “female” in the same way? The point of the pieces is to create a conversation about this topic so that we can progress toward gender equality.”
7. To what extent do you identify with the late 19th C. Symbolist art movement? And have any of those artists inspired or influenced your work: Moreau, Khnopff, Redon, Bocklin, Munch, Klimt?
“I don’t really identify with that movement.”
'Within/Without (See No Evil)', 2012
8. I have a few questions related to specific works. First of all, your still-life titled ‘Meh’. Did you choose that title before or after you painted it?
“I chose the title “Meh” after I painted the piece. It was originally titled “Meh (but Science)” That painting was created to be used in a show about genetically modified organisms, but I guess you could, secondarily, consider it a commentary on the lack of consideration for realist art.”
'The Sound of Silent Flight (Hear No Evil)', 2012
9. Next, was ‘Reliquary’ in reference to or commenting on Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’?
'Fountain', by Marcel Duchamp, 1917, photo by Alfred Stieglitz
“I wasn’t really thinking about 'Fountain' when I created 'Reliquary', but I can absolutely see where you could make that connection! When I painted still life pieces, I always would represent myself as a pear in the pieces. I painted this piece when I was going through a particularly difficult time, hence the urinal and the crown of thorns adorning the pear.”
10. In ‘See no Evil’ and ‘The Point’, is that actual duct tape on the canvas, or is it painted on? It’s done so well, I can’t tell!
“Haha! The duct tape is painted in both ‘See No Evil’ and ‘The Point.’”
'Label (White Trash)', 2014
11. Is ‘Dutiful Housewife’ in any way autobiographical? Do you ever feel like that?
“Absolutely, ‘Dutiful Housewife’ is somewhat autobiographical. To me, that painting is about having to go through the daily grind of keeping the home running smoothly, even amidst the chaos that surrounds you.”
'Like Bunnies', 2014
12. Your painting ‘Requiem for the Obedient’. I didn’t show it because it’s not age appropriate for school – but it is a compelling image. I’m curious about the significance of pouring a potted plant on someone’s back, and the significance of all of it. Could you please explain what this work is about, and what it means to you?
“To me, “Requiem” is about feeling the weight of what society deems appropriately feminine. It’s hard, or maybe it’s better to say that it requires a great deal of determination and self-confidence, to live an authentic life, even if that means bucking traditionally accepted norms. Still today, women are expected to get married, have children, work full-time at a successful career, and be perfectly maintained in the physical sense. It’s a lot of pressure, to say the least.”
13. So many of your works seem to deal with varying states of mania – like your ‘Nail Nest’ and ‘Stripped’ for example. Has your life been affected in any way by mental illness or trauma, perhaps a friend or family member?
“Mental illness/trauma hasn’t touched my life in any sort of dramatic way, but I do deal with bouts of depression and anxiety myself, and I do think, to an extent, that it colors (no pun intended) the way I create.”
14. So many artists on my list have tried to avoid the life of an artist – even those brought up in elite art academies like Olga Krimon tried their hands at other careers first, before feeling compelled to paint. I’m curious what you think – if this is a reflection on society’s disdain for art and artists, or if there’s something fundamentally wrong with art education? What is it we’re not doing right, and how can we change it? Or is this just something young men and women have to figure out on their own?
“This is a tough question, but I do think being in the throws of a pandemic has shown us how important the arts really are. I also think that most of society doesn’t see being an artist as a viable career. Or perhaps more to the point, a person isn’t really considered an artist until they are monetarily validated. I’m not sure what we do to change that perception. It would require a pretty systemic shift. I think if you’re drawn to be an artist, you just find a way to make that work, and most of the time that means doing work that pays regularly so that you can create in your off time. There’s no shame in that. No one starts out a star. I will say, too, that after having graduated from art school, I wish that there had been more emphasis on the business side of art. Being an artist now is almost more about marketing your work and creating opportunities for your work to be seen than it is about just creating the work.”
15. What advice would you give to young art students?
“The biggest piece of advice that I have for young art students is to know when criticism is actually constructive. Not everyone will love your art the way you do, but that doesn’t mean that their opinion should carry immense weight. Being an artist requires a pretty thick skin and a lot of time to develop style and technique.”
16. How would you define a great artwork?
“A great artwork creates an emotional response in the viewer. I know that is a bit of a loaded response because an emotional response could be one of disgust… What I mean is that all of the pieces I love, I love because they grab my heart.”
17. If you could own any one artwork, what would it be?
“If I could own one artwork, it would be Bronzino’s ‘Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time.’”
18. If time and money weren’t an issue, what would be your dream art project?
“If time, money and basic physics weren’t an issue, I would love to recreate all of the circus tents in the book The Night Circus.”
19. What do you say to someone who thinks art doesn’t matter?
“First, I would tell them that they’re nuts. Then I would tell them that if they actually believed that, they should throw out their televisions, books, tablets, computers, magazines, stereos, etc… Anything that provides a modicum of entertainment. Art is what makes all of our lives worth living.”