Amanda French is a Brooklyn-based painter by way of Minnesota who graduated from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 2005. She’s currently working on an extended series of large scale (I mean larger than life scale) paintings based on her memories of summers spent lakeside as a kid. Her paintings feature women (and a couple of guys!) in various states of submersion. The women are all athletic, strong figures very much in control of their bodies and fully enjoying their experiences in the water.
Indeed, French manages to continually depict women under water, some coming up for air and still others completely submerged, and not once create an atmosphere of claustrophobia or anxiety. In my eyes at least, that’s an impressive feat as so many people have instilled fears of drowning (yours truly included). Instead, her paintings are nostalgic expressions of summers past. She paints major swathes of dazzling turquoise and navy to set the mood and create depth. The ripples in the water and oxygen bubbles rising to the surface are perfectly captured so that in paintings like Surfacing, the effect is both hyperrealistic and impressionistic at the same time.
Still other paintings are much more abstracted and quieter in their intensity. Nokomis still speaks to that fond memory of time spent outside in the warm months with friends; the intimacy between the two women is obvious and sweet in their gestures. The technique here though is much more painterly – you’re able to see the brush strokes and the paint is impastoed in ways the other paintings are not.
These paintings are joyful expressions of simple, happy memories from the artist’s childhood. In Backflip, there is something poetic about the girl’s body placement; the backflip isn’t a particularly daring feat in a pool but there’s an obvious grace of movement that French understands. She celebrates not just fond memories of the past but the physical body as well.