INTERVIEW WITH AMANDA SAGE: PAINTER OF REVOLUTION
Written by Carrie Ann Baade
On a rainy night in downtown Los Angles, I was invited to the studio of Amanda Sage, a Visionary artist who shows with the likes of Alex Grey and Robert Venosa. We ascend in an old elevator to a warm nook of this dilapidated high-rise where she leads me to a corner inside her studio. Beyond the other colorful paintings, Amanda pulls something out that had been tucked away. Unrolling the large linen surface, there was something quite unlike any of her other spiritual, psychedelic work. This was something frightening and exhilarating. Facing me was a woman wide-eyed and mouth open in a cry of power. While I have seen many paintings, I had never seen anything like this. The woman depicted was raising her skirt in both hands to reveal her bareness. From her vagina emits an egg descending toward a table of a corporate board. Thousands of people march forth from either side of her feet, from the left issue forth armed military; from the right, are the working people evacuating the polluted, industrialized world. The lightning of life issuing from the vagina of this great woman provides the first green of new life in this dying world.
CAB: What is the title and meaning behind this work?
AS: The painting is titled ‘ANA-SUROMAI’ which quite literally means ‘to lift the skirt’ derived from the Greek language. This painting is an outcry, an ultimatum, a visual denouncement of the system that has brought our world to a state of chaos with an ever widening gap between those that make decisions and those that are subject to those decisions. It is a wake-up call to humanity. Also known as Anasyrma or plural: Anasyrmata; women have been lifting their skirts for centuries to ward off evil and enhance fertility. This symbolic act is also found in mythologies of various cultures all over the world, and more specifically in those of ancient Egypt, Greece, Persia, Ireland, Africa, Indonesia and Japan.
It is said that the evil averting gesture of women individually or collectively exposing their genitalia has the power to shame & defeat an advancing army. The act of revealing publicly the hidden core of womanhood initiates a process of change that operates on a world scale, as well as, on an individual level.
CAB: Why did this painting require six years?
AS: It took time for me to find the right place to unveil this piece, as well as, be ready to unveil myself before the world… not to mention that I needed to be very clear about why I would lift my skirt. This painting is a rite of passage for me; it symbolizes me blatantly standing up for what I believe. I did not paint this to sell it; I painted it because I had to.
I chose to unveil this painting at the 2011 Burning Man Festival in the Nevada Desert. The theme was ‘Rites of Passage’, and I brought a scaled reproduction of the painting. It was exhibited as part of a large project called ‘Burning Time’. Burning Man was the most appropriate place I could think to show it for the first time. With an audience of over 50,000, it was bound to blast off.
CAB: Where did you first hear about the lifting of the skirt?
AS: I read about the lifting of the skirt in the book ‘The Story of V’ by Catherine Blackledge. She compiled many different stories of women lifting their skirts and I was shocked to realize I had never heard of this before. She states “at some point in human history, female genitalia were considered potent enough to be used as the catalyst for bringing the earth and all life back from the brink of destruction.” My painting of Ana Suromai, or just “Ana” for short, is a prayer for this regeneration.
CAB: This is such an unusual painting and to my knowledge, the only one specifically about this subject, what would be your goal for where this painting would be shown?
AS: In December this was shown at Occupy Los Angeles. I would also like to see it projected onto massive walls in major cities. Currently, I leave postcards of the painting in random places wherever I go, and know that it is making ripples all over the world through the Internet. I would like people to use this as a symbol worldwide to represent the spirit of peaceful rebellion against the status quo.
AS: I would like to see this painting in a very prominent collection, either public or private with the rights to be exhibited in very high profile spaces and shows. I see it touring the world way beyond the thousands of miles I’ve taken it so far and most recently an image of it is being inscribed on microfilm to be sent into space as a part of a time-capsule project.
CAB: What are your hopes about how this might be used to influence our world?
AS: The purpose of this gesture is first to shock one into laughter – and often the laughter is just a brief moment before moving into a more serious inspection of what this painting is saying.
It is said in an old Greek myth, that all it takes is one moment of laughter to give life a chance to spring back into full force. The act of painting this piece was a prayer, and every time I look at it, it reminds me of where I stand and what I believe in. It will take an army of us standing up together to change the course of modern civilization that seems to be hurdling full speed toward its own demise. I hope this painting will inspire people to speak up, to stand up, and to know they do not need any other weapon to make a difference in the world than to have no fear and believe in themselves.
CAB: Do you have plans to paint more paintings about revolution?
Yes, I feel I have been doing this for a while. Although, the revolution I have been painting has been much more in an energetic realm and much ‘easier’ to look at, as they are aimed at direct harmonization of the viewer. This painting is much more confronting and uncomfortable for some. I think most people are incredibly desensitized and need a degree of un-comfort to have a chance at waking up. I would like to believe that a painting could be enough, although I do know that it is only a small part of all of us doing our part in fueling the revolution. I do feel that paintings such as ‘Ana-Suromai’ have an ability to reach so many more people because of how literal it is, and I do look forward to painting more work along this line.
CAB: How do you see art as useful or necessary?
AS: Art is a signpost toward greater knowledge. It fills a gap in our longing to know where we come from and why we are here. It allows us to play with the answers and participate with the ultimate and infinite selection of choice and expression. It is a translator between the dream state and the waking state. Art is an essential part of being human. The soul of the people speaks through the artists, and the artists reflect and give hope to the people. We are at a crossroads in history in this auspicious year of 2012. People all over the world are yearning for change. I believe that we all need to step up and take the reins of our own vessel. That we realize that it is up to us to wake up. The more we find ourselves in a creative space, the more we feed the ripple of consciousness that is inevitable and growing.
CAB: What is next for Amanda Sage?
AS: Currently I am working toward a solo show at the ‘Knew Conscious Gallery’ in Denver, Colorado that opens on Feb. 11th, 2012. I will also be teaching as a part of ‘The Expanded Visions in the Mischtechnik Seminar’ with A. Andrew Gonzalez, Maura Holden and Laurence Caruana in Italy this July for the third year. As well as participating in various festivals worldwide as a live painter and speaker, I am also exhibiting in group shows in Germany, Japan, Australia, England & the US this year.
Between and within all this I plan to keep painting, writing, talking, and dreaming of a movement growing and flowering all over the world that is focused on bringing creative solutions to stagnant waters. I believe that we are all preparing for the next level of action and participation in our communities as well as our global culture. I see a train of inspiration sowing seeds of life and giving permission to have hope and open our hearts. I see the caterpillar turning into the butterfly:-)…
For more information
The interviewer, Carrie Ann Baade, is an Assistant Professor of Painting at Florida State University. www.carrieannbaade.com