Amanda Charchian | Studio Visit
Inside Artist Amanda Charchian’s House of Yes
by Adarsha Benjamin
Amanda Charchian possesses the type of energy that can light up a room, possibly a small city, and potentially the entire world. She harnesses an optimism and ferociousness that is contagious and exciting, and her work is a product of that. It’s definitive and totally provocative. It’s mystical and fully driven by a spiritual desire to create. Her home, the one she shares with her boyfriend, Guy Blakeslee, is living proof of life as art, art as life, and of her commitment to a higher plane. Here, I asked her a few questions about her work.
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA.
How did you get here?
My parents emigrated from Iran in the late 70′s to escape political and religious oppression. I was born here at the request of my older sister Sunny. Despite my mother’s medical complications prior to my conception, I was brought to life as my sister’s little present. She is somewhere between a sister, mother, and best friend and conceptually responsible for my existence.
Tell me about YES.
For me, yes is a mantra I use often in my work. The YES mentality is about not only witnessing but accepting the actual nature of something in all its energetic complexities. The embracing of YES is seeing things as they really are, which is infinite. It is about empathizing so much that you become fully united with the essence of something enough to have influence. That is a key element of sympathetic magic and white magic.
Where do ideas come from for you, explain in your own words the process.
I am one of those people whose ideas come in a quick otherworldly flash, then they haunt me until I make them real. I really enjoy what I do, so I am constantly working. I am very fast paced and I like working in a trance state, so it doesn’t suit me to adhere to a particular plan. The process always starts with that sort of light bulb flash (usually when I am doing something really mundane), and then I refine the concept. With that concept lurking, the physical making of the work always becomes very intuitive. Yesterday, I was starting a new armature for a crystal sculpture, and instead of mapping out all the details on paper beforehand we just started cutting some metal and welding it together without taking measurements. It’s more fun that way.
When did you know you were an artist?
Always. I had always been making art, but because I wasn’t necessarily showing it to anyone it didn’t seem like fine art to me. Then when I went to art school as a teenager, it seemed more official. I went to an experimental alternative charter high school called The Renaissance Academy. Everyone there was an incredible painter, photographer, musician, actor, writer, etc. The school structure was made up as it went along to suit the students needs, because it had just opened. It was made to foster creativity without restriction. It was good for me to go there because I didn’t have to be the only outcast arty one; everyone around me was also incredibly creative. After getting bored of that school at 16, I left and took my CHSPE exam and started going to community college instead. After I had exhausted all the art and philosophy courses they offered, I applied to art school and enrolled the next month and started a rigorous and focused art education. Everything evolved very naturally because my parents had a very hands-off, style so I literally enrolled myself in school and did everything that my teenage self wanted to do. That experience of independence really shaped the way I work as an artist now. In my own memory, there has not been a time when I wasn’t an artist because I have always been me.
What or who inspires you?
The artists who are taking real psychic risks and doing the work they need to do for the salvation of their souls in this lifetime. I relate to people who create because they have to, because otherwise contemporary existence is just too heavy and incomprehensible.
David Altmejd is my favorite contemporary sculptor, and Louise Bourgeois is my favorite from the past. I am lucky to have many inspirational artist friends. Julia Montgomery is an awesome sculptor (we weld together). Ana Kras is a great friend and inspiration (still my favorite person to photograph). My friend Eliot Lee Hazel is an amazing photographer. One of my favorite people is Ariana Delawari. She just made an incredible film called “We Came Home.” I could go on and on.
What are you currently working on?
I just self-published my first photography book. It contains all the series I made in the year 2012. It will be available on my website within a week. I am going to London to install the last crystal sculpture I made into a gothic cathedral on Portobello Road. My friend who bought it created the perfect home for it, the roof is triangular, so it appears to be made just for the space. And it has these amazing gothic windows for the light to come through for fantastic rainbow action. I am also starting to create the armatures for some new crystal sculpture works. I am incorporating lights into them, so they not only reflect and refract rainbows with sunlight, but so they can give off light from an internal source at night.
I also just curated an all analog female photography show called “Pheromone Hotbox” featuring the work of Ana Kras, Ellen Rogers, Alison Scarpulla, Aëla Labbé, Stella Berkosky and Logan White. It will open in early 2013. I also just started playing drums with my boyfriend Guy Blakeslee, and after our first performance, it is all I want to do. So I hope there will be more of that in my future as well.
Your dream for the future now?
My dream for the future on a global scale is that people will wake up to the challenges we face on this planet and take immediate responsibility and action for the change we want to see. It is common to feel a heavy weight, that there are entire structures and systems that need to be upturned completely, and that the little things we can do are too miniscule. I believe revolution starts within oneself. When that transformative energy of an inner alchemy is produced, it becomes infectious. American culture is slow to speak in subtleties, but I find that that level of influence to be incredibly impactful. I don’t want to live in fear that I can’t do anything. I am noticing that the existential nihilism of the 90’s and early 00’s is slowly dying off to a youth culture that is more present and hyperaware of their responsibility to create the future. I find disinterested-ness atrocious and hope that more people will have a deeper relationship with the sacred.
Amanda’s work can be seen at www.amandacharchian.com