Please join Santina Amato and Lisa Freiman for a live walkthrough and conversation about the artist’s exhibition Convulsive Beauty on view at Bucknell University’s Samek Art Museum from April 14 through June 12, 2021.
“Beauty will be convulsive or not at all … Convulsive beauty will be veiled-erotic, fixed-explosive, magic-circumstantial or not at all.”
— André Breton
The exhibition title Convulsive Beauty derives from the irrational and contradictory concept that André Breton introduced in his books Nadja (1928) and Mad Love (1937). Conceived, planned, and installed via Zoom calls and email in the midst of a global pandemic, Convulsive Beauty was literally created as an out-of-body, virtual, nearly-cyborgian experience between the artist and curator. The exhibition includes abstract works — photographs, ceramics, and new digital prints — that touch upon the notion of the psychosexual body as a living organism and a site of desire. The work has an uncanny sensibility: portraits show women in familiar domestic settings covered mysteriously in amorphous, oozing piles of dough that approximate their weight; biomorphic white ceramic vessels with shiny, screaming-red interiors suggest fleshy genitalia and bodily orifices awaiting penetration. The latest work, which has never been exhibited before, is made from digital line drawings that Amato has populated with film stills from her Amateur Porn series. She then manipulates the resulting contorted abstractions that intertwine and writhe like body parts. While diverse in medium and appearance, these works share a common vocabulary of colors and biomorphic shapes that simultaneously allude to the interior and exterior states of the human body.
Santina Amato was born in Australia to Italian immigrants and has lived and worked in the USA since 2010. Her practice includes a wide range of mediums and formats from painting to sewn sculptures, installations, sculptures, video, and photographic works, and live performances. Amato is interested in the physical nature of varying materials that relate to the domestic environment, such as bread dough, bedsheets, fresh produce, as well as the labor processes used when working with these materials. As a material focus, she often uses bread dough in unexpected ways in installations, sculptures, video and photographic works, and in live settings. For Amato, the life cycle of dough is a powerful metaphor for exploring the ideas of birth and decay, bodily processes, sexuality, and the erotic. When yeast is activated by warm water and sugar, the cells of it split and divide similarly to when an egg is fertilized by sperm. There is a peak moment when dough is voluptuous, full, and ripe, just before it begins to ‘die.’
Lisa Freiman is an internationally recognized curator, museum professional, and professor with over thirty years of experience in the field of contemporary art. Freiman has supported a diverse array of emerging and underrecognized artists throughout the United States and abroad with major exhibitions, commissions, acquisitions, and publications. Throughout her career, she has maintained a steadfast interest in feminist art practices, collaboration, and the contemporary recuperation of historic Surrealism. Freiman currently works as an independent curator and writer with a tenured faculty appointment in Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts in Richmond, Virginia.