I find Amanda Charchian’s artwork to be radically romantic and satisfying. The beauty, brains and honesty in her work make me tick. Her artistic experiments are saturated with an organic, youthful spirit that have fully realized concepts behind them. All of her images give my imagination the dose of mystery, surrealism, and color it craves.
Amanda and I have been following each other’s work online for about a year now. Now and again we have checked in with each other to ask for tips or give each other artist-girl-power pep talks. Last week we realized that we not only went to the same university, but that we only live about five minutes away from each other in a hilly neighborhood east of Hollywood. I invited her over to my house a few days ago and we sat in my room completely nerding out for hours. We shared our artistic processes, curiosities, inspirations, and quickly dreamed up a collaboration that is now in the works!
Charlies, I would like to introduce you to this unique and talented young lady!
Claire: Salutations Amanda!
AMANDA CHARCHIAN: Hello Miss Claire!
C: I’m always so curious which kind of cameras other photographers use so I have to ask…what’s in your camera bag?
AMANDA: I have a lot of magical items in my camera bag that I use to put in front of my lens. Lately its been dead butterflies I collected from the French part of Switzerland, glittery baby’s breath taken from a cactus planter that says “ZAZI” in rhinestones that my dear friend Meghan Edwards made for my birthday, prisms, expired film, sparklers, etc. The cameras I use vary based on what works at the time. Right now I have a medium format Hasselblad on loan from a friend, a really standard 35mm manual Canon and a few point and shoots. I shoot exclusively with analog equipment and film. I embrace under exposure, multiple exposures, and light leaks. I have been using this handmade Austrian film lately that is really unpredictable. I love that. Also, film grain is really important not only aesthetically but it has a conceptual function too. For my eyes, it best translates the energy of the moment, becoming the immaterial ether that surrounds us all the time. The psychic soup that our thoughts and emotions exist in.
C: How has your upbringing inspired your work?
AMANDA: I very much appreciate the freedom I have of being a female artist in the US. My parents escaped the oppressive Islamic regime of Iran in the late 1970’s for the sake of their children’s freedom. The dangerous risks they endured are the very reason I have the privilege of expressing my creativity full time. Women aren’t even allowed to sing in public in 2012 Iran, let alone do what I do.
C: You dabble in everything from analogue photography, to super 8 film, to crystal sculptures. Do you have a favorite medium?
AMANDA: Every medium has its own purpose in my life and expresses different parts of me. Photography satisfies the immediate part of my creativity, the need to respond to my surroundings. It is an interesting thing because although technically it is a time based medium, photographs exist outside of time for me. You can look at the same photo for an hour or one second and the photograph doesn’t change. But in every moment you are changing so your perception of the photograph is also changing but the actual photograph never changes. Often times people can use images for hypnosis or meditation, a portal between states of consciousness. I also really enjoy photography’s ability to be viewed both on a screen and in physical space as images. A lot of times I will photograph something, make a print and then paint on it to make an entirely new image. I also love making hanging crystal sculptures because they exist in physical space in an even more pronounced way than any other artistic medium. They spin around and refract rainbow light on all that surrounds them. They really produce an awe filled response as if people are witnessing angels on the Earthly plane. There is something very special about creating an object that people can relate to on a visceral level that relates directly to the scale of the human body. The sculptures become reflections of our astral bodies or ourselves as light beings. It sounds New Age when I talk about it, but the experience is truly transcendent.
C: The word “YES” is a reoccurring mantra in much of your work. What does YES mean to you?
AMANDA: Yes is definitely a mantra that can never be said enough as it is essentially an affirmation. The embracing of YES is about acceptance and seeing things as they really are and empathizing so much that you become fully united with the essence of something. That is the basis of sympathetic magic and white magic.
C: I admit I’ve watched your super 8 film “Up Is A Nice Place To Be” at least 10 times. Can you tell me a little more about this adventure in Costa Rica?
*Note: this video contains nudity
AMANDA: I went with two very special and creative women Ingrid Sophie Schram and Ana Kras and whose work you should look up. We had been talking about going somewhere beautiful together but didn’t make any set plans until they showed up to my housewarming party with the surprise that they bought me the ticket to go a few days later. The whole experience was incredibly magical. We went surfing, played with sloths, ran around in pitch black jungle rain. We were experiencing full feminine freedom and uninhibited expression. I think I shot 18 rolls of film in 10 days because they are both absolutely break taking and inspiring. I once heard that really great artists are “always on the way to work.” That is definitely true for me, I am constantly gathering inspiration and responding to my environment aesthetically. Next I would like to find a muse to go with me to Iceland next summer.
C: I often find that once I’ve created art from my adventures they are permanently idealized in my mind. Does this ever happen to you? Do you think creating art from your experience in Costa Rica embellish your memories of the trip?
AMANDA: Memory for me is not usually visual, it tends to be more emotional. Perhaps that is a key factor in my interest in photography. I do not shoot to remember things, I shoot to create new memories that never really happened for anyone else but me. I often take pictures in moments that feel strange. I am more of a surrealist than a documenter. There is that famous Anais Nin quote “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.” That really explains my relationship to memory. Rarely do I remember what happened in terms of a sequence of events but rather as a series of unrestrained vibrational ruptures.
C: We’ve discussed at length the advantages and frustrations of working for commercial clients. Do you see yourself wandering down a path of commercial fashion and portraiture in the future or continue working primarily as an exhibiting fine artist?
AMANDA: It is hard to answer that question because the commercial world is full of fine artists and in this post postmodern age the line between those worlds is very thin. I definitely have a moral ground I am determined to keep refining in terms of what my artistic values are. However I am too young to make any grand decisions about the future. I am working non-stop and this summer has been filled with commercial collaborations and unexpected opportunities that have prevented me from focusing fully on my studio practice, so the balance between those worlds is on my current navigational agenda. There is less of a psychic risk with commercial work because the results are never purely my own concepts and interests while with my personal projects have of a direct reflection in their entirety of who I am as an artist. That is why I will never stop being a fine artist primarily. It is important to take those psychic risks because that is how you grow as an artist. It is very easy to find an aesthetic formula that works and doing it over and over again to brand your “style” but where is the fun in that? And at the same time it is interesting to collaborate with the societal construct of “industry” and engage in that part of the possible human experience.
C: Do you have any new projects on the horizon?
AMANDA: I am constantly working on new projects. I am currently trying to balance my personal projects with my collaborations with friends. I have just curated an international female analog photography exhibition. The show is called “Pheromone Hotbox” and features some of my favorite young female photographers whose work explores the darkness of the female psyche in relationship to pheromones. I have been working on the show for almost a year, refining it conceptually and conducting experiments to fully realize the potential of the work. I’m also in the process of creating new crystal sculptures for an exhibition in early 2013. =) On a daily level, I upload my photos on Instagram because I love the idea that I can create something and put it in someone across the world’s hand in a second. It really is such a weird and interesting thing for a contemporary photographer.