A Clandestine World

In celebration of her new solo-exhibition at Denny Gallery, which opens on September 7th, I invited artist, Caris Reid to have a conversation with me about her work and how she discovered a brave new world of clandestine spiritual energy living amongst the beauty of nature.  Caris gracefully accepted my invitation.

Caris Reid
Matriarchal Matrix, 2017
Silkscreen, 29 x 22 in. / 74 x 56 cm
Edition of 25
Image courtesy the artist and Denny Gallery

CH: It has been five years since the last time I visited your studio in New York. Recently, you moved to California, has any of its natural surrounding affected the way you work?  What do you find that inspires you the most.

CR: In December, I moved to Joshua Tree and have made work for two solo shows since arriving.  The rhythm is radically different from my NY life...It's been a really hermetic chapter.  There's a brutality to the desert, the energy is wild and untamable, which I respect. Being out here has allowed me to spend a lot more time meditating and observing amongst nature.  Last week a hawk flew into my window while I was painting and then just sat there, dazed, before flying away. And a day or two later I saw a coyote capture a rabbit and sling it around in its jaws, while I sat quietly on the porch watching.  I've seen snakes at my studio door, and found black widow spiders in the kitchen. 


CH: Congratulations on the two new shows.  Can you tell us a little bit about the upcoming solo show "Sub Rosa" with Denny Gallery?  Also, a little about the two-person show?

CR: "Sub Rosa" is a Latin term that means "under the rose" that infers secrecy. Alchemy guilds were said- to place a rose on the ceiling or on the door during meetings to let all the participants know what was said was said in confidence. Themes of exposure and withholding run deeply through the show, most of the figures have an eye partially or fully covered, and there are layers of meaning to the symbols and narratives that appear. The show is much darker in mood than my last solo show earlier this year at Ochi Projects. With "Sub Rosa" I delved into the shadow and the dark feminine. My two-person show upcoming in November is at Monya Rowe Gallery with Elise Ferguson. Those paintings and the themes are still being developed.

Caris Reid
Bloom Like a Cut, 2017
Acrylic on wood, 30 x 40 in. / 76 x102 cm
Image courtesy the artist and Denny Gallery


Caris Reid
Hestia, 2017
Acrylic on wood, 48 x 36 in. / 112 x 91 cm
Image courtesy the artist and Denny Gallery


Caris Reid
Gemini, 2017
Acrylic on wood, 20 x 16 in. / 51 x 41 cm
Image courtesy the artist and Denny Gallery

CH: Just over one week ago, two of your paintings were in a group show called “Unquestionable Optimism – The Barn Show” which opened in July in East Hampton, New York.  Were you happy to be a part of this show and how your works were being presented along this idea of “optimism”?

CR: Definitely. Lindsay Howard is a great curator and repeatedly recognized the zeitgeist before everyone else, I was happy to be included. We're at a moment culturally where the idea of optimism seems strained or even laughable, because so much is on the brink of collapse. I can't speak to the optimism in the other works in the show, but within my own work, there is a hopeful undercurrent. A rise of a more fierce feminine energy.  

CH: You recently did a printmaking project with Wassaic, and made limited editions of "Matriarchal Matrix" on silk screen, which, are still available for sale now. Was this image based on a painting?  What’s the idea behind this work?  

CR: The silkscreens are based on a painting of the same title that appeared in my solo show "Healer. Feeler. Seer. Seen." at Ochi Projects earlier this year. The original is larger and contains more figures. The face in "Matriarchal Matrix" repeats and folds into herself, emerging and vanishing from the darkness of her hair. I was interested in capturing a shape of shifting energy, almost trance like, where it is unclear whether the multiplicity is the extension of the same woman, or if they represent multiple women expanding over time and space. Either way there is a continuation and blurring as to where one figure begins and the other ends. 

Caris Reid
Night Gardener, 2017
Acrylic on wood, 48 x 36 in. / 122 x 91 cm
Image courtesy the artist and Denny Gallery

Caris Reid
Tears of Janus, 2017
Acrylic on wood, 48 x 36 in. / 122 x 91 cm
Image courtesy the artist and Denny Gallery

CH: Five years ago, you showed me some paintings you made of friends and people you had once known.  These days, you have been making works of mythical goddesses.  How did you make the transition?  Or maybe it’s a natural transition, something you’ve been working towards all along?

CR: The work has become much more stylized over the last few years and as meditation becomes a deeper part of the process, the figures start to come from my inner world rather than my outer world. The figures in the paintings are archetypes, they embody a concept or mood. With "Sub Rosa" I was interested in blurring the line between fantasy and reality, and a few of the figures are inspired by real people in my life, including a character that is a fictitious version of myself. 

CH: Do you separate your personal life from your work life?  For instance, do you think of your work as auto-biographical or as a medium that is like a conduit connecting you to the metaphysical?  

CR: My work is its own thing, separate from my personal life. I find inspiration on occasion from themes appearing in my personal life and bring it into the paintings, but it mutates into something else, something more universal.  My meditation and painting practice are interconnected, and have a conduit like aspect to them.

Caris Reid
Sub Rosa, 2017
Acrylic on wood, 36 x 36 in. / 91 x 91 cm
Image courtesy the artist and Denny Gallery

CH: Lastly, can you say something about your current readings?  What is it about poetry you enjoy so much? Does any of it inspire the narrative of your own work?

RC: I’ve always loved poetry, and lately I've been sitting with poems by Jane Cooper and Mary Oliver, among others, reading them on the porch with coffee in the morning. The economy of words with poetry, where every nuance has weight and alters the meaning, is something I really respond to.  I think about that heightened attention to detail often in the studio, trying to arrive at a place where every mark, every symbol is loaded.  My paintings are not inspired by the poems, though I often find parallels. One of the paintings in the show "Blooms like a Cut" gets its name from a line in Anne Sexton's poem "The Kiss." 

*All the paintings in this article will be on view in the Sub Rosa exhibition from September 7th until October 8th at Denny Gallery.  

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