We had the good fortune of connecting with Amanda Mears and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Amanda, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
My father’s airforce career meant that my childhood was very international. We moved countries every couple of years and so, wherever we were, I always felt slightly foreign or out of place. On the plus side, that experience gave me an insatiable curiosity about every place I found myself. I was always exploring and seeking to understand, looking closely and asking questions: traits that set me up perfectly for my first career as a documentary film maker. The question of “where’s home?” however remained unanswered for me until I began to make paintings. I found myself drawn to landscape imagery, specifically of places near my grandparents’ home on Exmoor in North Devon: the textures of the stone walls, the incredible shifting colors on the land from sun breaking through cloud, standing ankle deep in freezing river water trying to tickle speckled trout as they slipped by in the flowing reeds. Fences, pathways and the shapes of fields fascinated me because they showed how the landscape has been marked over time by humans’ relationship with it. Our contemporary impact on the landscape from pollution and overconsumption is less benign. The North Devon fisherfolk are gone from the seaside villages, replaced by tourists now that the ocean can no longer support what we want to take from it. Steel flood gates have appeared on the old stone cottages to protect them from the high tides caused by warmer water and rising sea levels. In the studio I explore the way humans are intertwined with the landscape physically, emotionally and imaginatively in paintings that celebrate the kind of places and experiences that are, or will soon be, lost to us.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am drawn to landscape as a subject because I feel an intense connection with it. It also seems like a natural platform to think about the current issues that threaten our environment. When I am not in my West Adams studio I spend as much time as possible outside, camping, hiking and drawing from life. I am never without my sketchbook or camera, constantly recording shapes and patterns from nature. These experiences of sustained looking provide the raw material for the studio paintings. As a film-maker I was used to gathering material and then bringing it back to edit and analyze, and now this is how I make paintings. My photographs and drawings are blown up, manipulated and transformed into artworks that explore the idea of landscape as something ephemeral, fragile, mediated, specific and intimate. The paintings weave together elements of the drawings and photographs: some details are amplified, others are subtracted, until a sense of place emerges.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Most of my favorite places in Los Angeles are outdoors where I go to draw or hike. The Ferndell trail in Griffith park is a hidden oasis of dappled green all year round. You can stop there and draw, or follow the trail all the way up to the Griffith Observatory and then get pie at the Trails Café on the way down. A perfect spring day would be hiking in Topanga State Park when the wildflowers are in bloom, followed by brunch on Topanga Canyon Blvd at the Café on 27. LACMA and the Getty both have lovely gardens to enjoy after touring the galleries and the formal gardens at The Huntington are magical. I also enjoy drawing the pelicans and other seabirds at Malibu Lagoon State beach. In the summer I would recommend going to performances at outdoor venues like the Greek theatre, the Ford, The Hollywood Bowl or to see outdoor theatre in the amphitheater at the Getty Malibu or Will Geer Theatricum in Topanga.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I came into painting as a second career with no idea how to begin and I am so grateful for all the encouragement, advice and mentorship I have received from so many artists who I have met on my journey. Being an artist can be very lonely so the kindness and wisdom of my studiomates, teachers and wider community of artist friends and acquaintances have helped keep me sane and inspired. I am also grateful to the Dean’s and the Walker Parker Fellowships for making it possible for me to earn my MFA at Claremont Graduate University. And of course my beloved husband and family whose belief in me means everything.
Craig Spirko Brian Jones