art:. amanda de souza, lenox coffee, harlem, new york

New York City. It’s a vibrant thing.

When it speaks to her, she transcribes its influence with tools of varying kinds. Where there is light, she jumps in.

What emerges is something like a solstice of artistic genius.

This is Amanda de Souza.

smdlr: Amanda, its nice to chat with you after meeting you at Lenox Coffee for your art exhibition opening.  Can we start with what is your relationship to Lenox Coffee?

Amanda de Souza: I live upstairs. I noticed that they started having art and photography on the walls.  I wanted to have a show there and told myself, ‘just do it, just ask’.  Sometimes all it takes, is just to ask. When I did, it turns out they were looking for someone to put up art and excited to have paintings on the walls.

s: Just like that?

ads: Yes. I didn’t meet the owner – Aaron Baird – until a couple of weeks ago, we kept missing each other, but we were in contact. My roommate and I stayed on top of it.  Everything that I wanted to do Aaron said yes to it all.  His help was really important, because although Lenox is small, it still matters that the person gives you the leeway such as he has.

s: How does it feel to come downstairs now and be in Lenox Coffee with your art up?

ads: Honestly, I haven’t been able to sit and breathe and really experience it yet. At the time of this interview de Souza just flew to Miami after smdlr met her at her opening reception in Harlem.

But, while I was hanging them,  I had some time to think about the pieces, all of which are from the past year which is when I have been most intensely painting, so its very nice. I can see the progression of my work and its evolution just within that year. It’s also  exciting too because this is my first solo show.

s: You mentioned previously to me that you’ve lived in Harlem for the past year and that you’re originally from Toronto. Are there specific influences for your work?

ads: Lots of my influences are from the city. This is the first time I’ve shown my work in my own neighborhood. Before, I had two shows on the Upper West Side and one in Soho. When I moved to Harlem a year ago, I thought it would be a transitioning thing, but I’m in love with this neighborhood and this city.

s: I see the influences. I see the colors too – beautiful colors. How do you choose to use color and are you trying to communicate something specific?

ads: When I first started painting it was just for fun.  I went to the art store and I had the same colors for a long period of time. I was drawn to the same bright blues, reds, oranges and yellows. That was the connecting factors in my paintings, the vibrancy of color. I don’t have a message in my work, but people like it because it’s bright and positive.

s: Is there anything that you do in your artistic process to achieve those two features?

ads: I like to think about the fact that I want someone to own it. I also want to catch the light. When I work in watercolor I start the process  listening to music– I put my headphones on, as I think its only right to listen to that artists’ music while I worked. And, I use colors that work for that specific artist.

s: I absolutely love your kindred use of music and art.  For me, the use of color has to be special enough to cause me to pause and yours was.

ads: Thank you. I work in advertising too; I’m a graphic designer. I know it’s about drawing your eye in and making you want to see what I’m seeing.

s: Are there certain tools you use to bring you along to achieving that goal for your viewer?

ads: When I’m doing an acrylic painting the main process is the research period; I look for images that are inspiring. I use my techniques from graphic design and I’ll work on the picture in Photoshop and capture the specific angle that I’m looking for. I usually sketch it in pencil first then I jump in with the color.

With the watercolor it’s actually a longer process. I start with an image of a celebrity,  one that is iconic. I make a stencil, print it and use a light box to shine behind the watercolor paper. With a paintbrush and light behind it, I do the hand painting with a masking fluid. Where the masking fluid is, is where the paint won’t go, and that helps to get the stark white that I want.

s: That is so intricately interesting.

ads: I know. I called the show Illumination because each piece has an element of life in it – from the Chrysler building to Lauryn Hill, these are all such characters.   Since I was a little girl, I remember coming to the city and taking pictures especially of a lot of buildings. When I think about my art now, I don’t’ have a style, there’s so much that I like. Since I was a kid I was in all the art stuff, and I’ve been drawing since was little but I didn’t go to school for art, which is amazing, since I’ve only been drawing professionally for two years.

s: Sometimes it just takes time for us to find our art and for it to find us.  What do you find is the value of art finding itself in the coffee shop?

ads: The coffee shop is where people live and work. At Lenox Coffee, regulars don’t come in once a day, its three and four times day. It’s that sense of community.  You can’t miss the art and people respond to it. Its places like Lenox Coffee that change the neighborhood. It celebrates the surroundings, the city and for me, for all my influences to be shown locally is something I’m very proud of it.  To have my work up in my own neighborhood, this is what someone is dreaming about everyday.

For more of Ms. de Souza’s art visit here.

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