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PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art 26.2 (2004) 92-95

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The Logic of Wiggles
Amanda Church's Sunny Biomorphs

Jennifer Coates

Amanda Church, Deep Pucci, the Inaugural Exhibition at Kathleen Cullen's Artek, New York, September 10-October 11, 2003.

Generally, when flesh presses against flesh it feels good. One body leans in and the other gives way to accommodate it. The colorful forms in Amanda Church's paintings co-exist like bodies tensing and relaxing in response to each other or shapes in a room full of pillows that conform perfectly to every curve and indentation. In a streamlined and carefully realized style, she depicts a varied array of swelling biomorphs in happy collision. They take pleasure in probing and being probed, in revealing private, embarrassing thoughts in public; they seem to be poking fun of their own compromised states and invite delectation, at the same time warning of lurking perversions. Church's sunny, high-keyed palette is a foil for intimations of naughty behavior. At times quasi-pornographic, her paintings also reference the microbiological or read like psychedelic but illegible signage. Fitting seamlessly together like jigsaw puzzle pieces, purposefully carved passages of opaque color delineate sensually grotesque scenes. Woozy shapes in bright or milky hues conjure ice cream, sex toys, molars, or genitalia.

In Back to Nature, 2002, a pile-up orgy of muted peach, drab green, and white mutants with palsied limbs and shrunken useless digits intertwine. Are they stuffed animals? Vibrators? Martians? Amputees? Creations somewhere between those of Syd and Marty Krofft and The Pleasure Chest, they are harmlessly sweet yet ridiculously dark as surrogate selves. Joy Machine, and A Different Kind of Happiness, both from 2002, are large works that present groupings of tooth-like figures with sensate underparts peeking out from mysterious clefts. They look like portraits of pets or pathological but loveable family members against hallucinogenic carnival backgrounds. Ein Goldener Moment (2001) shows two white blobby jumbles who greet each other tentatively in a magenta color field. One extends a limp appendage in restrained curiosity and the other is hemmed in by a thick black [End Page 92]

Click for larger view
Figure 1
Amanda Church, Joy Machine, 2002 (top) and A Different Kind of Happiness, 2002

Click for larger view
Figure 2
each, oil on canvas, 600 x 960. Photos: Courtesy of the artist.

[End Page 93]

shadow or barrier. Although separate, the figural blobs seem joined by the negative space between them, as it becomes activated and emphasized by the figures' wavy outlines. Bands of color, sometimes three or four lines thick, accentuate the waves, which all appear to quiver in response to each other. As in all of Church's paintings, the story is about edges that bend under loving pressures from all sides, subject to external conditions and internal imperatives. She adheres to the logic of wiggles, a nonhierarchical sensibility that allows negative and positive space to have equal weight.

Church's earlier paintings, from 2000 and before, have simpler, more iconic compositions. Limpid headless shmoos sit on flat backgrounds. They are central, symmetrical, frontal, and somewhat hermetic. Trophy, from 2000, shows a silhouette of two bodies—one on top of the other—perhaps giving a massage or having sex. In either case, the contact is physically intimate without being specific. In more recent works, the subject begins to fragment and be splayed over a canvas, sometimes becoming a vista or a cross-section. Church journeys into the figures as though she were performing an imaginary laparoscopic procedure, tunneling through canals, tubes, densities of anatomy. The action seems to unfold in giant candy organs and orifices, where tonsils are made of taffy and livers are made of jelly beans. As the images get more compositionally complex, more specific actions are discernible: kissing, inserting, twisting, inverting, fissuring, attenuating, contracting, absorbing, pressing, squeezing. Holes and folds proliferate, as well as dangling testicles, vestigial limbs and buoyant butts. Full Swing, 2003, is like an insane textbook diagram of the facts of life. A jaunty grey inseminator...


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