INTERVIEW WITH REISHA PERLMUTTER

Why do you do what you do? What motivates and drives you as an artist?

When I graduated in 2012 from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Eric Fischl gave a very poignant commencement speech. Of all the things he said, the sentence that resonated with me the most was that “painters don’t choose to be painters, they only choose to be better ones”. This really spoke to who I am, and the inability for me to ignore a deep desire to communicate my world through painting. Painting for me is an unspoken language that contextualizes my world.

For as long as I can remember, figurative works have always fascinated me. I am equally interested in the philosophical nature of being as I am with the scientific nature of being as it relates to the body. Painting the body becomes a deeply engaging and intimate way of understanding multiple aspects of life, death, and everything in-between.

Painting the figure is the closest way for me connect with my most carnal fears, and fascinations. This is something that continues to drive me because understanding or mastering the complexity of body impossible. Through this insatiable desire to understand, I find myself falling in love over and over again with the body of a cellular level, on an emotional level, and on a philosophical one.

What inspired you do work with models in/under water?

Before answering this question directly, I think it is important to address the importance in my process of seeking out “women” as opposed to “models”. When photographing women, it is important that they are uninhibited, not just by insecurities, but equally by not relying on poses. I want my work to feel organic, connected, and not manipulated. For this reason, water is an incredible vehicle that allows women to move without restraint. Water holds them, and the feeling of weightlessness and kinetic awareness, bring women into a sense of empowerment as a relationship with their bodies and sensation is created. Water is equally beautiful in its ability to abstract the body, allowing for the figure to escape judgment by compartmentalizing different body parts. Light as it moves through water over skin, paints a cohesive image between body and environment I have been working with female imagery, biology, and natural environments for many years. It wasn’t until I moved back to Florida from New York because of a shoulder accident, that I was able to reconnect deeply with the environments that had imprinted on me so deeply as a child.

During my timeI was rehabilitating after surgery, I was thinking about my body and its intelligent ability to heal on a cellular level. For me, even though the inability to do simple tasks was debilitating, there was a sense of beauty and poetry in my healing, where I really connected to the natural environment around me, and how the natural world invited my body in to connect with the world. An injury, or even sickness was no longer isolated, and instead became part of the framework of the natural world in which my body existed.

I would look at the light as it filtered through the leaves and onto the dark dirt in beautiful patters. It was from this that I began painting women laying in soil, where light patterns on their skin became part of the fabric of the image. I wanted to reiterate the connection between body and environment as biological, and ultimately intelligent.

From this work, I naturally moved to water, where light reflections similarly moved across the body and abstracted it. Water, like dirt, was instinctive imagery for me because I spent so much of my childhood in and around it. It was also incredibly healing for me, in its ability to remove my physical pain, and allow me to float and connect to my body. This is where the water work came from.

​You have lots of natural light and plants filling your studio, do you work best when your surrounded by nature?

Absolutely. I touched on this in my last answer, but nature is where I really connect.

As much as I love New York, I pine for the feeling of dirt on my feet, and the smell of the trees after it rains. I think that the natural light and plants in my studio help me keep my sanity in a neighborhood that is primarily made of concrete.

Lastly, what does it mean to you to be an ArtLeadHer?

For me, an ArtleadHer means being a strong female artist, where women statistically are significantly underrepresented in the industry. I am so honored to be in the upcoming show King Woman, where the other artists showing exemplify what exactly it means to be an ArtLeadHer. The work is simultaneously beautiful and strong. I love the title King Woman as it relates to the show as well as being an ArtLeadHer. For me, a King woman isn’t as much about gender as it is about breaking stereotypes associated with gender, and allowing for a woman to be equally strong as a man without compromising her femininity.

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