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Portland Painter Amanda Dawn Potter

Portland Painter Amanda Dawn Potter

Photo by Mercy McNab
Photo by Mercy McNab

She likes you, and she hopes you like you too. At least that’s the message Amanda Dawn Potter is hoping you would get out of her latest watercolor series, “Remember to Water the Garden,” exploring gender-neutral sexuality and self-pleasure. Behind the statuesque curves and gentle colors of the bodies depicted in her art lies a strong statement about the importance of self-love and sex positivity. For those of us who have struggled down the judgmental path of criticizing ourselves endlessly, Potter encourages us to appreciate the unique curves that make each of our bodies beautiful. She is encouraging us to be brave and explore what arouses us, to pick up a mirror and take a proud look, and to be able to own what reflects back with pride.

"Rooted" (watercolor, 2015)
“Rooted” (watercolor, 2015)

ELEVEN: Where is your artistic background from, you’re from Utah, did you study art there?

Amanda Dawn Potter: Ya I am from Utah, but I did not study there. When I went to high school art was kind of what got me through school. I was lucky enough to have a very supportive art teacher that was a gentle guidance, she taught me to trust my instincts, to experiment a lot, and to try out different ways of gathering resources. I’ve just invested myself into trying to be self-taught and to instead learn from people as much as possible.

11: What kind of artist do you consider yourself to be?

ADP: I used to consider myself as more of an illustrator, but about five years ago I started painting and now I definitely think more in color. I am still very fresh into that world and I still don’t feel like I can do exactly what I want, but maybe that’s the kind of hunger of it. A lot of times my art is like a visual journaling of how I am trying to be myself, which is also a kind of dialog with myself.

11: Do you think of your art as political?

ADP: I think politics start on an intimate level for me. You can read into it as political but I think on a foundational level it is very personal. I think that’s why it starts with how we view ourselves, how we want to be viewed by the world, what our rights are, and how we want people to treat us.

11: Would you consider yourself a feminist?

ADP: Feminism under the description of equality yes, then I would describe myself as a feminist. There have been so many takes on feminism that I really prefer to stay away from big bulky statements because there are so many different ways that it can be interpreted. I think if you can whittle it down to the basics of equality and then talk on that level then it’s easier for more people to relate to.

11: Why did you choose watercolors as the medium for your recent work?

ADP: It was kind of serendipitous actually. I just read a book that this artist had loaned me about this particular palate and I am just exploring that while also kind of rediscovering my love for watercolor. I love gouache a lot, so it’s really hard for me not to want to opacify things, but I enjoy the challenge too. Minimalism is really attractive to me right now because I have been so tied up with oil paint work, it’s many layers and it’s months of building, which can be a very heavy process. Watercolors are very frank because it just involves my illustration, which takes maybe one day and then only a couple more days of painting.

11: Why didn’t you choose to incorporate faces into this newer series?

ADP: I wanted it to be kind of genderless and faceless because I wanted people to be able to identify themselves with that person more, rather than to be able to think of the person as someone different. I wanted that to be like a connecting factor, where one could identify with the image as a body that could be them or their lover, an act to try to remove a border.

11: Do you think of your pieces as being more romantic or more focused around the physical pleasure that comes along with sexuality?

"Dialogue" (mixed media, 2015)
“Dialogue” (mixed media, 2015)

ADP: I view it as more of an exploration of self and as a kind of avenue of acceptance, not necessarily about being sexual per se, but allowing yourself to be a sexual being. Allowing yourself to look at your vagina or genitalia and realizing, “this is what I got, this is cool, this is my body.” A validation. Being a tall woman who is curvy, it has taken a lot of self-work and shifting my views to separate myself from how things are labeled. Why do we have stipulations of what is “extra-small” or “extra-large,” and why do people have to be labeled like that?

11: Is there a specific audience you had in mind with your work?

ADP: Just people. I didn’t have anyone in mind because you never know who is going to relate to your work. I think that these issues are probably ones that a lot of people face and I just really want to make my work and think that maybe some people will relate to it.

11: Do you think that social media has shaped the way that we judge ourselves or others since it is so much easier to manipulate how you can appear to look?

ADP: I think that when media was more controlled by mostly the people that are in the industry, that there was some negative ground laying for people, like Baywatch-style stuff, in the ’90s. This was before we all had easy access to things like the internet and personal social media. I think that modern personal media has been really body positive. It’s really cool to me to just in a span of fifteen minutes, be able to look through someone’s private blog and see a progression.

11: Do you have any upcoming prospects/shows of what you’re going to be doing after this or do you have anything that you are working on now?

ADP: I always have projects. I was playing around last night and I had this playful idea of a more illustrative theme of this street cat god who wears a cat mask and has a gang of cats that run around in the streets. NYE I will be doing an event at Refuge, and will be using the Tilt Brush, which is a 3D virtual reality concept and they will be projecting what I am making on a screen, there will be live musicians playing as well.

11: Are there any artists that you would like to give a shout-out to?

ADP: Leslie Dorcus and her work, and I have been reading a lot more, read like seven Murakami books as well as a lot of sci-fi stuff.

11: Any other concepts you would like to add?

ADP: I like you! »

– Lucia Ondruskova

"Sweet Nectar" (watercolor, 2015)
“Sweet Nectar” (watercolor, 2015)