Born Quinter, KS, 1979. Lives and works in Seattle, WA.
Amanda Manitach's work has been exhibited at venues including Tacoma Art Museum, Frye Art Museum, Bellevue Arts Museum, Lawrimore Project and Planthouse Gallery. She is represented by Winston Wächter in Seattle. From 2012-2015 she served as curator of Hedreen Gallery at Seattle University. She co-founded and co-directed multiple mixed-use arts spaces in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood, including TMRW Party (2014) and The Factory (2015-16). She holds a BA in Literature (2001) from Oral Roberts University, Tulsa, OK.
ABOUT THE WORK
Amanda Manitach is a self-taught artist and the daughter of a Charismatic Christian minister. Obsession, devotion, ecstatic states, manias and female-identifying sexuality (its proscriptions and expressions) are of particular interest in her work.
In her large-scale wallpaper drawings, text melts into vibrating, hallucinatory design sourced from a 1885 French wallpaper sample. The pieces harken to Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper.” In creating them, Manitach invokes a similar physicality to the story's protagonist, generating drawings up to 30 feet long rendered tediously with a 0.5 mm mechanical pencil. The pieces are the product of frottage: smudged, worn and covered with fingerprints where the artist’s body has been—a process both grueling yet intensely pleasurable.
These pieces offer one response to an intersection of western medicine, pathology, spirituality, and female sexuality spanning 140 years, beginning in 1878 with the documentation of the Salpetriere’s iconic star patient Augustine to the present stereotypification of the Xanax-infused housewife. The 19th century hysteric’s howl is traceable in contemporary feminist culture, where strategies of self-objectification and the cultivation of hypersexual personas are a means of reclaiming agency. In attempting to corral a fluid voice that captures an overall chorus of complaint and coping mechanisms, the text in Manitach’s work is appropriated from numerous sources: Internet memes, slapdash aphorisms, suicide notes, overheard quotes from friends—some even occasionally from her own head.
"The unseen history of Amanda Manitach's ecstatic drawings and videos is her actual experience crawling, crying out, and rolling around on the floors of the neocharismatic churches of her Texas childhood while her father preached. Tongues were spoken. Humans barked, roared, and hissed. There was hysteria, and it was called good—as opposed to the symptoms of the 19th-century "women's condition" that Manitach later came to love and also to imbue into her art. Using just pencil on paper, she summons writhing visions of wadded-up fabric that appear to have been exorcised of some wild force. Or florid, syphilitic labia. Her videos might picture her mashing her foot into a stiletto that already contains a pool of bruise-blue paint and a piece of soaked bread. Or masturbating. (You see the ceiling she saw, then an electric shade of green that flashed on the screen when she dropped the iPhone to the ground.)"
-Jen Graves, The Stranger ("Visual Art Shortlist," 2012)
Seattle-based artist Amanda Manitach is best known for her meticulous and ornate graphite drawings depicting lush tapestry, punchy phrases, and feminist undertones. The accumulation of marks, laboriously applied with a 0.5 millimeter mechanical pencil, generates an ephemeral filigreed haze, lurking between thickly blocked letters. Quoting internet-popular 21st century witticisms on Xanax, afterparties, bad girls, or a list of partygirl vices including cocaine and tears; the text belies the immediate impact of Manitach’s visual splendor to emphasize their contrast. This alignment of forms, sweetness, and sharp bite creates an irresistible candy delivering all the danger an overabundance of sugar implies. Love it while it lasts, because it might kill you from the inside later.
Historically, Manitach has explored themes of sexuality, hysteria, revelrous ecstatic pleasure, and religious fervor through a literary lens — most often referencing her beloved favorite, Bataille. Her flirtation with ruffles, lace-like undulations, and the unprecious treatment of surface and paper began with abstracted representational work. In these portraits and close-up views, Manitach depicted large, ruffled, almost floral syphilitic growths, often aligned with graphic blocks of darkened paper and detached from the body. As the work progressed and her references shifted, she moved from these malignant protrusions transforming her visual metaphors into patterns derived from wallpaper. Their delicate, wraithlike presence drives home a feeling of dissatisfaction with the glamor of surface treatment. They ask us to dig further, exposing what lies hidden in the space between walls.
From a distance, these faint grey blocks echo the misty, dark, unending twilight of a Pacific Northwest winter. As though seen through a window, streaks, smudges, and spills haunt the page. In recollecting phantoms, faint remnants of the text she previously set upon the paper shift in and out of focus, finally receding behind whichever latest quip emerges. As if to add emphasis, her frenetic mark and energy both moves away from and returns to gather around the phrase, darkening the edges to reinforce the presence of the ghost, and the idea; and perhaps, the artist herself. If these are in any way an allegory, the semi-biographical subtext of the phrases underscores the outer versus inner life of the artist and those she aligns herself with. Placing herself in deeply rooted subculture relating to the infamous grunge era, heroin-fueled dreams and rain-soaked nights, she brings to light the feverish restlessness underlying the cataclysmic force of Seattle’s tragic icons, Kurt Cobain and Frances Farmer.
These charismatic, mythological protagonists in Seattle history embody intense creativity, devotion, beauty, disobedience, and defiance of conformity. One could imagine that for Manitach, the words of these particular celebrities are somewhat self-referential — the lines begin to blur between what is the perspective of someone else, and what is actually the artist. In stealing these popular phrases from the internet and superimposing them over a decorative background, Manitach hands over several layers of significance behind the metaphor of an ornamental object with underlying substance; much like the bombshell who only gives us what we expect from her and never the breadth of her true inner life. This ambiguity furthers the impact of Manitach’s points on assumption, passion, performance, and depth, revealing a myriad of stunning facets to the beauty — and deeper meaning — of the work.
—Sharon Arnold, Bridge Productions catalog, 2016
"And the body into which all this liquor and milk and coffee and orange juice is flowing is missing in the drawing. That body that was constantly photographed, and that determined the course of its occupant's torment—Manitach takes it off public view. She replaces it with an authoritative stencil. She disembodies the sex symbol (a hungry public devoured the mussed jailbird and the polished starlet alike) and releases her into the ether, like a deity dictating from on high. The words appear at the top of the scroll, and you cannot miss them; this voice does not need to say "listen" to be heard. Manitach made a delicate drawing as solid as a tombstone and bigger than the architecture that tries to contain it, as it spills from the wall down onto the floor.
The mad thicket of smoky, snaking vines behind the letters is where the unspoken hides out. Manitach based the design on a 19th-century French wallpaper that she twisted and interlocked as she went along, forming a mad thicket that evokes an ornate front gate sealed shut by overgrowth. Manitach told me she hadn't noticed that the piece might be about her own mother until her sister pointed it out. She told me that her own mother starved herself to death, trying to stay thin."
—Jen Graves, The Stranger, "The Difference Between Artist Amanda Manitach's Best Work and the Work She's Best Known For," 2016