I paint women in poses of disquieting power. My female figures often make eye contact with the viewer, and there is confidence, directness — even confrontation — in this gaze. The figures are surrounded by and overlaid with an array of repeating symbols that further reinforce their strength. I want my work to hit viewers on both a conscious and subconscious level. By using a graphic visual language, with bold colors and sharp edges, the paintings can be instantly digestible. On closer examination, the inclusion of symbols and sigils, both common and esoteric, adds layers of meaning and mystery to the work.
I’m interested in creating images of women whose power is communicated through a body language and symbology that connotes their emotional and spiritual depth. My work aims to make visible the internal worlds of the female figures I depict. As a woman, and furthermore as a woman who is often perceived as being “feminine,” I can attest that the wider culture too often associates femininity with being lesser than, or weak. Many traits that are seen as the purview of women, such as empathy, intuition, and emotional awareness, are underappreciated in our culture, but I believe these and other so-called “feminine” qualities can actually be sources of immense strength. Of course, these traits are coded as female, but they exist in men as well. My paintings take on female forms, but they are representative of an energy or archetype that exists in all genders. My ongoing series “Water Warriors” explores this idea, using water as a metaphor for the subconscious, emotion, and the unknown. The figures emerge from waves whose shape intentionally follows the amplitude and phase of theta brain waves, which we experience in REM sleep, periods of intense creativity, or meditation.
I have been interested in depictions of women ever since my childhood. My American mother trained as an artist and at a young age introduced me to art and art-making, filtered through her tastes. I was always drawn to portraits, which, through the most subtle of means, seemed to offer a window into both the subject’s and the artist’s psychological state. My mother loved the Bay Area figurative artists, and I connected most to Joan Brown, one of the few women in the group. Brown’s subjects, often female, had an intensity and a brazen quality that appealed to me even as a girl.
My father, who is Peruvian, worked in the hotel industry and growing up my family moved every two years for his job. As the moves accumulated, my mother found it increasingly difficult to maintain her studio practice, and ultimately stopped painting. At an early age, I perceived the external world as unpredictable; every few years a new city, a new home, and a new cast of characters was introduced into my life. This fragmentation meant I was raised in a variety of environments, and witnessed many ways of being. The most stark contrast was our move, when I was 11, from liberal, oddly reserved Massachusetts to conservative, deceptively warm Texas. I began to identify less and less with the physical places I inhabited and more and more with my internal world.
My work broadens the prevailing societal definition of strength and suggests that emotional complexity and receptivity can be sources of power. The figures who recur in my work are not individual women, but rather archetypes who, to me, represent and redefine diverse aspects of the feminine experience, ranging from the nurturing to the mercurial. My paintings operate within the tradition of using archetypes as universal symbols that call upon humanity’s collective unconscious.
Though I am primarily a painter, my working process is informed by collage. I sometimes think my life has been a collage of different places and influences. The first phase of my artistic process involves intensive research. I collect images from a variety of visual archives. My process is not linear; I might glean a photograph of a shaman published in a natural history magazine from the 1940s, an engraving of a female Pictish warrior from 1585 by Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues, or the illustrations of ancient lunar symbols in Anne Kent Rush’s 1976 book, Moon, Moon. I also study related texts. I’m often reading scholars of Buddhism, such as Robert Thurman, and scholarship on spiritualism and abstract art. I explored these themes in my series of mandala paintings, whose concentric designs incorporate a repeating female face (and sometimes a hand) orbiting around a center point.
My research is motivated by my desire to represent, through my paintings, a richly developed and specific internal world. Though the starting point is determined, my process is open-ended, allowing for a serendipity of connections among the information presented. After I complete the research phase for a particular painting or series of paintings, I begin a phase of heavy editing, during which I explore the harmony and the relationships between each element. It is at this point that I begin thinking compositionally about my next paintings. The images and ideas I cull from my research become a vocabulary from which to select — not rationally, but intuitively. Each element corresponds to a part of our collective unconscious. Thus, in my work, whether a viewer consciously realizes it or not, I am calling on specific histories and meanings.
I paint with acrylics on panels. My compositions are highly symmetrical and involve a lot of measuring and mapping to create the basic architecture of the image. When I paint, the images I encounter through research resurface in sometimes unpredictable ways. The way the shaman knotted his headscarf in the magazine photo might be transformed into a headpiece that I put on one of my female figures, or a Pictish rune might enter the painting in dialog with a Tibetan mandala.
I am at a crucial stage of my career; only within the last few months, because of the success of my recent two-person show, have I been momentarily able to devote myself full-time to my studio practice, and I am eager to continue and deepen that level of focus and discipline, which winning the Rema Hort Mann Foundation grant would allow. Having witnessed my mother and many other artists (especially women) discontinue their artistic practice because of lack of support, I feel a burning ambition to maintain the momentum I’ve been building as I approach my upcoming opportunities.
In my art, I try to find points of connection between the historic and the contemporary, and between different symbolic systems. I want to forge a connection with the viewer, but I never want my work to feel overly didactic. What I want most is for my paintings to create a sense of mystery — to hit the viewer on a subconscious level. I want my images to have power, but also to have a soothing, hypnotic quality — to pull the viewer into a deeper state, and a deeper part of their self, through exposure to a different internal world.
2005 B.F.A. Boston University, Cum Laude, Boston, MA
“Time & Tide,” two-person exhibition with Amanda Valdez, Denny Gallery, New York, NY.
“The City & The City,” group exhibition, Denny Gallery (Pop-Up), New York, NY
“The Ocean Is Double Sided,” group exhibition, SEASON, Seattle, WA.
“Suddenly Last Summer,” group exhibition, Longhouse Projects, New York, NY.
“Diamond Seat,” two-person exhibition with Amanda Valdez, Circuit 12, Dallas, TX
“Birds of Paradise,” solo exhibition at pop-up, non-commercial space, Dossier Outpost, organized by photographer Skye Parrott. New York, NY.
“Sargent’s Daughters,” group exhibition, Sargent’s Daughters, New York, NY
“Typhoon Haiyan Relief,” group exhibition, The Lodge Gallery, New York, NY
“Black Lodge,” group exhibition, Interstate Projects, New York, NY.
“Visible Alternatives,” group exhibition, Festival of Ideas, The New Museum, New York, NY.
“The Sultans Played Creole,” group exhibition, Champion Contemporary, Austin, TX.
“All That is Unseen,” group exhibition, co-curated by Caris Reid and Meg O’Rourke, Allan Nederpelt, Brooklyn, NY
“Cleopatra’s Presents,” group exhibition, Leo Koenig Inc. Projekte, New York, NY.
“Autosuggestion,” group exhibition, curated by Caris Reid, Dossier Journal Pop-Up Space, New York, NY.
“Mouthful of Poison,” group exhibition, Ramiken Crucible, New York, NY.
“Behind the Green Door,” group exhibition, DNA Gallery, Providence, RI.
“7:10,” group exhibition, National Arts Club, New York, NY
“Objective Affection,” group exhibition, BOFFO, Brooklyn, NY.
“Keep Calm,” group exhibition, Mahan Gallery, Columbus, OH
Zufalls Variablen, group exhibition, Berlin, Germany
Briggs Robinson Gallery, group exhibition, New York, NY
“Boston Drawing Projects,” group exhibition, Bernard Toale Gallery, Boston, MA
“Young Masters,” group exhibition, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX.
Prizes and Awards
2001-2005 Merit Scholarship Boston University, Boston, MA
2001-2005 Alumni Scholarship Boston University, Boston, MA
Residencies and Fellowships
2015 100 West Corsicana, January Resident, Corsicana, TX
2008 Many Mini Artist Residency, Berlin, Germany
2008 Takt Kunstprojektraum Artist Residency, Berlin, Germany
Reid, Caris, “Alice Neel at David Zwirner,” review, Dossier Journal
Reid, Caris, “Hans Ulrich Obrist: Interviews 2,” review, Dossier Journal.
Reid, Caris, “Tony Cox: White Trash Mystic,” studio visit, Dossier Journal 2010 Reid, Caris, “Sleepwalkers: Jockum Nordström and Mamma Andersson at David Zwirner,” review, Dossier Journal.
Reid, Caris, “David Salle,” interview, Dossier Journal.
Reid, Caris, “Julie Mehretu at the Guggenheim,” review, Dossier Journal.
Reid, Caris, “Dorothy Iannone: Play it Again at Anton Kern,” review, Dossier Journal
Cohen, Alina, “According to the Moon’s Cycle,” Forbes, April 19.
Headrick, Kristina, “Caris Reid Merges Healing with Art,” Brooklyn, March 17.
Parrott, Skye, “Amanda Valdez and Caris Reid: Interview,” double or nothing.
Pechman, Alexandra. “Seven Artists to Watch in 2016,” NYLON Magazine
Langner, Erin. “Endless Summer: Prolonged Moments Among SEASON Gallery’s Paintings,” New American Paintings
“Goings on about town: Art. ‘Sargent’s Daughters’,” The New Yorker
“Caris Reid & Amanda Valdez,” Women Artists Interviews Volume 2
Wunsch, Noah. “Caris Reid: These Are Your Dreams,” New York Press.
Wright, Tillet. “The Lowdown,” The New York Times Style Magazine.
Lyles, Isaac. “Shutflower,” S Magazine.
Streeter, L. and V. Campbell. “All That Is Unseen,” Art Observed
Caris Reid, Dossier Journal, Issue IV.
“7:10 The New Guard in New York,” Vogue
Relevant Work Experience
2012-2015 Teaching Artist and Founder, Collage with Caris, led a collage workshop series with rare vintage material in New York City, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Boston>
2010-2013 Volunteer Artist, Art of Elysium, taught collage workshops in the pediatric wards at Mount Sinai, Beth Israel, and other New York City hospitals>
2010-2012 Contributing Editor, Dossier Journal, wrote reviews, interviews, and features about art and culture.
2006 Studio Assistant for Kehinde Wiley, worked as background painter for the artist’s exhibition “Scenic” at Rhonda Hoffman Gallery