Painter Natasha Wright is not interested in conventional ideas surrounding beauty—her work seeks to present women in a strong and powerful way.
Wright’s work is part of the group show “Leaving the Body,” curated by Morgan Everhart. The show also features works by Mel Reese, Alyssa McClenaghan, and Poppy DeltaDawn. The exhibition is on view at The Yard City Hall Park in New York City through November 5, 2021.
We spoke with Wright about the female form, the tension between grotesque and beautiful, and why she’s not defining herself by other people’s ideas of success.
How does your artwork relate to your personal identity?
Natasha Wright: The paintings reference the political and the personal. My practice probes the politics of the representation of the female form. Gender, sexuality, vulnerability and power, seduction, and aggression—these dualities motivate the dynamics of my work. All of my work is linked to my personal identity because I’m making it, that’s hard to escape.
What are some defining characteristics of yourself?
Natasha Wright: As Walt Whitman said “I contain multitudes.” I think all sides of my personality are present in my paintings.
What characteristics of the human form do you incorporate into your artwork? Conversely, what characteristics of the human form do you consciously refrain from depicting in your art?
Natasha Wright: Nothing is off-limits—the human form is sometimes androgynous but is usually centered around the female form. The characteristics vary in each painting. I’m interested in tension and the dichotomy between the grotesque and beautiful. My paintings feel quite gritty and tough but still have a softness and a feminine element to them.
Are you interested in the personality of a specific person you’re painting? Who are the people you’re depicting and why choose them?
Natasha Wright: Rather than depicting an actual person, my paintings represent a more universal emotion or state of mind. Themes central to my work include power, sexuality, innocence, violence, and tenderness.
The starting point for these paintings is often sourced from art historical references, images from pop culture, Instagram etc. When combining these references, I want them to morph into something that is my own.
Who do you make your art for and why?
Natasha Wright: I make art for my own sense of purpose and joy. It is something that has always been a part of my life. If that sense of excitement and intrigue resonates with the viewer, I consider that a success.
Can you talk to us about your new drawings in the exhibition and how your journey of depicting a personal and collective feminine confidence has brought you to making them?
Natasha Wright: Drawing is how I process all of my ideas. I try to draw every day. The confidence can be seen in the linear and direct mark making.
What are some of the personal and political realizations you’ve had with “When Black Swallows Red”?
Natasha Wright: I was mainly intrigued by the surface of the painting—it was a turning point in my discovery of how I could apply paint. It’s very connected to the body and I think of it almost like a skin.
What are your artworks recontextualizing or exposing?
Natasha Wright: My paintings critique the representation of women throughout history, incorporating a wide range of inspiration to create my own personal narrative. References to The Three Graces, ancient fertility goddesses, and matryoshka dolls often weave their way into my paintings. Contemporary culture is also an inspiration as well as advertisements and the pages of fashion magazines. That being said, I’m not interested in conventional ideas surrounding beauty—my work seeks to present women in a strong and powerful way.
All of the examples you’ve listed are conventional ideas of beauty throughout different histories and cultures. Yet, all of them are also strong and powerful. I think your art gives yourself and viewers an opportunity to embrace the power, strength, and beauty in women that transcends time and place.
I’ve had the opportunity to get to know you in recent years, and I know you’re also fascinated with who made an artwork and how the artwork was created. Could you share some of your medium inspiration and exploration?
Natasha Wright: So true, when I look at art, I’m always trying to figure out how it was made and in what sequence. I’m fascinated by materials. I’ll often combine mica, glass, black magnum and sand into paint to build up surfaces. I like the gritty and haptic texture this creates. I’ll often use many different ways of applying paint within one painting.
What is some advice, feedback, or reflections that you would like to share with other artists?
Natasha Wright: I think Louise Bourgeois sums it up—“Tell your own story, and you will be interesting.” Don’t be defined by other people’s definition of success. The path to becoming an artist isn’t linear. Use your experience to tell your own story. Inspiration isn’t necessary and can be somewhat deceptive. I usually find my most interesting ideas come from working and often my mistakes. I don’t go to the studio when I’m inspired; I go every day.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or events?
Natasha Wright: This year, I have solo shows at M Contemporary in Sydney and Sanderson Contemporary in Auckland.