Last March, Amanda Geller, a sommelier living in Greenpoint, found herself, as had so many others, suddenly unemployed. With newfound time on her hands, Geller, who had taken figure drawing classes at Eckford Street Studio whenever she had Tuesday nights off from work, started a project as something of a joke: she asked friends in a group chat if they wanted to send her their nudes to paint. Within days, she found herself suddenly inundated with requests—from friends and strangers alike.
Thus Geller’s “Quaranudes” series of paintings was born—nude portraits, marked by colorful rhythmic lines, and occasionally bursting with passages of flowers. Last spring, Greenpointers spoke with Geller when she was just starting out on the project. We recently caught up with her about how the project has developed over the past year.
What does the “Quaranudes” project look like one year on?
My first chat with Greenpointers was just a few weeks in and definitely helped it spread to more people in the community whom I’d never met. For several months, while it was financially possible for me to, I was donating half of the profits to COVID relief organizations benefiting hospitality workers.
One year on, I have painted hundreds of women and am still going. I have started doing more commission-based works, mostly because those are the requests I have been getting. I have gone through a ton of ebbs and flows with my work which have naturally followed the ebbs and flows of this wild year. I’ve experimented with endless styles and launched a website to display the work.
It looks like people are sending you selfies to paint? What have been some of your favorite commissions so far?
Yes! I have had hundreds of womxn send me their selfies. Most of these were not commissioned. The project started off as something fun and community-based to do during lockdown. It wasn’t until a while in that people requested to buy the pieces.
As for my favorites, I did a series of Robe paintings that was super fun. Basically I requested that people include their favorite patterned robe or clothing piece in the photo. I used this piece to inspire further pattern work or floral designs. I am currently doing a series of wine glass paintings and request that people send me a selfie with their favorite glass!
Did you study art or how did you first start painting?
I have always taken art classes throughout and after formal schooling, but I did not pursue an art degree. Mostly, painting has always been a personal hobby. It’s been a way for me to calm myself and navigate anxiety. It made sense that when the world turned upside down, painting was the first place I turned.
How do you think your style or approach has changed over the past year? What role has it painting had in your experience of quarantine?
I have gone through so many phases in terms of style. You can see many of the transitions on my page. I am sure that these stylistic changes have had to do with different emotional states during quarantine and the past year. There is a series of super-detailed figures with tightly drawn florals one month and then the next month are a bunch of scribbled and abstracted figures in red. There have been times I felt like I had a handle on things and times I felt like I was going to explode. Most of the time painting has been a way for me to channel all of the instability in a productive way. Other times, I felt overwhelmed by the project too and couldn’t produce something I was proud of for weeks. I have learned to put some boundaries in place to make sure I am still finding joy in it.
Can you tell me about your wine and painting pairings? What are the corollaries you look for between a work of art and a wine that make you think make a good match?
Yes! I am offering live painting sessions with wine pairings. This is something I want to expand on more when things are safer, because it’s definitely more fun in person. The pairings are mostly based on the person I am painting, not necessarily the art piece—though if someone is down to let me paint a piece of them and send them wine to pair with the painting, I think that would be awesome! I am also planning on doing a series of “paint and sip” figure drawing classes featuring wines by womxn winemakers, so stay tuned for that!
Can you tell me about the materials you use?
I mostly work with watercolors and ink by Kuretake. They are a bit more weighty and layerabale than other watercolor brands but offer the same quick drying effects. I am obsessed with them, especially their gold paint series.
I love the works with florals. Can you tell me about those works? Are you adding those florals into the scenes?
Thank you! Most of my patterns and floral works are based on something in the picture the womxn sent me, whether it’s a robe, scarf or bedspread. I did eventually start adding them if requested by the subject and experimenting more. Most of the florals that I add into the scene are actually based on the pattern on one of my favorite dresses that is hanging a few feet from my painting space.
Who are some of the artists from art history you most admire?
Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keeffe , Tamara de Lempicka, Matisse
Tell me a few places in Greenpoint you especially like (wine store, coffee shop, clothing shop! Anything!)
I am sitting outside at Variety on Driggs every morning no matter how cold it is. I love Dandelion Wines and hope to be just like Lily one day. Greenpoint Fish & Lobster is my favorite happy hour spot. I’ll know things are looking up when I can drink a bottle of Nervi Conterno Rosé at their bar again. Archestratus is the best and is my favorite instagram to follow any day.