Everyday Sacred, Ordinary Magic

2 mins read
A close up of a street
Art: Amanda Austin

The Gorgon Medusa applies lipstick.

The Bride of Frankenstein poses for a cameo.

The ancient face of The Green Man emerges from the forest primeval, in greeting and perhaps in silent warning.

A coyote guards the Cobb Estate gate.

“La Catrina,” Posada’s skeletal femme fatale, who has come to symbolize Dia de los Muertos, gazes out from under a crown of stylized roses.

Corvidae regard the human world below from a telephone wire.

Bears, our continent’s indigenous keepers of good medicine, show up for a dip in the pool.

These are just a few of the personae who move through the paintings and prints of Altadena resident Amanda Austin. We chatted as she hung her new show at Rosebud Coffee on Colorado Blvd. near Roosevelt, and learned that there’s magic everywhere. Even when artists, and possibly crows, are the only ones who know it.

She says, “For me, art is a way to try to capture and celebrate the essence of the beautiful, colorful, varied, weird, and mysterious world we live in.  It helps me to face the more tedious tasks of the day-to-day. And since I’m always looking for inspiration and subject matter, I’ve become a lot more observant of colors and everyday scenes that evoke the above.” 

Austin is a self-taught artist who works in the realms of both digital and traditional art media. She uses her iPad and the program ProCreate to generate portraits and some styles of illustration and moves to acrylic and gouache on paper for many of her wildlife and nature paintings.

Mythic and archetypal characters seem as natural to this artist as the familiar cacti, succulents, sunsets, stones and animals she skillfully captures. Folkloric flourishes from Muertos to matryoshka (the traditional Russian nesting doll) perhaps suggest the cultural diversity of our region.

Austin’s work feels strongly rooted in Southern California’s remarkable landscape, where the quotidian easily stretches into the surreal. In our unique region, stars and neon compete for the night sky. Unlikely peacocks strut and improbable flocks of wild parrots screech through the suburban spring evenings, suggesting that we may be someplace else altogether.

Our town’s entertainment industry cred further adds to this: we unconsciously scan even the most mundane-seeming crowd, hoping, straining for a glimpse of the almost-famous.

Austin’s work captures this sense of whimsical possibility, that something remarkable is always about to happen around the next corner, whether the shock of an unexpected desert bloom in front of a deserted storefront, a high-rumped bobcat stalking the driveway, or a visage from an ancient, drowned mosaic that surfaces for a second life in the sunlight.

The mother of two daughters, ages 12 and 9, bored with doomscrolling during the pandemic, casually began creating digital illustrations and portraits of friends and family in 2020.

“I learned digital skills first, and I’m glad I did,” says Austin, straightening a framed painting on the café’s back wall, “because now I have the capacity to size things easily, change the colors if I want to, take my images and make prints, and apply them to merch.”

Amanda Austin’s art will be on view at Rosebud Café through the end of April.


The short URL of this article is: https://localnewspasadena.com/9nlt

Victoria Thomas

Victoria has been a journalist since her college years when she wrote for Rolling Stone and CREEM. Victoria describes the view of Mt. Wilson from her front step as “staggering,” and she is a defender of peacocks everywhere.
Email: [email protected]

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