Reisha Perlmutter is an extraordinarily talented oil painter who was born and raised in Naples, Florida. Reisha’s subject matter is always connected to both nature and it’s organic magical elements. There are emotional stories behind all that she chooses to paint and I have grown to know Reisha over the past few years and consider her a good friend. I find it fascinating how she pushes herself into new directions of subject matter, especially seen in her latest work. All of Reisha’s subject matter is meant to challenge how we view the female body and deal with the emotional content behind seeing nude figurative portraiture. Her work is meant to raise awareness of our own bodies and their organic connection to nature. I was first taken with Reisha’s painted underwater figures, then moved to seeing several different body parts covered in clay and now women who have already had heart transplants.
Photo credit : Reid Rolls
Reisha, it was great visiting your studio space with photographer Reid Rolls in New York. I felt privy to see a new series of work with women who have had or are awaiting heart transplants. Can you kindly speak about these women and what drew you to paint them?
This series, which I began at the beginning of 2018, thematically stemmed directly from my earlier work. The idea that bodies should not be confined to idealism is very important to me, especially in how that relates to the female body and experience. I am drawn to the idea of breaking barriers associated with how we perceive the body. This is why I incorporate nature in my work, and try to blur the lines between nature and body, so they are seen as one.
Regarding my newest work, I met Rachel Ward (heart transplant recipient) at the beginning of this year. Her story deeply resonated with me and what was trying to communicate through my work. Her relationship with her physicality is profound, and her story continues to push me to reconsider how I think of the body as a life force, beyond beauty expectations.
I met you a few years ago when your underwater oil paintings were being created and sold. What drives you to predominately choose women, and yourself, as the main subject matter? Are you telling a story of women empowerment by painting so many diverse shapes?
I choose to paint women because it is fundamentally what I know and what I experience. Historically, the female body had been depicted men, and filtered through the male gaze. As a contemporary female artist, it is imperative for me to consider what it means for me to paint all aspects of the female body, as I and other women experience it. Painting bodies naked, unadulterated and in their most natural state alleviated them from the boundaries of cultural idealism. I want to show the beauty of the body beyond a preconceived notion. The inherent vulnerability of the imagery encourages the need to fully embrace and celebrate physicality as whole.
Let’s move on to the earth and clay body of work. Please describe the connection you have to painting the different elements.
The theme of body and nature is my work has never been limited to water. Clay, like water, has such a visceral quality. Like water, clay has the ability to abstract forms of the body, furthering blurring the lines between body and nature/environment.
What is next for you? Any upcoming shows to speak of?
I have a few upcoming smaller group shows this summer, but I am hoping to arrange a solo show this coming fall for my newest work. I will also incorporate a documentary aspect to this series, which will tell the story of some of my subjects, specifically that of Rachel Ward, and her journey through receiving a new heart.
What can you tell me that you have never told another journalist with regards to your artwork?
I was actually raised in a family lineage of doctors. Since I was a child, I watched my father break down barriers of the body and how we think of it. Although his vanguard research in neurology seems so distant from what I do as an artist, I finally realize how tightly my vision is woven into my deep appreciation and inspiration for watching him all these years.
Where can our readers learn more about you?
Follow me on my Instagram account @ReishaPerlmutter. I am going to be releasing some exciting videos about my project, so stay posted!