Amy Yoes, an ex-Texan whose intricate paintings, drawings, and constructions have graced galleries in New York, Chicago, and Lisbon, among other cities, loves fluttering pastel-hued ribbons. But there’s nothing saccharine or merely decorative about this Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant winner’s lushworks; instead, her anthropomorphic swashes and serenely menacing architectural fragments weave themselves into a dreamlike world that recalls Richard Dadd’s surreal Victorian allegories (sans the little fairies, but with even more sexual intrigue). Her new show Room Tone is at Michael Steinberg Fine Art through February 12.
1 What’s so appealing about those fragments you use? I think it’s the idea of removing something from its original context so it can be used in a different way. Some I think of as beloved characters that play a recurring role in my paintings . . . sometimes in a different context or in a new costume. It’s like, “Hey, that’s so-and-so!”
2 What’re your favorite motifs? The intertwining impulse has always interested me, both for the psychological and biological implications. All cultures use it—the knot, the interlace. It’s hardwired in us.
3 Your new works were painted from models, little stage sets— That’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but it only came into focus when I built Beehive [a retrospective in miniature of Yoes’s work in a model studio]. I’m fascinated by the idea of implied physical space that’s actually a psychological space. The decorative elements are there, but there’s an architectural sense that’s new—
4 And thus “room tone”? Yes—I’m really inspired by the specificity of place, the way a room and what’s in it affect sound. Sound as an idea is rather elusive, like trying to describe what a painting is about. If my paintings of the past were about music, the new ones are more about sound.
5 Are you a musician? No, I’m not, not at all—but I wish I were. I don’t even know whether to say I wish I played violin or fiddle. That’s always the real conflict for me: Bauhaus or gingerbread.