BELLA AMENTA / PHOTOGRAPHY
Writing by Leslie Rosario Olivo
Multihyphenate Bella Amenta (‘24) is intent on casting a spell on you, the effects of which include wonder, engulfment, and teleportation into worlds where 70s cult leaders hide away in the woods and gender is explicitly a dress-up game. With an eye for decade-styling, baroque paintings, and a focused determination to create aesthetically cohesive worlds, Amenta’s photography pulls from a myriad of influences. Her work reflects the boundaryless collage of visual-stimuli she pulls from and translates to intimate snapshots of characters whose stares leave you wondering what they’re thinking about, and if they’re looking at… you?
Amenta’s main medium is oil painting, particularly portraiture, the impact of which can be seen in her compositions. Facial expressions akin to those found in Caravaggio paintings are sprinkled across her work, but especially in a collection of photographs taken in a cemetery at night with model, and fellow band-mate, Alisha Simmons (‘24). Along with spot-lights and dramatic angles, the expressions and compositions bring up an aura of fearlessness, discernment and create an unwavering gaze.
This essence of the ‘unwavering gaze’ continues across into a collection taken at a tennis court with model Nicki Klar (‘24). In Amenta’s words, at times her work strives towards a world, an idea, and, “with this one, it was an attitude”. Though the photographs are staged and there’s been plenty of deliberation, Amenta prioritizes capturing naturalistic movements which creates a layer of warmth and authenticity. They’re fun, yet daunting.
My personal favorite of the photograph series features three of Amenta’s friends walking dreamily along a road and bridge. They’re dressed in white and creamy colors, and pose naturally with moody gazes that create an ambience similar to the haunting worlds and ambience of Sofia Coppola, a noted influence for Amenta. The daring looks of the Lisbon sisters aren’t far from this collection of photographs.
They are, however, far from a polemic world Amenta created relating to the aesthetics of American consumerism and gender roles. Perhaps informed by a combination of Amenta’s early childhood, a portion of which was spent in fascination of the American malls she’d get to visit when coming from London, as well as her appreciation for the work of Nan Goldin from the 90s of NYC Club Kid culture. Goldin’s penchant for capturing the fantasy created by club kids in more grounded backgrounds appears in this series of Amenta’s work, as well as bold colors and styling that made me think of Gregg Araki’s hyper-saturated worlds and their polemic stance on 1950s American aesthetic tropes.
A little further away from the 50s and drenched in the 70s are Amenta’s photographs depicting a fictional cult taking refuge in the woods. Perhaps Amenta at her most aesthetically rigorous and narrative informed, the photographs feature boho-inspired stylings and the dreamy lighting of the outdoors, casting a golden glow over 2 lovers fawning over Amenta’s character.
Overall, Amenta’s work is an eclectic mix of personal experience, fantasy, and critique. Every element in the work is as intentional as it seems, so I urge you, dear reader, to look a little deeper and settle into the worlds.