Art That Soothes the Soul

Amy Tanathorn creates paintings and prints inspired from the cultural and spiritual iconography of Southeast Asia.


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Amy Tanathorn met and married her husband, who took these photographs, in Thailand.

Photos by Adissapong Praphantanathorn

To experience a work of art by Amy Tanathorn is to be transported elsewhere. Working out of the corner of her kitchen in her Alameda home of 13 years, Tanathorn creates paintings and prints inspired from the cultural and spiritual iconography of Southeast Asia. It’s like yoga for the eyes. In fact, she often exhibits her work in yoga studios and wellness centers around Alameda.

She has a strong connection with Thailand where she met and married her husband while teaching English in Bangkok from 2001 to 2005. While there, regular perusing of galleries and museums of both traditional and contemporary art had a permanent influence on her. One of Thailand’s most celebrated living artist, Chalermchai Kositpipat, captivates her imagination as does Suwat Saenkattiyarat, whose use of bold colors and imagery she aspires to repeat in her own work. Her travels to India, Nepal, Cambodia, and Laos left their mark, too, as do ideas that bubble up during meditation practice. “A still, calm mind can give you great ideas,” Tanathorn said.

The artist grew up in central Washington, living a few years in Seattle before moving to Sacramento. In the early ’90s, the underground rave scene brought her to the Bay Area. She graduated from CSU Sacramento in 1996 with a major in graphic design. In addition to her work as an artist, Tanathorn works with Exploring New Horizons Outdoor Schools, which provides outdoor education through diverse programming for fifth- and sixth-grade students from all over Northern California. She also assists her husband, a professional portrait photographer, with his business.

Tanathorn begins a day in the studio by laying down a thick texture of modeling paste and gel medium on canvas, sometimes board, then adding a wash of color. She composes the general drawing next, outlining it in liquid acrylic paint. To create more density, she incorporates materials like tea bag papers, origami paper, tissue paper, and aluminum foil.

“I became an artist for the sheer love of creating something beautiful,” she said. “I hope people feel a sense of meditative calmness wash over them when they view my work. I have the intention of evoking peace in this super busy, often chaotic world; to offer sanctuary, a soothing balm for the soul, so to speak.”

Tanathorn exhibits her work in Alameda at Studio 23 Gallery and has had an ongoing exhibition at Leela Yoga Studio since it opened five years ago. For more information about her, visit her website at AmyTanathorn.com. 

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