In this interview, a sneak peek from Create! Magazine Issue #37, Reisha Perlmutter talks about her path to becoming an artist and the inspiration for her beautiful paintings of women underwater. She shares how she creates and photographs the images she later paints, and highlights the importance of being true to herself in her art. Perlmutter also talks about her recent solo exhibition, what audiences can look forward to, and her plans to explore the underwater world more by taking freediving courses.

Born in Naples, Florida, in 1990, Reisha Perlmutter got her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and her MFA from the New York Academy of Art. She has been in residencies in Italy and France, focusing on classical painting and figuration. Her artwork, known for showing women and water, explores the natural connection between the human body and the environment and challenges usual beauty standards. She has shown her work in many cities, including New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco, Chicago, Toronto, Fort Worth, and in Europe.

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Reisha Perlmutter


When did you decide to follow a path as an artist? Has painting always been a part of your life?

I have always been transfixed with the psychological effect of nature on my psyche. Before I was able to consciously understand what it meant to be an “artist,” the way in which I interpreted and was inspired by the natural world around me was the beginning of what it meant to follow the path as an artist.

Painting, of course, is just one iteration of an artist‘s path. Becoming a painter wasn’t something that I had purposefully pursued until my teenage years. Painting was a way for me to translate my light and the idea of expressing a subjective reality through the abstraction of color. It was a way for me to feel and understand the world around me through the grounding nature of pigment and organic imagery.

Reisha Perlmutter

I love the softness and richness of your work. What initially inspired you to start painting women and water?

I began painting women in water as a sort of unconscious form of self-meditation and search for inner connection.

I grew up surrounded by water. It was a pivotal element in my childhood, both emotionally and creatively. I spent so much of my childhood underwater, reveling in the silence and stillness. I was endlessly transfixed by the dancing movement of light beneath the surface.

As a young woman searching for my voice as an emerging artist, the water felt like the place I could return to in order to reconnect with myself.

I began this series initially through self-portraiture, a direct search for some part of myself that I felt I had lost with age. I had a deep desire to reconnect with the most simplistic experiences that were so formative in my youth: the beauty of light, the feeling of weightlessness, the awareness of breath and the connection to nature in water.

Reisha Perlmutter

Since following you on social media for several years, I have been inspired by your process of creating and photographing the images you later painted. Can you tell us about the steps from idea to canvas?

As an artist, it’s interesting to witness the natural evolution of my process over time and how much that is an echo of the evolution of my psyche and sense of ever-changing self.

My earliest works (self-portraits) in water were paintings capturing the moment of breaking the surface. There was a sense of safety in connection with air alongside the sensation of water and the feeling of being held between two worlds. When I look back now, it seems like so much of an echo of where I was in my life.

As my work and process have grown, I have gone deeper into what it means to challenge myself, not just as a painter but as an artist. The psychological and physical aspect of breath-hold and diving has become vital to my work. I am pushing myself to find peace in the uncomfortable nature of holding my breath.

It’s important for me as an artist, diver and photographer that each step of this process that goes into making a painting is something that I am creating and experiencing myself. I love the physical and psychological challenges of being underwater. I am equally transfixed by the alchemy that occurs in my studio with my paint, the idea that I can translate such visceral and sensory-filled experiences with paint. It is all these steps combined that create the final painting on the canvas.

Read the full feature inside Create! Magazine Issue #37