Interview: Carolyn Mara
Luca Curci talks with Carolyn Mara, winner of ARTIST OF THE MONTH – FEBRUARY 2022.
Carolyn Mara is a Houston-born multimedia artist whose creative methodology uses video graphical performance art, conceptual photography, and large-scale fine arts painting to explore ideas of personal struggle and pain as it relates to our collective human experience. Beginning her artist journey with photography, Carolyn transitioned into performance art and painting as a means to express herself through movement. Her large-scale abstract paintings are created using a mop as her paintbrush allowing her to work with large body movements and create work grounded in understanding force, restraint, intuition, and spontaneity. Carolyn received her Masters of Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts in NYC, she is represented by the Pan American Art Projects in Miami, FL, and is currently showing at the Soho House Barcelona and Mrs. Toolip’s Gallery in Barcelona. Her work has also been recognized by the Shorty Awards as well as the Siena International Photo Awards and she was an overall winning artist in the 2016 IPPA Awards.
Luca Curci – What is art for you?
Carolyn Mara – I like to think of art – and the act of creating it – as my solace. It is a way of channeling my inner emotions into something creative, my voice on canvas or in an image. I am an emotional person, I feel things hard, both happy and sad, excited or upset. When I’m flooded with these emotions I know I can turn to creation as a means to manage the feelings swirling around in my head in a healthy way. I think art can be used by anyone as a means of creative self-expression. This is why I spend a lot of my time trying to create social content that expresses this sentiment. I want the people following along and watching me create to see that they too can turn to artistic endeavors as a means of expression.
LC – Which is the role the artist plays in society? And contemporary art?
CM – Art’s role in society can be anything, honestly. I use art to explore my own emotions. But other artists may choose to instill hope into our difficult existence. Whether you’re painting a beautiful bouquet for your audience or designing a mishmash of heaped metal for a city’s main square, your art should be making a statement about the world. Some artists choose to make political statements while others choose to use art to remember who we are. My art serves to help others while helping myself, which could be another way of saying that art’s role today is to help us appreciate the things around us. It is for that reason that contemporary art is so important. The things we’re creating now can help those who come after us appreciate the things they may have never been able to experience or live through.
LC – What are you currently working on?
CM – I’m currently working on mop paintings for upcoming shows and private commissions as well as continuing to put out positive content on my social feeds. I love the idea that art can be for anyone and that art can be anything. I am focusing a lot of attention on new and emerging forms of art. For the last few months, I’ve been exploring NFTs and have dropped a collection of “Magic Mop” NFTs that were first shared in a recent show in Barcelona. On the less artistically creative side, I’ve been working on a course that teaches artists the business side of selling their art. From explaining how the gallery system works to showing artists what it takes to properly market their work across a variety of social media platforms, I’ve been putting together this comprehensive study guide to help artists understand what it takes to succeed in running their own art business. Every piece of advice comes from my decade-plus of experience. During that time I learned a lot, and I think other artists will find the resource very valuable. I wish I had something like it when I started my journey!
LC – What’s your background? What is the experience that has influenced your work the most?
CM – My artistic journey started with photography, from an early age through college it was always a part of my life. My parents immigrated to the United States from Italy and as a child, my mother would photograph our lives, develop and print the images in a darkroom in the attic and mail the pictures home to her parents to see. By age 13 I was given my first Canon camera and from that point on never stopped. As I matured I gravitated towards conceptual photography, I loved finding ways to convey an idea or message through my work. After working in a photography gallery in NYC, I attended the School of Visual Arts in New York where I received my Masters of Fine Arts in photo, video, and related media. I studied great photographers like Francesca Woodman, Elinor Carucci, and Cindy Sherman. My experiences with each artist’s work have had a big influence on my artistic journey. From Woodman, I learned about how one could create art that was beautiful, powerful, and haunting. Carucci taught me about vulnerability in art, which I try to infuse into the performance art side of my creations. Sherman, on the other hand, taught me about how to let your theatrics bleed through your art. Her film stills are the reason why so many of the videos of my paintings look so animated. Every stroke of my mop gives me another chance to pull the audience into my studio with me.
LC – Where do you find your inspiration?
CM – I find inspiration all around me, from photographers, painters, potters, and poets. I love looking at other forms of art as inspiration for my own. Interior design inspired me, especially concerning my mop paintings. The film has always been a huge inspiration, especially work from filmmakers Stanley Kubrick, Wes Anderson, and Christopher Guest. I like the way they focus on every little detail of their scenes, I can relate to that desire to ensure everything in a shot is perfect and try to include that in the performance art side of paintings. I’m inspired by my children, my personal struggles, and my deep feelings and emotions. I love to pull from feelings at the moment when creating each work of art. I have always found freedom in channeling what I hold inside and letting it out in a creative form.
LC – What is the most challenging part about creating your artworks?
CM – The most challenging part of creating is when I’m given specific parameters for a commission. I have to mix my own creative freedom with the desires the client has shared with me. Those constraints can feel challenging especially because if I make one wrong move with my large paintbrush it can ruin the whole piece.