Ohio Interviews: Andrea Mary Marshall

Photo of Andera Mary Marshall by Kevin Hatt

Photos of Andrea Mary Marshall by Kevin Hatt
Photos of Andrea Mary Marshall by Kevin Hatt

Andrea Mary Marshall was born in Massachusetts in 1982 and received her BFA from Parsons. A more likely narrative, however, is that the Guerrilla Girls, Karen Finley, Kate Moss (90’s era), and Frida Kahlo had an orgy and Andrea Mary Marshall was the immaculately conceived result. Her smart, enraged, very funny work in film, photography, and painting, can trace its lineage from the images created by those spectacular women. A former model and fashion illustrator, AMM has had two solo shows at Allegra LaViola gallery in NYC: “Toxic Women,” (2011) and “Gia Condo” (2013), and has shown her work in a slew of group shows around the city. Her site: andreamarymarshall.com

Ohio: How did you go from modeling and fashion to character making?

AMM: It’s all intertwined. I have always understood the power of image and have had an awareness of self-image, body image, and the way women are represented, perceived and manipulated through image creation, fashion and advertisement. I personally have chosen to view fashion as a positive tool and art form in it’s ability to create characters, tell stories, and reflect and embody societal shifts in attitude, gender and politics. More importantly fashion is a means of communication through personal expression.

How did it happen that you got into fine art?

I love fashion but working in the industry did not allow me the creative outlet I needed. Fine art has become a way for me to work with all the things I love and that inspire me in one conceptual medium. After graduating from Parsons School of Design and working in the fashion industry, I just decided at one point to start creating self-portraits to find this creative expression that I was soul searching for. As it is for all of us, various periods of my life have been challenging for me. I have struggled through body issues, heartbreaks, understanding my sexuality, periods of depression, and addictions. Of course I am grateful for so many things, and these personal challenges that led to obsessive self-analyzing eventually gave way to better understanding my true self, having greater compassion for others, and, thankfully, discovering my art.

So in your photographed self-portraits you are in the image and clicking the shutter.

Yes, almost always.

It’s totally hermetic.

Yeah, it’s just me…(except when boa constrictors and massive amounts of spaghetti are involved…then I need a little help…hahaha)

What about the Faux Pas videos?

http://vimeo.com/24965130

By myself. I did the “Eau du Pussoir” video completely by myself in a really shitty, dangerous, crack den hotel in a desolate area of Bushwick. I got a smoking room in the basement–it absolutely reeked. I remember being afraid to sit on the bed because the entire mattress cover was filled with cigarette burn marks. They didn’t even have toilet paper in the bathroom, and there was a hole in the door filled with paper towel…I was extremely nervous. There were people up at all hours pacing the hallways and I was afraid to make any noise while I was up all night long shooting that thing completely naked in a blond wig and cowboy hat.

In the latest “Gia Condo” paintings you are riffing off the Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci’s supposed portrait of himself; it’s like a house of mirrors.

"Gia Condo," oil on canvas, Andrea Mary Marshall
“Gia Condo #3,” oil on canvas

The paintings are me against me. “Gia Condo” was me against me. In the past, “Toxic Women” was me against the world, me against lovers in my life. It was somewhat social commentary and then also a look at toxic relationships, which often result in toxic behaviors. I wasn’t saying I was a toxic woman to others, I was saying I have been a toxic woman to myself and let me purge this to overcome and evolve. I hoped “Gia Condo” would communicate personal growth, taking control of the demons and emerging both brave and liberated.

What was the significance of the 13 canvases for “Gia Condo”?

One Gia Condo painting for each member of “The Last Supper,” Da Vinci’s great work. I tried to include as many Da Vinci riffs as possible, but there was also an element of the “Wizard of Oz” and an element of “Hamlet”…”To Be or Not To Be.”

How “Wizard of Oz”?

"Gia Condo," oil on canvas, Andrea Mary Marshall
“Gia Condo, #6” oil on canvas

Everyone makes this pilgrimage to see “The Mona Lisa,” because she remains a mystery, we can’t figure out who she really is, which is why we are still intrigued. The truth is, if we found Oz, or if we knew who Mona Lisa was, we would no longer be so desperate to get there. It’s often the journey is more rewarding than the destination.

It’s about a belief in her power also.

It was a very emotional project for me.

How did you feel doing the performances?

Uncomfortable. Liberated.

There’s such a thread of other art world figures in your work…is “Gia Condo” “married” to George Condo?

I love George Condo, but no relation to Gia. Gia Condo is an anagram for “Gioconda,” the alternative title for “The Mona Lisa.”

So back to your transition into fine art. Tell me more about how that happened.

My first body of work that I made, from 2007-2008, was a series of self-portraits that I am yet to show. I worked on these early self-portraits on the nights and weekends, beyond obsessively, while I was still working in fashion. I compiled the self-portraits into a book titled “Witch: The Book of Bananas, Forks, Spoons, and Heartbreak,” a diary like record portraying the despair and eventual resolution related to a personal heartbreak, intertwined with significant moments in art history from the male perspective and juxtaposed by imagery inspired by the archetypal female seductress.

I hope it’s exhibited one day. I hope we get to see it.

I do too! It remains my purest work in that I wasn’t trying to be an artist at that time. Creating was removed from all expectations and approval. I was simply creating because, although at times a breach of sanity, it brought me great solace, comfort and peace. In the words of Louise Bourgeois, “Art is a guarantee of sanity.”

As you were speaking I was remembering your “Toxic Women” paintings–the “Self Portrait as Mrs. Richard Prince” or “Self Portrait as La Cicciolina,” when you were imagining yourself as the bride of X or Y..

10_SELF PORTRAIT AS LA CICCIOLINA_CHRIST THE SHEPHERDESS_OIL ON CANVAS_72x60_2011_ANDREA MARY MARSHALL
“Self Portrait as La Cicciolina Christ the Shepherdess,” oil on canvas

In the past, I was always the damsel in distress…always needing a man. “Toxic Women” was reflective of that behavior. With “Gia Condo,” I wanted to challenge the victim mentality and emerge a more liberated woman… in control of my destiny, my journey…hence the symbolic reincarnation as Guerilla Girl.

Who else are you looking towards? I have to ask you about Cindy Sherman.

I respect Cindy Sherman’s work very much but I have always been more influenced by the emotional honesty of Frida Kahlo’s self-portraiture. While I was student at Parsons, I began turning my fashion illustrations into self-portraits. It was very natural for me, I did not think much about it. It just seemed if I wanted to capture a certain pose or realistic figure (rather than the elongated fashion form) I should take a photo of myself and draw from that. I think my self-portraits are also a result of spending a lot of time alone. Very reflective…very healing, cathartic…very translucent despite the façade. I have been able to use my art as a way to understand myself better and overcome various personal challenges and also question my relationship to contemporary culture. It’s about exploration of the self. I am looking at these various sides of my self, behaviors, patterns, challenges, desires…more glamorously referred to as “alter egos”…that have held me back, and I am destroying them because for me the key is to continuously move beyond limitations, especially the ones I place on myself, and to keep EVOLVING as a woman, fearlessly. There’s also this idea that a self-portrait is the artist looking directly at the viewer and vice versa. I am putting myself on the canvas or in the photograph to hopefully make an immediate connection, conversation with my audience.

I have to ask you about Madonna.

Oh, yeah, you have to.

I love how open you are about your intention and your process and that you see art as a vehicle. Not that the objective is an end in itself but that it’s a healing medium. Do you see Madonna as working in a similar vein?

More as a journey?

Yes, and playing with how she is portrayed.

Madonna is a very serious discussion for me. Madonna is an Immaculate Mother Fucker. No Apologies. Absolutely No Regrets. She is a role model for freedom of expression. She NEVER gives up, she is a survivor, and I really love her for that. I love when she doesn’t give a FUCK. I must say the decisions she was making in the 90s were really something to remember, really brilliant, groundbreaking, relevant, important and complex and beautiful. Lately I am less interested in Pop Stars. Less interested in that which is superficial and contrived. I love Prince. He’s always in my hair. He’s the CREAM!

I have this idea that some really intelligent person bought all 100 of the Vague covers.

"Vague: the de Kooning's Woman Number One Issue," acrylic, gouache and Sharpie, Andrea Mary Marshall
“Vague: The de Kooning’s Woman Number One Issue,” acrylic, gouache and Sharpie

I think there are a few left. They all went to various people. My favorite issue is the Big Bird issue and that one is still around. I love those images. I only had 7 days to make all 100.

Awesome!

It was extreme…and crazy making. I was not sleeping at all and at the end of the seventh day I was so tired of making them that I started throwing the magazines against my studio wall. Truthfully, I almost decided against showing them in “Toxic Women.” I had reservations that perhaps some of them came across as offensive and overly critical…maybe the mockery had gone too far? Others were beautiful and poignant, but the last thing we need right now is more negativity. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it all, you know what I mean? But I view them as social commentary and relevant to the “Toxic Women” exhibition and right for that space and time.

Are you brewing new work? Where are you headed?

Yes, I’ve started new work. Less of a masquerade, I believe. And Humor…did we get to that?

No.

Self Portrait as Rosemary Myst with Balloon Dick, Digital C-Print
Self Portrait as Rosemary Myst with Balloon Dick, Digital C-Print

It’s everything! That’s the whole point of it.

And that’s so hard to find!

I am in love with Jack Black. Humor is the essence of life. It’s so important. It’s a part of romance, a part of seduction. Humor is funny and beautiful. If we don’t laugh, we cry. Have I bored you yet??