Beyond the Bio is a series that takes you past the canvas and into the minds of the artists and curators who build the contemporary arts community.
Mixed media artist Marjolyn VanderHart will be featured at Art City Austin: Art Alliance Austin’s 3-day art fair from March 31st – April 2nd at the Palmer Events Center.
Artist: Marjolyn VanderHart, Toronto
Primary medium: Mixed Media
Why do you make art?
I make art to make people more aware of their world. Reflect back to them an image that heightens their sense of identity through the use of memory and imagination.
What do you use to create?
Mixed media and collage. Paint paper pastels and resin.
How long have you been an artist and how has your practice changed over time?
25 years ( yikes!) I began with oil and moved to collage and acrylic painting to be able to use my media to create imagery that triggers memories. Color, retro images found materials all play a role in creating memory. Working with screen printing lately to intensify the pop art feel to the work.
What are you working on right now?
Working on midcentury interiors that are inspired by vintage advertising. Why? Because I want to explore the relationships that we have with popular culture and how it defines our relationships and our own sense of ourselves.
Why make the journey to Austin?
Because it has a public that is creative educated and enlightened.
Marjolyn was the daughter of creative and adventurous parents. Immigrating to Canada from the Nederlands in the late 60s, Marjolyn’s father began his life as an artist. She watched her father develop his art and business of selling art in the Toronto area. His passion for the ability to be free from the constraints of an corporate path inspired Marjolyn to follow a similar route. However, life was not as linear as expected.
Marjolyn began by completing a BA with Honours at Carleton University studying Mass Communications and following this a BFA at Ringling School of Art and Design in Florida. During this time, Marjolyn studied in New York City at the New York Studio Residency Program which was affiliated with the Parson’s School of Art in the 90’s. Since completing school, Marjolyn has lived in Toronto with her husband and two children. She travels extensively throughout the USA showing her work at highly competitive Juried Art Fairs and is represented by Petroff Gallery and Wall Space Gallery in Canada. Her work has won several awards and has been shown at Affordable Art Fairs in New York City and Los Angeles.
Marjolyn was interested in the meaning behind the message of contemporary Art. Focusing upon Feminist art and art made by women, Marjolyn studied the Artists that would challenge mainstream ideas of female identity and image. Artists such as Cindy Sherman and Barbara Kruger inspired Marjolyn’s desire to raise awareness of identity and perception of the female role in our culture. Her interest focused upon the media’s interpretation of our identity.
Presently the use of the media is the main resource for her imagery. By collaging images taken from classic films, vintage magazines and found old photos, Marjolyn uses nostalgia as a form of redefining our modern identity. She draws the viewer into a space that relates a story about modern day struggle. The themes of self Empowerment, balance of work and family in her Home Sweet Home series, and her desire to just run away in her Escape imagery combine to show the narrative of how men and women cope with a world that has expectations of perfection.
This work is based upon recognition of the constraints and demands of our modern identity. Using self exploration and historical references, these works create a universal experience. Each image creates a cluster of thoughts, a memory or idea that takes us into another place. This place references the past, as though to take us out of the uncertain/unknown present and into romantic glory days that creates a nostalgic twinge. Stories develop by using found photos, vintage advertising, stills from classic films, music scores, and snippets of poetry. Narratives evolve as moments of images are placed together. As the images collage, stories present themselves and memory becomes a binding force. Yet each image is interpreted in the context of Today. Our perceptions of ourselves is always mediated by that which we believe is acceptable.
Themes of home, independence, yearning for love and escape permeates the narratives. Each piece explores the search for connection and validation. This subjective representation drives the work. Yet the adaptation of the mid-century imagery enables the narratives to be easily accessed and understood.
There is a melding of time and space. By blending the present experience with the mid century references, there is clarification of our own place. Who are we as the world moves so quickly? Is identity defined by the “selfie”? As social media overtakes our daily life, connectedness and identity seems ephemeral. The “ideal” of home is omnipresent, permeating our life as we strive for success. As young women attempt to achieve their ideal of having it all, there is a renewed sense of loneliness. And then there is the Escape- the sense of just being in a place filled with light, life and love.
This work has a dialogue between the photographic references and expressionistic brushwork. The hand is present. There are NO digital processing in her work. Marjolyn’s process is unique as she has creates her work in several stages. Working with vintage wallpapers and tissue paper, Marjolyn initially creates an abstraction that attempts to create a “feeling” of a story. The patterns, and layers of tissue paper, meld together to create an ephemeral vague dimension of space. Once this has dried, the story is introduced with photo transfers, pastels and acrylic paint. Imagery is introduced in a surreal nature so that the viewer is brought into the whimsical nature of the scene. Every image tries to touch on the personal realm of the viewer. It may remind us of a significant person in our life who filled it with connections and reality. Or it may convey a feeling of a place of release in which we are free from demands of work.
As viewers we are pushed to the surface of the painting and then drawn into the illusionistic space. As this push pull dynamic evolves in each piece, we are visually drawn into the romance of the past then thrust back into the present.
Beyond the Bio is curated by Art Alliance Austin, with the assistance of Scott Nyerges.