Briefly describe the work you do.
I make paintings and sculptures of everyday objects and scenes.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I grew up in a very supportive family with the belief that I could be anything I wanted to be. When I was in first grade I decided to become an artist and have never looked back.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
I work alone; I liked the distractions of working in more communal spaces during my education because it was so exciting to see what everyone else was doing, and I still had the time to devote to my own practice. Now, because my time is so much more limited I really want to just get to work. I usually have a few projects going at once so there is always something to do and it lets me be fairly productive in a short amount of time. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I “toil” though there are some days that are more of a struggle than others. I have never minded being by myself and so I just go about my business and most of the time it’s fun. I’ll listen to music and be in my own world.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
It took me a while to understand the way that I make art. When I first started painting, I was just trying to get a feel for it, and so I followed the more traditional methods of making a painting: preliminary sketches, mock ups, visual problem solving. But I’m much too impatient for that. I rarely plan or make sketches. I’ll write down ideas and sometimes just single words in a notebook I keep in my studio to remember, but mostly I just want to make the work. As a result I’m much more impulsive in my studio than I am in life. I’m also a lot dirtier and messier.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
I’m most productive in the morning, which is also when the light coming into my studio is particularly nice. I like to get there earlier on the weekends, but working a full-time job I usually only go once or twice after work during the week.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
My work has changed a lot! Five years ago I was making large scale paintings with nude models. When I went to grad school I dabbled in abstraction. For my thesis I started making sculptures and recently I’ve started making paintings again. Through it all color, shape, texture, and compositional structure have connected these various works.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
My family has a huge impact on my work, in fact most of my work is deeply personal in nature, some of my most recent pieces having to do with the dementia and recent passing of my Granddad. I also keep close relationships with friends and professors from school, and still look to them for guidance and inspiration in studio. I love to read novels and poetry, some of my favorites being magical realists like Kazuo Ishiguro, Haruki Murakami, Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. My favorite poet right now is Katerina Stoykova. I like playful moments in the narrative which allow the reader to believe in the impossible.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
I really enjoy working as a carpenter because I love working with my hands, and using tools, and the smell of sawdust. Other occupations I would like are: a baker, a curator for a gallery or museum, a bicycle mechanic, or college art professor.
Mariel Herring was born in Philadelphia, PA and attended Earlham College in Richmond, IN where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Art. She returned to Philadelphia to study at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts where she earned a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate and a Master’s of Fine Art. She keeps a studio and works as a carpenter for a small construction company.