Briefly describe the work you do.
I am interested in transitions. I am interested in the transition concrete makes from liquid to solid, and the transition that objects make between the surface and subsurface of the form. I am forced to work quickly and react to the emerging content of found, discarded elements. There is always the chance of content emerging or misbehaving, but these materials are ultimately halted from their means of organic mobility.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
My college path was not the most traditional. Leading up to that, I hadn’t taken an art class since 8th grade, so I began working VERY leisurely for a while at a community college. I cannot express enough how fundamental community college is for exploration, and I really established my creative and critical foundations there. In undergrad I double majored in art history, as well as studio art. It was then that I began a researching craft and contemporary art, which led me to pursue graduate school. My work and research has changed, but this desire to learn, make, and converse with my influences began this way.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
The majority of making occurs within my studio, but I do not abide by a particular schedule. I think that I actually enjoy the stress of irregularity. Graduate school taught me to balance under the pressures of other responsibilities. With an ever changing schedule I have learned to function by the seat of my pants. I often work on multiple things at a time so that I get a good energy flowing, but so that I can also take a step back and assess myself.
I at least try to visit the studio daily, even if it is for a minute to observe my surroundings. If I cannot be in my studio space, I have to find a way to make my environment work to my advantage. During graduate school I would work on technical experiments in the classroom if I knew had to be there working on preps. I know that I can bring drawing and small work home with me. If I have to be sitting, I’m on my computer researching and finding opportunities. When life starts to permit less that is when I know that it is time to trim the fat to make way for my practice.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
Scavenger, Risk-taker, Collaborator, Mentor, Theorist, Organizer, Researcher, Historian, Mason, Vampire.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
I prefer to work at night, or at least get a late start to my day and crank through the evening. My graduate school schedule was busy and I have kept busy since, so I am working whenever I can, however I can. Carry around a small notebook, or hash out your ideas on junk mail and cocktail napkins. Bring your work home at night if you can’t finish it during the day. Go to sleep thinking about it.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
I am just emerging from grad school, so change has been rapid. The range of materials that I have come to embrace is the first big difference. I made mostly figurative work in undergrad, so the way I have moved toward the abstract is also a noteworthy change. My sculptural work has not stopped referencing the figure or having character, however. When I look at old drawings, I find that is where my work has stayed the most consistent. I have always had an affinity with line, but an odd way of showing it.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
My family has always been supportive, even when we have different understandings. I have gained the most on a personal level from my faculty and peers in graduate school. My mentors have pushed me to lengths technically and conceptually, and I always enjoyed bouncing ideas off of fellow students within the studio. That is one of the things I hear you miss the most about graduate school. One of my mentors jokes that when she works on something new, she longs so much for that type of feedback that she would ask the next person that comes to the door, even if it is the Fed-Ex man.
I have a handful of cultural influences… I am interested in Contemporary Art theory and criticism, especially the Minimalist and Post-Minimalist writings of Robert Morris. I am attracted to satirical fiction, biography, and modern poetry, for example, the novels of Tom Robbins, the poetry of Sylvia Plath, and the writings and lyrical poetry of Patti Smith. These influences originally reflected what mood I was in when I was working, but then I began drawing relationships between language and the visual information I was putting forward. They are crucial to my working and titling processes. They help me to establish opposite relationships, by toning down something that is bright or awkward, or by lightening up a work that is heavy and somber.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
I used to sing in various choirs and ensembles throughout community college, and actually accomplished several credits toward a music performance degree. I dappled with the idea of teaching K-12 art for a while. Eventually I had to focus and choose my battles. I am not ruling out college teaching, in fact I find it very rewarding. I think that I have just been in school for so long and that I need a break. Right now I am trying to focus on my studio practice, mainly applying for shows and residencies.
I also have a great deal of experience in the restaurant industry. It has helped me pay my bills through school, and is getting me through the transitory period I am in right now. It is very easy to become overworked in this industry, but I am really thankful that it is there. It offers a certain extent of flexibility that a typical 9-5 does not. I actually don’t function very well before 11 a.m., so it’s just right for me.
Marcy Thomas was born in 1986 in New Brunswick, NJ and grew up in the Chicago suburbs. She received her B.A. in Studio Art and Art History from North Central College, Naperville, IL, and her M.F.A. in Studio Art (Fibers) from Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL. She has exhibited at Ithaca College, New York at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research, as well as various juried exhibitions at both of her alma maters. Thomas is looking forward to participating in a group exhibition at Roots and Culture in Chicago July 10-August 9, 2015. She currently lives and works in DeKalb.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.