Thinkspace is pleased to present Marissa Reyes ‘Fighting Fickle Feelings For You’ where she explores sexism, the self and the delicate emotions that encompass romantic relationships. She uses the symbol of the banana to objectify men, they are a mere thing that is the source of the issues within her work. She uses self-portraiture to convey the intimate emotions and conversations that we have with ourselves about the choices we make within a relationship… where she allows the viewer insight into these very intimate moments of pain, hurt, love, doubt, and fear. Her inner thoughts can sometimes be like the wild west, lawless and violent. These very serious topics are encased in that same humor she felt as a 10 year old that she still doesn’t quite understand.
Our interview with Marissa Reyes explores shares her first memory of being sexualized by the opposite sex, what type of super human skill she would choose to have and who would be on her ultimate dinner party guest list.
Can you share a little about your background and how you first heard of Thinkspace?
I was born in Hollywood, CA, and was raised in West Covina, CA, I grew up with a dad who was in the Marines for most of my life so I bounced around a bit, living in Cuba, Oceanside, CA, San Diego, CA, Hemet, CA but mostly spending my time in LA County/San Gabriel Valley where the bulk of my family all live. I went to school at a Junior college, Citrus College In Glendora, CA, this is where I saw a possibility that I could pursue a career in the arts. I then pursued my bachelor’s in Studio Arts at The University of La Verne which then led to me pursuing my master’s degree In Studio Arts at Claremont Graduate University. My first group show out of Grad School was at Franchise Gallery. It was after this group show that I met Andrew and was given my first opportunity to show with Thinkspace. I’d heard of Thinkspace Gallery through reading Juxtapoz over the years and it’s insane to me that I just had my first solo with them, never thought I would be in this position but that just means I have to stop doubting myself.
Your work is both playful and confrontational, can you share a bit about your journey toward developing your style? What inspired you to revisit the shared childhood experience, especially of young girls, where eating a banana is no longer harmless?
Yeah, so I didn’t develop this style until my time at Claremont Graduate University. Throughout my undergraduate experience from Junior college to the University of La Verne where I received my BA in Studio Arts, I was super obsessed with figure drawing and Art History. I took as many classes as I could in those subjects. I fell in love with Rembrandt van Rijn’s self-portraits and how he used them to document his age and life. I took my skills in figure drawing and my love for Golden Age Dutch self-portraiture and in graduate school I was able to explore these ideas in depth. I found that using myself as the subject in a painting was a way, I could tell an ultimate truth, and share my experiences as a woman.
I retraced the first time I became aware of being sexualized by the opposite sex and felt it exposed a lot about myself and how I was shaped as a woman. I quickly realized by speaking to the women around me that this is a shared memory. I was driven by retribution, wanting to make things right. When I decided to take away the identity of the men and boys who had stolen my innocence and security, I made things right. I have created a safe space within my paintings for women who have been wronged and a learning space for the men who have committed the wrongdoing.
What was the most challenging piece in this exhibition? How did it help you grow as an artist?
The challenging pieces in this exhibition are the paintings where the figure lives inside a detailed background and space. ‘Personal Punishment‘ is a good example of this, the figures are set in a saloon. I love to let my figures be the focal point with not much distraction, so pushing myself to explore settings and backgrounds was incredibly fun, but challenging
Do you have any rituals that help you tap into a creative flow?
I sketch a lot, I like to make small watercolors, sketches, or color pencil drawings of paintings I want to create. This helps me visualize what will go on the next canvas.
What does a day in the studio look like for you? How do you structure your days?
A day in the studio for me usually starts with my sketchbook, I love to sketch current ideas. I feel like I have to get them out of my head and onto paper before I move on to painting for the day. I know this is going to sound super unproductive, but I have a tv in my studio and I’ll usually turn it on and play a comfort show or movie like, Harry Potter films, The Office, Game of Thrones to name a few and I’ll have it on in the background as I work. It helps me focus. Sometimes if I’m really feeling it, I’ll throw on some music. Currently listening to Tyler the Creator and Bjork. I will usually paint for hours late into the night. I stop painting when I feel it’s right and can’t go any further with the painting. I have no real time limit to spend in the studio; my only rule is that I must be there every day. I do tend to spend a lot of time in my studio. I love it.
Who is an artist or distinct piece of art that has significantly impacted how you thought about art or your own work?
Sarah Lucas’ work has had an enormous impact on my work. Seeing her sculptures for the first time changed the way I see the female figure and how I paint the female figure and why. Her work is bold and brave, she uses the female form to make important work about sexuality and societal repressiveness of women.
When do you feel most empowered and fierce like some of the banana-wielding women in your pieces?
I feel most empowered when I put on a badass outfit, some leather or latex some lashes and lipstick, and go out into the world. It’s unfortunate because I feel society has made women feel as though make-up is “bad” and we as women should not use it as something to feel more confident about because its “fake,” but I say that’s a bunch of bullshit men are saying because they have been taught through the media that women should be “naturally” beautiful. Well to that I say F that and I love me some heavy lashes, long eyeliner, and a red lip. It makes me feel powerful and sexy, and there is a lot of power in feeling sexy!
“Fighting Fickle Feelings For You” is your first solo exhibition, what advice would you give other artists who are working towards their first solo?
My advice would be to work, work and work some more!!! Procrastination is your worst enemy so put in that work.
If you could have any skill or topic downloaded into your brain, what would you want to be able to do/ be an expert at?
I would want to be a polyglot and just know an obscene number of languages.
Who would be on the guest list if you could throw a dinner party for five people, dead or alive? What would be on the menu? What would be the icebreaker question?
I’d invite Sarah Lucas, Baldur Helgason, Peter Saul, Bjork, and Artemisia Gentileschi. The Icebreaker wouldn’t be a question, but more of an assignment. I would give everyone a pencil and a sheet of paper and ask them to draw a self-portrait.
Exhibition on view through March 25, 2023 at:
4207 W. Jefferson Blvd.
Los Angeles, California 90016
For more about the exhibition and opening night click HERE!
Photos courtesy of @BirdManPhotos.