Interview with Mando Marie for “Tell Me All About It”

Thinkspace Projects is honored to welcome Mando Marie back for her second solo show “Tell Me All About It.”

Bringing a contemporary edge to the innate elements of nostalgia, Mando works primarily with spray paint, stencils, and collage elements. She incorporates these elements of street art juxtaposed with the familiarity of the picture book-inspired world to create work that is both edgy and comforting. Her paintings frequently feature repetitive and mirrored imagery, eliciting a dream-like quality that is simultaneously pleasing and haunting.

In anticipation for “Tell Me All About It” our interview with Mando Marie discusses the magnetism of youth, her use of a rocking chair in the creative process, and wrestling with the inner critic.

For those not familiar with your work, could you tell us a bit about your background and when you were introduced to Thinkspace?

Wow…it’s almost hard to remember that far back 😉  It’s been close to 15-16 years I’ve worked with Thinkspace. Is that even possible?  My first show was a group show about birds or something…maybe LC asked me.  I don’t remember, but I do remember that the paintings didn’t sell and they came back to me.  haha.   

Background … I started off in Colorado at RMCAD, there was an amazing group of artists and teachers in that era at that school.  I started showing with Andenken Gallery in Denver around the same time.  I also had a studio in their huge gallery building like a lot of awesome artists from that time in that town.  That’s really how I got my start and started having shows.  

 What is the inspiration behind this latest body of work? What themes or techniques were you exploring?

Well, my work is very personal, but I do think it speaks to themes that most people can relate to…love, death, relationship with self, relationship with others, time, nature, our animal nature as well.  I am definitely into reflected and twin imagery, I have been for a long time, but now I think I also like to do this thing where I pair a person with maybe their spirit (like a ghost) or with their future self (like a skeleton). 

Technique wise I can definitely feel myself improving my craft over time.  I’m a better brush painter and a better aerosol painter than I used to be…that’s just ‘miles on the brush’.  I do look back at older paintings though and feel like they had a kind of Stooges style Raw Power.  

There is a child-like whimsy to your work; how do you tap into your inner child?

There is whimsy, of course, but I think if someone looks at my work and only sees child-like, then they are missing the heft of the message.  I do tap that inner child, but I don’t know how I get there, or why I gravitate towards youth in my work … actually maybe I do know, youth is magnetic, and that helps explain why I’m drawn to it.  I think you can explore dangerous, brave, intense and important themes while still using youth to deliver the message…it’s maybe even better that way.  

What is your most favorite part of the creative process? What is the part of the creative process you could do without?

My favorite part is getting a little stoned or tipsy and sitting in my rocking chair staring and thinking about half completed works and how to bring them to the finish line.  The part I would say I least enjoy is the countless hours of drawing and redrawing and redrawing the stencils to get just the right feel and look for the characters…only to then cut it out, spray it out and decide I don’t really like it. 😉  Maybe there is a cathartic mantra hidden in there somewhere, but it’s still a drag.

How do you push yourself as an artist without compromising your point of view?

Part of pushing is just staying with it.  Another part though, and this is shallow but true, when I feel like others are appreciating my work, I feel more comfortable that I’m headed in a good direction.  People will soap box all day long that it doesn’t matter what other people think of you or your work, but speaking for myself, that just isn’t true.  As far as a point of view and not compromising…it’s hard to escape an internal critic, it’s also hard to be brave and jump off in a new direction when you’ve become sort of recognized for a style.  It becomes a question like ‘How do I grow as an artist without disrupting a visual language I’ve been building for so long?’  Right now, I’ve secretly been working on some more nudity and sexiness in paintings, but I’m too shy to really release that kraken on the world right now.

What is an assumption people make about your work? What do you think they would be surprised to find out?

An assumption that soccer moms make is that the work is perfect for their ‘kid’s room’.  I think these same moms would be surprised to find out that I feel like strangling them for saying that.  Of course I don’t mind at all if the paintings find homes in kid’s rooms, but if the collector can’t see beyond that surface … ugh, I feel like I’m not quite hitting as hard as I want.

You do a lot of traveling for your work/art; how has the past year influenced your work, and has anything shifted in your process that you think will be a lasting change?

Hahaha, I hardly travel at all anymore.  I’ve been so in love with the little farm I do with my partner, Hyland, in Portugal.  It’s called The Holdout.  We both just love The Holdout, it’s hard to leave.  So, yes this last year with COVID has been crazy, but we’ve been really lucky.  We just work on our land, and our cider (holdout cider) and quietly work on our work.  The lasting change I see, is that for both of us, we see this chapter as a lifelong project.

Do you remember your first mural? Where was the mural located, and what was the subject matter?

First major mural was the Azatlan skate park in Fort Collins, Colorado.  I won a grant from the city.   There were all of these meetings with the local skaters and they were really intimidating at first…complaining that my work wasn’t ‘skater enough’… I was very nervous.  In the end, though, that community really changed their tune…I camped out at the skatepark while I worked on it for days on end, and I think I really got some cred from the skaters for being so dedicated.  To this day it’s one of my favorite murals I’ve made.  It was a huge concrete monster eating a concrete truck and lots of stuff was stuck in the concrete, like a unicorn and a dumpster and a bunch of other stuff.  Now that I’m thinking about it…I really hope it’s still riding.  After I’m done with this interview, I’m going to see if I can find pictures.  

Do the book covers inspire the piece, or do you have a piece in mind and search out the perfect book cover?

I think you’re asking me about the Reading Girls series … the ones where there is a girl reading a book and her face is hidden by the cover.   Those are an ongoing series and I do them both as ‘piece in mind’ and also I do them as ‘choose your title’ commissions on request.  The commission ones have proven to be pretty cool, because people want titles I’ve never even heard of, and sometimes they are really challenging.  I do also though love to hunt down that perfect title and perfect edition with the perfect art on the perfect cover.

What are some of your favorite places to source found material to incorporate into your work? (You don’t have to name the exact spot)

Oh man, old Dutch comics.  Old photography journals.  Manga.  Old Spanish comics … The funny thing is that I’ll start a day out looking for images to source poses or interactions from and then 6 hours later I’m just mush on the floor in a pile of old graphic novels and comic books.    

What is one of your most memorable meals? It could have been the food, the company, or both that made it an unforgettable meal.

Andrew, you’re fishing and I know it mister!!  I had a very nice meal once with you and Shaun and Hyland in Switzerland.  We had just finished up a long day at SCOPE fair Basel and we didn’t really know each other personally too good at that point and it was a really nice time in a really cool place and Shaun and I had quite a few barley pops.  On the way home, Hyland and I went to a dance party at a squat camp close to the fair and then it started raining and everyone hid under the trailers and caravans.  When it stopped raining, the remaining party people started singing a musical number from some musical I didn’t know, but it was still so fucking awesome.  I think they were part of a local troupe or something.  Cool night. 

Opening Reception:
Saturday, May 1, 2021 from 3:00-8:00pm
*Masks and social distancing required

Interview with Amanda ‘Mando’ Marie for ‘The Light Touch’

Amanda Marie Interview

Amanda ‘Mando’ Marie’s latest body of work “The Light Touch” opens this weekend in Thinkspace Gallery’s project room. A collection of work that shows her signature golden-book illustration stencils and textured layers. Our interview with Amanda ‘Mando’ Marie discusses her creative process and artistic path.

SH: What is your favorite golden book children story?
AM: I don’t necessarily have a favorite, but I do remember collecting tiny versions of Scuffy the Tugboat, The Saggy Baggy Elephant, The little Red Hen, and a bunch of other classics from Hardee’s kids meals.

Amanda Marie Red Book

SH: How did you develop your artistic voice?
AM: Mostly trial and error. Trying new things, seeing and finding visual techniques that I liked together. When I first started art school I would go buy the expensive paint and canvas. I met some friends who had a gallery in a warehouse called ‘the wheelbarrow’ in lodo Denver. I was working at a framing wholesaler at the time and the boys at the gallery had a bunch of rolls of old vinyl wallpaper. We started to take the frames that they were throwing away at the frame shop and stretching vinyl wallpaper over them. It gave us all as young kids who just wanted to make the opportunity to do so freely. We would have art shows and sell our work for dirt cheap. It was fun.

SH: What made you explore stencils and the style you have today?
AM: After ‘The Wheelbarrow’ split up Ryan went to Miami where he is now ‘Miami’s best graffiti guide’ and a forever amazing dude, my then boyfriend Calan and I moved into a basement studio of Andenken Gallery (which is now located in Amsterdam). We hung out with old and new friends in the scene, all interested in different mediums. They ended up teaching me way more than I ever learned at Art school.

An old friend of Calan’s, but a new friend of mine, named Decker, rented one of the upstairs studios. He was a super chill snowboarder kid and was stenciling on everything. I decided to give stencil making a try. Later that year I was working at a pizza place down the Street Called Two Fisted Mario’s. I made one of the little girls and stenciled two of them for this tip jar that at the pizza place. My boss came by and loved it and asked if I wanted to show at his bar ‘Double Daughters’ next door. I got to work on making paintings with a lot of the characteristics that I’m still using.

Hyland, the owner and curator for Andenken, came to my opening and also liked the work and asked if Calan and I would like to show in the basement of the gallery. The show went well and he offered me a solo up tairs. That show also got a lot of good reaction. I guess it was partly feeling like I was in a nice stride and partly the reaction from so many people enjoying the styles I was using that made it stick.

Amanda Mando Marie

SH: What is the inspiration behind this latest body of work?
AM: There is always a million things that inspire the work. I don’t always know what the story is until I paint it. The work is usually a reaction to life and all that is swirling around. Life is so complex.

SH: You’ve traveled a lot creating murals and for exhibitions, do you have a favorite city? Are your murals influenced by the location they are created?
AM: Lots of favorites for sure. There is no lack of beautiful places in our world. I love almost every place I’ve been for one reason or another. There is a ton of the world I haven’t explored yet. But, influences do enter the work from traveling. The background color that I use on most of my murals is the dark green color that they use on most of the buildings in Amsterdam, which is the first place I left the country to visit for work. Portugal has beautiful patterns, Scandinavia uses color so well and has such a perfectly simple way of illustrating.

Amanda Mando Marie

SH: Some of your pieces have dozens of layers and other work more minimal, how do you know a piece is complete?
AM: Instead of completely buffing old paintings that I wasn’t quite happy with I started to buff the parts I didn’t like instead, Then add more imagery on top of that and so on. Mess it up, try and fix it, mess it up, try and fix it, until finally, the mess became part of the solution. Though recently I have been getting more minimal. I just like the way the work looks with less texture sometimes.

SH: What is your creative process? Is your studio messy, neat, or somewhere in between?
AM: Both. I clean it up before I get started and when I finish, but the in between is a disaster. Usually, there are piles of stencils scattered all over the floor. It can be a problem. I end up spending a lot of time digging to try and find one that I used a day or week before, they get walked on and torn. Not the most efficient, but it works.

SH: What do you do to push through self­doubt, a common problem amongst artists?
AM: The root of why I make paintings is because I like to. Whether I’m putting them out there for other people’s eyeballs or not, ‘making’ would still be what I was doing. Also, I can’t and don’t expect to please everyone. It really isn’t a contest.

Amanda Mando Marie

SH: Your work has a very vintage post­ World War II style with a modern edge, is there something about that time period that holds some specific meaning to the work a part of style?
AM: No Not really. It’s what I first found success with and I’ve been able to grow with this style.

SH: If your work was used at the basis for an animated short, what would be the plot? Who would write the script or be cast as the lead voice? And what style of animation would it be?
AM: A short film on something super practical like how to fix a flat tire on an old dutch bike, or how to pop popcorn over a flame. You know useful. I really like Alan Watts voice, he could read the script. I don’t know who I’d have write it, but someone with sarcasm and a sense of humor.

SH: What’s the best advice you’ve received as an artist? What’s the best advice you can bestow for life?
AM: ‘You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.’ has been something a friend told me and advice that I seem to continually need to remember. My advice would be to remember, it’s supposed to be fun.

Amanda Mando Marie

Join us for the opening reception of ‘The Light Touch‘ this Saturday, August 20th from 6-9pm. The exhibition will be on view through September 10th.