Marilyn Narota is a mixed media and performance artist by way of Queens, NY and she sits down to talk about the role of formal art education, the importance of hair in her artwork, her online magazine, Artilade, which looks to combine art and literature, and much more.
I’ve always loved art since I was a little kid, always had a passion for it, [but] I didn’t pursue it initially in my academic career – I initially was planning to pursue psychology research. But somewhere along the line I realized that art is my passion, I’m very happy anytime I’m around art and artists. Just looking at artwork makes me happy and I decided that for my general goals in life I should pursue an art career, it allows me to do many things that I want to do in my life.
ART + TECHNOLOGY
It’s [art and technology consulting] my way of figuring out a viable way of making money to pay for my art supplies really. I find that a lot of artists and art historians, people starting galleries, maybe don’t know everything they need to know about computers, even social media, how to send a mailchimp email. There’s so many tech skills that artists maybe are not familiar with. I think a lot of us are catching up fairly quickly but it doesn’t come easy to everyone so I felt that because I’m comfortable with computers and I’ve always grown up with computers, I felt that it would be good if I provided that service.
I don’t think everyone needs an arts education to be an artist, I don’t really think you need that at all actually, but for me specifically I went to a liberal arts undergraduate school and I got some art education there but I felt I needed more. I also wanted to be around other artists and I wanted to get feedback about my work, you know, to grow as an artist and to really build myself into the kind of artist that I want to be. I don’t think you can do that alone, it’s very hard to do something like that in isolation. At first when I was building my portfolio for applications to art school I tried to do it on my own and it was very hard, it was extremely hard. So I ended up having to do a post back because I didn’t have a portfolio and doing it on my own was extremely hard. I initially applied to a bunch of schools and initially got rejected from every single school. So I really needed to do something that would kind of put me through the ringer and just extract from me the things that were already there but I didn’t know how to access as an artist. Luckily I was able to attend SVA as a masters program but like I said not everybody has to do it. I feel it was very useful for me because I’ve gotten to know a lot of artists and learn about the art world and learn about what it takes to live life as an artist.
I realize that I’m very much in the beginning of my art career and I’m still figuring out how to succeed as an artist, what success even means – I think that as artists we all have to define for ourselves what success means. It’s not as easy as perhaps a career in psychology research, which is what I was doing before, where you can literally Google how to be a psychology researcher and there’s many lists out there that sort of give you the steps and give you a pretty good guideline, you follow the steps and you become that and it’s easy to make a living as even a mediocre psychologist but it’s not so easy to make a living as an artist.
You could be the most talented artist in the world but, what does that mean? You also have to wear so many hats as an artist. You have to know how to apply to shows or how to apply for grants or you know, how to grow your own group of friends, how to network with people. So many things that you have to learn – how to build websites for your artwork, for your portfolio.
I like it because I feel like we have a very complicated relationship with hair. I think most people try to manipulate it and just control it even though it’s a very natural occurring thing in our bodies, it’s as natural as our nails and everything else, but especially as a Colombian female I understand the desire to want to adorn yourself. It’s part of how we express ourselves in femininity but I also want to question where that comes from. I want to question the social norms around it. I feel like in a lot of societies hair has a specific connotation or significance. There’s various societies where women have to cover up their hair entirely because it’s viewed as being too sensual and might make men act in ways that they don’t want them to act. So yeah we have a very complex relationship with hair and that’s why I like to use it a lot [in my artwork].
It’s funny because I don’t consider myself an overly political person. I don’t see myself as a very political individual per se but my artwork does tend to be on the political side. My artwork tends to be about feminism a lot, multiculturalism, and psychology. So those three things are things that I really gravitate towards in my artwork.
Artilade is a very recent project for me, it’s an online magazine that focuses on literature and art and combining the two. Right now Artilade is a platform that I use to promote other artists and normally I have them write in their own words a piece about any topic, I give them a theme but they really are invited to write about anything. I also tend to show images of their work because I want to create Artilade as a bridge between not just literature and art but artists and non-artists and also technology and art, it’s a website. I want to make Artilade into something that is useful for other artists. I think as an emerging artist, every opportunity that you have to promote your work is useful and helpful, you’re trying to get your work out there and I think that those opportunities are great and I really think that artists helping other artists is a beautiful thing. I really appreciate when there’s people out there who want to help their fellow artists. It’s not easy being an artist right, so we have to do what we can to help each other.
CREATING FOR ARTILADE
There’s several things that I like about it, it’s hard work, it’s a lot more work than maybe it looks but for me personally it helps me because it keeps me in touch with an arts community. It’s easy to lose touch with people, once you’re done with school, once you’re graduated people tend to disperse. So I think it’s a way for me to connect with people and re-connect with people that I’ve known in the past and get to hear their perspectives and get to see what they’re up to with their work. That’s been useful for me. The editing process is tough, I like it, but it’s also a lot of work. You have to be a little OCD to be an editor I think. Recently I’ve opened it up to collaborations with other artists. I’ve had two other editors in the past issue who were instrumental in making that issue happen and I really love the idea of collaborating with other artists on projects.
I think you have to be fearless to be an artist, yeah definitely. It’s not an easy career to pursue, it’s maybe even counter-intuitive in a lot of ways. When you have to work so hard to put something you love, your like heart and soul into something, to put it out there and see what people’s reactions are going to be and you know you may or may not sell something ever or you may or may not get into galleries but I think to even pursue something like that you have to really know that you have a passion for it and maybe even ignore people who tell you not to do that, to pursue an art career. For example, I’m still having conversations with my father about how he thinks maybe I should have kept going in another career because I’d be making more money now or I’d be more successful or you know whatever his definition of success is, but you can’t let people define you and you can’t let people tell you what to do or how to live your life or what’s best for you. You kind of have to do that on your own.
I want to keep working on Artilade and seeing where I can take it. Putting out more issues, growing Artilade, seeing what it can do as a platform for artists and their artwork. I also am working on two performance based installation performative pieces. I have to do a lot more research before I can even say whether or not they’re gonna happen but yeah I’m really focusing on those two pieces and yeah hopefully [I can] make them happen. I’m starting a small company called Kaur Studio which is just an evolution of what I’ve been doing with art and technology consulting where I’d like to provide more services to help other people who want to make not just portfolio websites but you know any kind of website, who need help with technology issues in general.