Life in Art

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Visual artist Marionne Contreras opens up about her parenting style and how her art tells the story of her life

Giving Objects New Life

It’s difficult not to be captivated by the current collection of art pieces produced by visual artist Marionne Contreras. What at first appear to be live plants are actually soft-sculptures made from embroidered canvas scraps. Along with her other textile-based and handwoven pieces, these are as beautiful as they are evocative. Marionne is self-taught as an artist and says that  her art, albeit unintentionally, is a kind of record-keeping device as each creation revolves around her life. She explains, “My childhood, my memories, my experiences, my understanding on things—there’s no other subject I’d know better than my own life. As an artist it is always important to have in-depth knowledge and to be familiar with whatever your art is about.” 

Life in Art
Photo from @marionne.contreras

When asked the reason behind her use of found objects and scraps of canvas, she candidly shares, “You could say I have a tendency for hoarding—I see things and start to think what I can make using them. I’m also sentimental about materials, so I don’t want to just throw things away without first attempting to make a new life for them.” Marionne’s artist husband Paolo Icasas is a painter, and his discarded canvases lying on their studio floor used to find their way into her sculptures as fillers and armatures. Eventually these became the main materials she used, particularly when she began making her Plant Series.  

Changes Brought On By Parenthood

Recalling how she adjusted her creative process after the birth of her child Jose, Marionne shares how she shifted from using toxic materials like fiberglass, epoxy, and silicone which would fill the entire house with strong fumes. “I decided then to focus on textile-based works and soft sculptures; but I didn’t give up on the plaster and concrete purely for self-satisfaction, as I always opt for different textures.” Her work routine changed as well. As she was used to spending her days in the studio, during his infancy, she would bring Jose along, strapped onto her body in a baby sling. But because of her commitment to breastfeed around the clock, her workplace moved from studio to bedroom, where she would work while he slept. When he got older, Jose would be allowed to crawl around the galleries while Marionne and Paolo attended exhibit openings.

Life in Art
Photo from @marionne.contreras

The Artist As Storyteller

As one of thirteen artists whose work is currently on exhibit at the Modeka Art Space in a show called 13 X 13 Lucky Monkey & Friends,  Marionne’s piece entitled The House My Father Built and What Remains of It, is a fiberglass skull embellished with fabric, yarn, thread, wire and aerosol paint. In one of many Instagram posts where the artist reveals bits and pieces of her life, she describes the piece as being representative of the fate that befell the home where her family once lived. “Making statements is not my priority; as I believe that being a female artist is a statement in itself.” Calling herself as storyteller, Marionne goes on to say, “Whatever the audience picks up from my representation of my truth is organically affected by their interaction with my work.”

Life in Art

A Natural Progression

Jose is now 18 months old and Marionne declares, “There is no effort or intention (on my part) to educate him about art, because that’s the life we live. He knows Van Gogh because we have his portrait on our fridge, and half the books we own are art books.” After having watched his father paint and being surrounded by art books and paintings, Marionne says that perhaps one thing she’s dedicated towards teaching Jose is to not touch the artworks; and it’s something which she thinks he’s done well with, so far.

Including Jose in her creative process has been part of a natural progression in Marionne’s life. She says he is just starting to appreciate beauty in things, particularly scenes found in nature like plants, trees and the sky.  She happily relates how he had repeatedly called a certain piece she made beautiful as he touched it; and how he thoroughly investigated it by running his fingers over it. “Perhaps he also appreciated it because I let him help me by giving him markers and just letting him draw all over it. This is something I most likely will let him do again.” 

We look forward to perhaps seeing more mother and son collaborations in the future, and getting more glimpses of Marionne and her family’s life, in art. 

Featured photo credit from: katewashere.