–mar-, Marcela Aguero, has been an artist for twenty years. Previously, she talked about recent projects she has worked on since moving to Miami Beach but some of her most interesting art came before the days of Photoshop and digital photography. But there is more to it than just changing technology.
“I think when I was younger, in my teens and early twenties...I had a lot of energy! I was more experimental and enthusiastic. Some pieces were successful, but that work was not as evolved as now. But also, that was in an age when society was not so visual as now there wasn't a computer in every household, no one I knew even had an email address, and Photoshop didn't exist.” she says.
Aguero’s work had a style that worked with overlapped negatives, darkroom experimentation and the use of missed media to create textures within the photographs.
“ I had a very contrasty style of lighting- I blew out skin tones, diffused them and always shot things from unusual angles. I also hand painted prints, etc. My work overall, had more of an impact in the nineties than it does now,” she says.“ It led to publications and some nice gigs as a photographer. My involvement in that history is what gives my work today , as an artist, a little bit of special appeal.”
One of the photos that has become an icon and been imitated (whether consciously or not who knows) is Caution, pictured above and below.
“Specifically, I'm inclined to address the pieces which have stood through time, and taken on life forms of their own. (even, if they were not, in my opinion, my best works) It now almost 21 years since I created Lacrima and Caution, and I still see them around!” says Aguero. “Both of these images are effective because of their simplicity. Lacrima has nothing in its background to distract the viewer from the subject ,which is high in contrast and in my opinion, blatant in its story. The running drop from a highly made- up (makeup /glamour) eye is open to many interpretations and easy to relate to.”
She says Caution is also right to the point—but totally misunderstood piece. Aguero says it is libido that seems to have led to such misunderstanding.
“Its contrast is enhanced by the yellow airbrush paint which I used to color only the tape. That reminds me, if Marshall oils did exist then, they were difficult to obtain...and even so, the yellow was never nearly as saturated as the result from experimenting with the airbrush paint,” she says. “ I've always interpreted ideas and emotions in my work. That is my forte. (heck ,even the art institute had to invent a category for me to major in and they called it "editorial illustration" . But, back to the point...) Lacrima was not anything specific. I came up with it because I thought it looked interestingand it ‘spoke’ to me each time I washed off my makeup. The models name, btw, is Julian. It's not me.”
The meaning of Lacrima is the contrast of glamour and sadness—at least to Aguero herself. She is more than willing to let the viewer decide for themselves. The idea that Caution, especially, was seen as “sexy” irritates Aguero.She meant it as a self portrait of her feelings, it was a warning sign, a caution to the viewer.
“ Even today, I can only think to that--‘ew.’" she says. “It is not sexy, but a portrait of bare vulnerability. The ‘caution’ on the body represented fragility and the "do not enter" was intentionally placed on my head to represent my then, confused adolescent mind and thoughts!”
That is the way with any art; how it is intended often takes a back seat to how something is popularly perceived. Aguero is not sure about if this is correct or not.
“I can't say, but it certainly shows me how society as a whole, perceives and thinks. I had a real issue with this in my youth. I was truly innocent then.” says Aguero.
After seeing her works and hearing her ideas for works it is difficult to understand why Aguero is not wildly successful as an artist. Why is that?
“If I knew , I would alter it, and become widely successful !” she says. “I could start speaking like a new aged hippie and tell you it's because I'm not in tune with my intuition enough to know when to act upon opportunities and when not to. Or that my sense of manifestation is off balanced by the inability to focus. Is that what you mean? My endeavors have often been unfortunate after starting with great potential, even in my own eyes. The answer is, I dunno. I see my life as a process and success is subjective.”
Talent isn’t always about “making it”, whether IT is money or acclaim. An artist can be successful in their work and not convert that into money or fame or recognition. It is one of the truly sad parts of any sort of art. Aguero has a theory.
"Successful people (I'm talking rich or famous) are usually people who have LESS thoughts running through their heads, so they are able to focus and stick with a goal. Ever notice that? And I am not ragging on them, good for them," says Aguero. “It teaches us, that goals can be reached if we stick to them with patience. My idea of success in life would be to have complete balance of everything I am. Money would probably be a side effect of that, because I'd be more effective at what I do and how it is valued to others.”
She doesn’twant fame in any case. In fact, Aguero seems uncomfortable with attention. She is a tad paranoid about electronic exhibition of her work. She has been focusing on commercial photography until recently and has just turned back to working on more artistic endeavors. Doing commercial photographs has implications in her art.
"When I am in the commercial state of mind, I cannot create art. But you need creativity to create commercial art. So the habit forms of molding and watering- down raw, creative thoughts. And after a period it becomes hard to let loose again and to be truly artistic.” says Aguero.
Next up is an online print shop and completion of her series, more than a thousand words.
Jordi Rosen, a singer, songwriter and accordionist makes captivating, unique music that not many people have heard. The music is alternately haunting and whimsical. You are skating on some dangerous ice when you call music whimsical but here it is both apt and a compliment.
Rosen, from Montreal, produces music that is deceptive; it is simple lyrically and in composition. Yet it has a depth that is almost mystical at the same time. There is a sly sense of humor and spirituality in it as well. Using the word “spirituality” when referring to music conjures some unfortunate comparison but it is unavoidable. Her reason for making music is straight forward.
“I do music because I love it and I feel it is a path I should be taking in my life. One time I didn't sing for a while and I woke myself up singing a note!” she says. “I have been singing since I was very little for fun and then on a more social level when I got older. I was sad when I wasn't playing music for a while. I like to share music with others and for them to feel good with it as well. I love music in general and am amazed with the different sounds people can create.”
Myspace was a major way for her to get in touch with fans and spread her music. Yet, it gets to be difficult to get to know everyone. Beyond this, Rosen goes about increasing her fans the old fashioned way. She plays shows with other folks and meets their fans or has people bring fans to her shows.
One of the attractive things about Rosen’s music is its DIY, whatever is at hand, quality. She talks about playing Casio keyboards she found in the trash. You get the feeling she would, and could, make music with a rock, a garbage can and a broken kazoo. She also makes wonderful use of the accordion.
“I like to play the accordion and Casio and have friends accompany in a way that feels good for them and I am quite delighted with the configurations! Once in a while I will work on an instrumental piece,” she says. “Usually with a song I will work on layering the sounds (i.e. the left hand of the accordion might get a bit more intricate), and often the pieces are works in progress.” When I bring up “simplicity” and how it is actually sometimes quite complicated Rosen responded with emotion.
“I like simplicity so much!!!!! That is one of the major themes in my life. With the work that I do I am constantly clearing on a Spiritual level and I have to practice this in my own life to be grounded. I believe this translates into the music now more than before,” she says. “These days there is a focus on time management, layers, organizing, creating the future, health and ...Love is often a main theme musically and to me Spirituality often involves finding the route to a loving source.”
When I question her on love in her music, wondering if it is romantic love or has some other meaning she talks about working within the “Cosmic Stream.”
“Romantic love is one aspect, but essentially love of oneself and love towards others and creating a circle of love and respect. I see the Cosmic Stream as a Heavenly source. When I visualize it I see it on the left side of the body,” says Rosen. “When I do healing work with people I ask them to put their troubles in the stream. When I feel overwhelmed I will place myself or others into the stream. It is a flow of healing energy. When pouring water from a tap you can visualize it coming from there as well for purification. I noticed that in Hinduism there is a similar way related to Shiva and The Ganges.”
This led to the songs featured above this article, Marrakech Garden, the song seems to be almost a mantra, with its repetition but Rosen has another take.
“It is an instrumental song with a very simple chorus..’I'm your Indian Ocean, You're my Marrakech Garden.’ I am Ojibway, so I relate to The Indian Ocean Part--being emotional perhaps at the time,” says Rosen. “I was named after the Jordan River, so that must tie into it, even though that wasn't the intention. I visualized my love at the time of the song to be like a lush exotic garden.it is about seeing the inner and outer beauty in each other.”
The song is catchy and doubtless will stick in the mind of both the spiritual and the heathen
“I write my songs with the intention of them touching everyone somehow,” she says. ““I know that not every song will appeal to everyone, but to be able to make some people happy feels good."
What does Rosen listen to? A potpourri of rock, pop and world music including the likes of The Velvet Underground, PP Arnold, Preston Park, Pop Levi, PROMWOLF, Kings of Convenience, Dalida, Ghostland Observatory and others.
“I am fond of many types of music...Pop, Bollywood, Ska, Hip- Hop, French Chansons...Folk, Glam...” says Rosen “....I also love bird music! J'aime Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot!”
Right now you can hear her music on her above this article, on her myspace page, order it at CD Baby or hear it at shows.
“I'm excited for you to hear the new album! There are lots of new and exciting aspects of it, and I am doing a couple of other recordings these days too. My new album has songs that have been written over the last four years--mainly pop songs,” she says. “Christian Richer is producing it and I am co- producing it. We have similar musical tastes. He is influenced by late 70's disco and pop and late 60's folk.”
Disco folk is something everyone needs to hear and NOW.
Rosen says there is a great deal of room left for experimentation with vocals, instruments and effects on the record. It will be awhile before the new recording is complete.
In addition to music Rosen practices "intuitive healing." Don't roll your eyes;she is, herself, skeptical. Yet at the same time she goes back to family tradition in this--her father was a physician and she also harkens to Ojibway traditions. As a skeptical heathen myself I still feel that her music has healing power. When I put it on it definitively has the power to heal a crappy day. This hypothesis has been repeatedly tested.. You can contact Rosen at jordilotus (at) yahoo (dot) ca.
Jordi Rosen’s New recording features …“Christi an on bass ,some synth stuff and added percussion, Martin Landry and Jackie Gallant on percussion/drums and Jackie on some synth too. Lisa Gamble on banjo and vocals, Annabelle Chvostek on guitar, mandolin and vocals, Carrie Haber on vocals, Joellen Housego on fiddle and vocals too. Lots of variety. There is a cover of a country song on there too. Annabelle and Martin were also on Marrakech Garden, so you will feel a sense of that vibe on some of the songs too.” she says.
-mar-, (aka Marcela Aquero) is a visual artist living in Miami Beach. Mostly, she is a photographer but she dabbles in design, music and multimedia as well.For nearly twenty years –mar- has worked in both fine art and commercial art. Yet she has had gaps and periods where she was less visible, less productive than in others. The meandering nature of her career as an artist has led to both a scattering of her work and a diminution of her impact. Sounds harsh but it is true.
Another truth is that fans of the visual arts should be aware of –mar-, what she has done and what she plans to do. One thing she is currently, and perpetually, working on is photographing textures.
“I shoot textures everyday. It is a form of addiction. It's so second nature though that I wouldn't actually say I'm "working" on it, “ she says. “The latest series I started was in 2006, it was innovative and I took so long to unveil it that society beat me to it...so now it's cliché'. THAT was something I was actually working on.”
She uses textures in two ways mostly.
“There are two angles, the texture itself, and then the subject matter. Both are completely spontaneous and unrelated until I combine them into a piece together,” says –mar-.
Sometimes she manages to find beauty in things most might scrape off their shoe or actively avoid stepping on in the first place: dead birds, broken streets, various flotsam.She somehow makes them alluring.
“I have just as much of an internal reaction towards a beautiful texture (it's composition, "expression" , etc.) as I do towards a beautiful expression on a statuesque model. I think I'm attuned to a certain spirit of things rather than the things themselves.” she says.
The 2006 project –mar- referenced has yet to be completed to her satisfaction.
“It's still floating around in my head. It's a work in progress, stunted by my lack of confidence. It's a series I started revolving around black ink splatters. I was creating the splatters myself with various materials to incorporate into the series,” she says. “That was time consuming. About four months into it, Photoshop came out with a splatter filter (or paintbrush) for graphic designers. Since then I've seen ink splatters on almost everything. its passé.”
The series (titled, more than a thousand words) was never exhibited although –mar- now allows that it should have been.
“I have eight or nine (from the series) I'm happy with. There is a ‘theme’ to the series (that much retains its integrity!), and the splatter is just a means of illustrating the theme,” says –mar-. “The initial impact however is lost when the viewer has seen it all before. In these times, it is really difficult to believe that everything we could possibly think of hasn't been thought of before-- in terms of art”
She says that she could be her own worst judge, however, and earlier alluded to that lack of confidence that plagues many artists. At some point the public will be able to judge when the series is exhibited.She also didn’t initially want to even TALK about the series or give its name.
“I was going to say, I prefer to not reveal the theme until I unveil the entire series... but what the heck, whatever…. It is about not finding the right words to express emotions. It was based around the idea of a love letter,” she says. “The ink represents handwriting, only there are no words whatsoever, only splatters which create expressions both calm and tumultuous in combination with depictions of stunning, classic women.”
-mar- printed a short run of the series in book form.
“I wrote no words inside, no credits or anything. I was hoping to market it and myself to local art galleries for an opportunity to show it.” she says.
Unfortunately fate intervened.
“I was hit by a car while walking in a crosswalk. The book is sitting on my shelf collecting dust! and the series is still incomplete but this brings me to an interesting self discovery I had about the textures.”
-mar-‘s favorite local magazine The Lead Miami Beach, ran a series of her photos, shot during Art Deco Weekend. These were pictures about some of the dilapidated architecture in Miami Beach. And yet it wasn’t a slight on the city at all. The fact she shot the run-down actually made her question herself more than Miami Beach.
“WHY? in such a beautifully manicured city, where there are many architectures, landscapes and lush things to capture, especially during Art Deco weekend--why was I drawn to decay and the alleyways again? A part of me felt ashamed of myself, regardless that I was depicting even these subjects in a beautiful light. But I understand it now!,” she says. “There is something very special to me about this city. I love it here. It is beautiful to me, the whole of it, every part of it . I think I'm just shooting something pretty that I'm attracted to, but I'm wrong, In this case the textures, the decay, the alleys, and the things that no one notices, they blare out at me, these shapes, rusted or weathered with their circumstances, surrounded by such a great environment and like by the most beautiful sunlight. I realize I see myself in them. The final pieces are a reflection of me.",
Highlighting decay also might have a greater purpose, whether intentional or not, in inspiring preservation. She also says that she was not initially conscious of the pro-preservation message but became aware after the pieces were done. And –mar-admits she doesn’t see decay as a negative. She was, however, worried about the perception of something she meant in a positive light.
“It is all a very loving expression of some things I saw within a span of 25 minutes or so. I enjoy walking around the city.” she says. “And what I meant by seeing myself in them was a bit of a profound discovery for me. We are attracted to what we are. I think I saw myself in those textures. They' re everywhere, and unnoticed, but awesome. They're the result of natural causes. Now let me put me in this context. I ,too , dwell around these streets, I've been doing for some time. I don't glisten, I don't look rich, and I've been recovering from that hit and run. I could get really deep about the emotions it's left me with , but I wont' bore you to death...the story is right there in my Art DECOnstruction series.”
More with –mar-, especially related to past, groundbreaking pieces such as Caution, soon. This iconic piece is depicted below.
I met Menton Matthews about 15 years ago early in his musical endeavors. At the time I had no idea he was an artist and it was not until fairly recently that I saw any of his work. I wanted to talk to him about non-technical stuff here so I do not get into the “hows” or the medium he uses most. Much of his work is dedicated to graphic novels. His first graphic novel, Ars Memoria: The Art of Memory Book One, is the tale of a man’s search for his lost twin—snatched away at night. Or is it? You are going to have to read it to find out.
Matthews also contributed to the IDW book Zombies Versus Robots Aventure. Anything with zombies has to be good. I chatted with Matthews about his art in general and about his plans.
Tell me about how you started painting and how this moved into the realm of graphic novels?
Well, I really started painting when I was a kid, I am not sure of the age, something around ten or eleven. I had been drawing long before that, as my dream when I was growing up was to make comic books. Growing up in Mississippi they were my world.
Somewhere along the way, in a story better left untold, I got pulled over into trying to make music. Music was and still is always an uphill battle for me, I was never very good at it, and I think I was more or less trying to be "cool." You know, stand on a stage and have everyone love you; one might feel really accepted then. It wasn't until I released music under the name Saltillo the album Ganglion that I achieved any kind of real success with my own music. For that album I really dug deep into "me" and tried for the first time to make something that just I wanted to hear, and I did not care what others thought of it.
But I think you’re more asking about how I got into painting this time around, and there are two major stories that lead up to it, I will share one.
It was Christmas the year I released the Saltillo album. Now I have always kept sketch books and journals and my wife had seen some birds. I drew and really liked them, in fact she talked about them a great deal, so I thought I would try and paint her a canvas of them for one of her Christmas gifts. It was an amazing experience for me, the smell of the paint brought back so many memories of my childhood and getting something out like that I had not done in a very long time. At that point I was hooked, I really could think of nothing else. Over the next few years I painted as much as I could and I took a few years just to think about the question; did I want to make comic books or not? Finally resulting in me making my own self published book , Ars Memoria. Which, up to this date, was the hardest and most rewarding thing I have done artistically.
What other work have you done?
I had a pin up in Proof #25 ( image comics ), and Zombies vs Robots Aventure (IDW publishing) a four issue mini series of which I have the first nine to eight pages of, plus a great deal of independent covers and pin ups.
What is upcoming--near and FAR? What are your future plans for your art?
God, I wish I could tell you the things I am working on right now, I am extremely excited about them , they are truly like dreams come true, but I have signed confidentiality agreements that will not allow me to talk about them at all. All I can say is I am working on two new projects with IDW Publishing.
(We will keep our eyes and ears open for news on this!-ed)
Talk to me about your art as ART, separate from the graphic novel aspect?
If you thought my answer to your first questions was long , I could make this one a book. So I will try and sum it up a bit.
I heard a writer once say, that he did not really write things, and much as he just wrote it down. Painting for me is a great deal like that, if I could articulate it with words I would not have to paint it. It is the need to manifest the internality of my own psyche. To place in the external world my own personal internal architecture, iconography, tropes and loci, connecting them together and seeing them in ways that my psyche does not naturally do outside of dreams, to the point that resolution was a forgone conclusion.
Yes I am quite insane.
What are you trying to get at with your painting?
Matthews lives and paints in Chicago. You can buy his works at finer comics shops or online at the Menton 3 website.
For more on IDW Publishing and ZVR Aventure go to the IDW website.