Solo Together

Exactly two years ago this month, I told my husband I wanted to separate. The title of my solo exhibition at Galleri Urbane, Cluster Fail, is a play on humorous slang. Cluster fuck is a colloquial term that people use to describe a difficult time, moment or situation. By giving levity to chaos and tragedy, we can mitigate the pain of the situation and chuckle at the absurdity. This was the working title for my first paintings post-separation. Not wanting to trivialize the tragic nature of recent life events, I kept the Cluster and added Fail. This described the failure of the system to protect myself and my girls form my ex as well as the failure I felt trying to shield my children from trauma.

The opening was well attended and it was a thrill to meet some of my collectors. Also thrilling was receiving three press mentions. The first one was leading up to the event:

Then I was listed as one of the top art events to see the weekend my exhibition opened by the Dallas Observer:

Marion Wesson – Cluster Fail (pictured at top)

Galleri Urbane
2277 Monitor St.
Artist talk 4:30-5:30 p.m. Saturday

“Marion Wesson created the upholstered works in Cluster Fail during the aftermath of an abusive relationship. The first piece is based on a night she called police to her home. “I based the fabric design on the violent outburst of when my ex grabbed me while screaming and yelling in front of our children,” she says. When she made her story public it elicited an outpouring of support she had not anticipated from other women. Determined to help others in her situation, she partnered with a former Rhode Island School of Design classmate, who helped her illustrate the fabrics. The designs are inspired by true stories of women who have survived abuse. Admission is free.”

The latest press mention came from Culture Map Dallas:

“Cluster Fall,” Marion Wesson at Galleri Urbane
Opening reception: May 13, 6-8:30 pm
Exhibition dates: May 13-June 17

“Los Angeles-based artist Marion Wesson’s installations of brightly upholstered chairs and complementary canvases resemble nothing so much as domestic tableaus. Their inspiration, however, is much darker. 

Based on the things she went through in the aftermath of a tumultuous relationship, the shapes she captures (including a hand grabbing a wrist and a woman curved in a fetal position), are totems of domestic violence transformed into pretty patterns. 

Through her own personal trials, Wesson came in contact with other women who share similar histories, and she collaborated with them on the prints that ultimately inspired her paintings. In a time when the rights of women are being slowly eroded, Wesson’s bravery in sharing the difficult but sometimes positive changes that come from escaping oppression is an essential act.”

Before my opening reception on May 13th at Galleri Urbane, I gave a talk about my work. I thought I had prepared for my talk. I spent a couple of weeks writing, then making flash cards, then reading and re-reading the flash cards (I was even planning to transcribe the talk to this blog). When it came time for the presentation, I felt like I froze as I abandoned the prepared words. The emotionality of the work took over and I even broke down a couple of times. Allowing myself to cry alone seemed acceptable but in public? I talked about things I didn’t expect and felt empty pockets of omission. Emotion catches me off guard these days. I think I’ve passed the time of mourning 20 years of my life. Instead the haunting continues and the regret and pain linger.

After my talk I met a very interesting woman who was transcribing a sort of impromptu interview then posting it on Instagram. It was through this informal chat that I realized the connection between my ex ripping up my paper calendar in a vengeful rage and the title of the painting we were discussing (Cluster Compendium). Though obvious to her, I hadn’t consciously made the connection.

I have spent many hours, days, and weeks crying. Crying for my children, myself, a broken heart. Are these tears a wasted practice in self-pity or a cathartic necessity? I’m finding and embracing love from a kind man in lieu of another bully. I refuse to revert back to attracting relationships that hurt. I have given in to being loved by kindness instead of settling for fleeting glimpses of happiness. I no longer have to search for a happy meaning in mistreatment. I will never waver in my conviction for happiness. I put joy in my purse as I drive carpool. I put joy in my pocket as I take my children to the park. I feel joy at 5 am as I make school lunches. Joy, you put your arm around me, you whisper affirmations, and help me sleep at night.

This Month’s Music: Fenech-Soler

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#badasssingleworkingartistmom

Now that my solo show is officially completed, I can focus my attention on making new art. And my first piece is a commission. As I prepare to make this painting, I have first created a color sketch. I will send this mini version of the painting and palette to the clients for their approval:

Color Sketch, acrylic on birch panels, 20″ x 10″

The pieces for my show at Galleri Urbane opening on May 13, 2017 were picked up for the art shuttle to Dallas. Here are some pictures of the shippers:

It was a thrill to see my work being loaded on the truck. This has been a dream a long time in the making but really it’s the years of hard work that have led to this show.

The original inception for the chair installation began the night I called the police during a domestic violence incident in my home. I based the fabric design on the violent outburst of when my ex grabbed me while screaming and yelling in front of our children. Making my story public brought out words of sympathy and an understanding from other women I had not anticipated. And this began the journey to design fabric for other women. My fabric was illustrated with the help of a RISD classmate:


Fabric Design Cluster Collapse (Marion)

A few of these women shared their own abuse with me and agreed to tell their stories as an addition to my own. One woman called “Abby” and I designed a fabric with a photograph of a tree rendered in a mirror image to create a repeated pattern. While she ended a 20 year relationship with her husband who raged against her and her children with brutish behavior, she wanted to go back to her initial abuse as a child suffered at the hands of her adopted brother. Due to her extreme athleticism, she was able to escape her brother by climbing a giant tree, now felled, outside her childhood home. In going back to her abuse before her marriage, she establishes the roots of that abuse and how it endured through her subsequent relationships. The chairs explore the idea that the pattern of abuse and succumbing to bullies begins in childhood for some victims and once established, is very hard to break. Abuse victims are unfamiliar with a pattern of a loving and supportive relationships and have been programmed to appease the bullies instead of standing up to them.

Fabric Design for Cluster Collapse (Abby)

The second victim I worked with had to break from a man she really loved who was made ill by alcoholism. She asked that her name not be revealed and so she is identified by the letter “Y”. Describing a loving man made mad by drinking, she found herself standing between her husband and their three children as this tornado of rage spiraled out of control. We settled on imagery which included this tornado and the liquor bottles he used to consume. This fabric design was then rendered in a 50’s style of imagery as an ironic juxtaposition between the happy, gay iconic imagery of fun parties and summer nights filled with martinis and poodles against the dark reality of extreme illness. She asked that I upholster the fabric on chairs that looked awkward and uncomfortable to sit on. This fabric was also a collaboration with a RISD classmate, now RISD professor, Forrest Curl.

Fabric Design for Cluster Collapse (“Y”)

The last set of chairs is about a woman called “Melanie” who was violently sexually abused by her former boyfriend. What she described initially as consensual sex play, turned into a violent pattern of appeasement. She asked that the fabric be composed with red and black and upholstered on wing back chairs.

Fabric Design for Cluster Collapse (Melanie)

After many years of healing and therapy and now in a happy, healthy marriage to another man, I became the model to tell her story of pain. We discussed using photographic image of a woman naked, curled up in a ball. A fetal-like pose was the best way she felt she could convey her attempt to comfort herself after each episode of abuse. She imagined she could curl up in one of the chairs with the sides shielding her. This fabric was designed with help, talent and skill of photographer Ted Thornton.

Fabric Design for Cluster Collapse (Mealnie)

My last post was a message to my stalkers. Usually there is one view of my blog a day from my ex’s family in Macedonia. But my last post generated a flurry of hits like roaches scattering at the flick of a light switch. These were people I considered family. To the woman whose son I gave $75,000 to buy and open his own make-up store, I received an email telling me I was going to hell. This after she told me she was going to wash my feet in gratitude for everything I had done for her and her son. Her son, my ex’s nephew, was so overwhelmed by my generosity that he cried as he thanked me and wanted to name the store “Marion”. My thought was how could I not help my nephew after I saw that his only job was selling gum and cigarettes out of an open kiosk in the snow? But I’m glad that store still stands. And it will always stand as a reminder that I am not the horrible person my ex has convinced his family I am. My ex’s sister was right about something: I have been to hell and now I’m living in a purgatory of my ex’s making. The roaches may never go away but I know where they hide and I’m not afraid of bugs.

This Month’s Music: Little Dragon

Good PR

The first gallery that ever represented me back in 1998 was called Cruz L.A. It was a lovely space in Venice, California and I had my first real solo exhibition with them. And in the process, I became good friends with James Ferrera, partner in the gallery as well as their PR writer. All these years later, I have collaborated with that dear friend to come up with a press release for my upcoming show at Galleri Urbane:

Exhibition Dates: May 13 – June 17, 2017

Opening Reception: May 13, 6:00 – 8:00 PM, artist talk at 4:30 PM
Gallery 2

Marion Wesson

Cluster Fail

This May, Galleri Urbane will host esteemed multimedia artist Marion Wesson for her first solo exhibition with the gallery. Cluster Fail debuts in response to Wesson’s deeply personal experience over 2016. Navigating stages of collusion, panic, rationalization, isolation and retaliation, her new work transcribes a miasma of feeling into a piercing visual narrative of collapse and sustenance.

Wesson’s Cluster series involves work created in the aftermath of a tumultuous relationship, during a time of difficult but positive change. Each piece tells a unique story of abuse and self-awareness. “I came to the conclusion that the paintings had to work in concert with the sculpture,” Wesson says, “and that a cohesive collection that told a story was paramount.” Her Cluster work urges conversation through a simple diorama of chairs, chosen by the subject, meant to represent both support and dialogue.  They are upholstered in fabric designed by Wesson that incorporates mundane objects as powerful symbols of oppression.  Each conversation area is intricately tied to a Cluster series painting that hangs above, imploring the viewer to participate rather than just observe. The artist will host an artist talk to begin the conversation as a prelude to the reception.

Marion Wesson received her BFA in Painting from the Rhode Island School of Design.  Her work has been featured in both solo and group exhibitions in the United States and Spain, where she was Artist in Residence at Sporting Club Russafa in Valencia.  She was awarded the prestigious James D. Phelan Award in Printmaking by the San Francisco Foundation.  Wesson’s work has been highlighted in Art Hound, Artweek, Buzz Weekly, L.A. Weekly and Venice Magazine and is included in the Fidelity, Tailwater and Twitter Corporate Collections.  Marion Wesson is a fifth generation Californian.  She currently resides in Los Angeles, CA with her two children.

Another requirement for presenting work in a gallery is crafting an artist statement. I combed through all my writings as I have laid them out over months of blog posts, thoughts, and ideas. The rich but sad content of the last almost two years of my life has been distilled into a short paragraph summing up this body of work:

My recent paintings are messages of my own pain rendered it in a composition most resembling the repetition and patterns of the fabrics I’m designing for the chair installation, Cluster Collapse. The Cluster Compendium paintings are deeply personal and frank renderings of all the times I had to submit to having to do things against my wishes, with or for my ex-husband. Each shape I paint I take back my identity and reclaim the helplessness and unhappiness I endured for many years. It was easier to keep the peace and give in to his demands than to fight against him. I was, after all, his wife and he made it a point to remind me of that when he wasn’t getting his way. It is not easy for me to admit any of this. I feel embarrassed and degraded. Forcing a dialogue about domestic violence, this body of work is about my failure to keep a healthy weight, my failure to protect my children from trauma, and the failure of the system to protect all three of us. But the power of my story and the stories from the women I’m collaborating with have guided my new work with a forceful purpose. It is a compendium or record of days and weeks and months and years of unhappiness. By exploring failures I hope to render my best efforts to keep it together and hold my life intact. But the explosion of events out of my control do not denote failure, they are and were the reality. I must wake up and endure. It is the truth among lies, the pain extracted from life, and my attempt to make beautiful the ugly ways of bullies.

The best part about preparing for this show is the friends who have rallied support behind me including noted photographer, Ted Thornton. Ted was the creative mind behind my studio portrait and photographed all the work for the exhibition. Here he is hard at work:

I have felt very alone for the last two years and having friends like James and Ted have helped guide me through the muck.

I guess it is fitting that my show opens the very month two years ago that I summoned the courage to leave my husband. When my gallery offered me the show in the midst of my divorce, I wasn’t sure I would be able to pull it together. But mostly, how was I supposed to pull myself together while in and out of court, simultaneously take care of my girls, work side jobs, and make work for the show? All this while trying not to go broke under the weight of the legal bills my ex has forced me to incur. I have spent the equivalent of a college fund for one of my daughters. Because of this I’ve had to explain to my girls that we may have to sell our house instead of move back in as they wish. I’ve had to talk up our great UC public college system as an alternative to a private university out of state I will not be able to afford. These enormous life decisions should not be on the shoulders of children. But I’ve had to explain to them, well, prepare them, for the realities of the future. I don’t want to instill worry and fear in my children but rather resilience and self-reliance. These lessons will carry them through to young adulthood. They know that I am with them, support them, and will always be there for them in every way.

This month’s music: José James

 

Deadlines

I try to be diligent about writing at least once a month. There are times when we feel overwhelmed by our lives. I wake up every day at 5am in the dark; I make lunches and shuttle children to school. By 8 am I have already worked for 3 hours. My day doesn’t stop until 8:30 pm when the kids are in bed. This kind of day would be trying enough if I also didn’t have to go to court once a month and sometimes more. This is part of the reason I did not post my blog last month. Yes, I am overworked, overtired and stressed out. But these adjectives are not unique to my circumstances. All my friends lead similar lives. The difference is that every word I put down, every thought, every feeling, every event in my life is being watched. I am being virtually stalked through my blog and any other social media outlets as well as google searches. My words are then printed out as they follow me to court. While I’m not sure how my ex plans to use my writing against me (and he has tried), it’s knowing that he relentlessly stalks me on-line that is unnerving. And knowing that he has nothing to do all day but stalk me is even more disconcerting. Endless motions are filed in court to get money from me. All I do is work and he has the nerve to ask for part of my rental income, my catering income, my art income and anything else he can get his hands on. He does not work and pays nothing toward the care of our children. I find comfort that he has not managed to collude with anyone in my destruction. In fact, the opposite has occurred. I am surrounded by love and friends and support while he is alone and angry and vengeful. I will never allow for hate and rage to overcome good sense as he has.

As the deadline approaches for my solo show in Dallas at Galleri Urbane, my sense of panic has waned and now I feel a calm resolve to make it to the finish line. I’m hesitant to reveal too many images before the show opens this Spring but here are a few teaser shots:

The paintings and the sculpture are all part of an integral installation. When all the pieces are installed together, hopefully the work will be defined by a cohesion of pattern and meaning.

It’s always great to hear from happy clients. Here is my youngest from Philadelphia, Charlie, with his new animal painting:

charliephiladelphia

My grandmother’s exhibition in Washington DC was a great affair attended by hundreds. Originally curated by Amy De La Haye for the London College of Fashion, the show later traveled to Milan, and finally landed stateside at American University’s Katzen Art Center. Even though the show is officially titled Coco Chanel: A New Portrait by Marion Pike, Paris 1967-1971, the family has dubbed it Cuckoo and Coco. My grandmother had this amazing ability to capture the likeness of her subjects. The portraits she painted didn’t just resemble the sitter, they captured the essence of her subject’s personality. One subject she could never quite get was myself. I saw my grandmother every year she came to live with us and work in her Los Angeles studio that my mother and father built for her as an addition to our family home. Every visit she would have me sit for her. Baffled by how difficult I was to capture, she tried again and again but the portraits never looked like me. My favorite is of me as a little girl not more than three years old with a long paint brush held to paper as I’m sitting on the floor of her studio.

I was thrilled to be able to take my own two children to see their great-grandmother’s exhibition and celebrate my daughter’s 9th birthday all on the same weekend. Here is a slideshow of the exhibition.

marionpikekatzen

I usually find joy in writing. I look at it as another art form and finding creativity in everything I do is very important to me. So for this reason I impose an arbitrary deadline of a once a month blog post. Even though the last year and a half has given me new found strengths, it has also been debilitating. And sometimes processing everything in my life prevents me from producing. During my nightly pep talk I repeat my mantra: you will get through this, you will get through this, you will get through this.

This Month’s Music: Oceaán

 

New Year, New Home, New Studio

My new studio is the living room in my 100-year-old apartment building. With vaulted, wood-beamed ceilings I am in awe of the beautiful craftsmanship as I stare at the hand-stenciled details. I have my grandmother’s model stand as the centerpiece of the space and my work tables are ready to be utilized. Now that we have finally unpacked our new home, I can get to work and implement the ideas for my solo show that have been percolating for the last month.

lorrainestudio

We celebrated the New Year with a few friends and their children. When my guests arrived, they saw our beautiful, giant Christmas tree surrounded by wrapped packages. One friend laughed as he found out these were gifts I intended to give each of my guests as they left. He thought they were fake, placed for decoration. The presents were small paintings or drawings; some I’ve had for twenty years. I thought, what a better way to start the new year than to clean out my large caché of work and give away, with love, my art. Here are some portraits sent by my guests and their art:

                                                                   

zoeyZoey

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Jen

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mike

tedTed

This month Coco Chanel: A New Portrait by Marion Pike, Paris 1967-71 will finally be exhibited stateside at the Katzen Art Center in Washington DC. Here is the first press on the exhibit and a great candid photo of my grandmother with Coco:

cuckoowithcoco11-2011

 

January is when we collectively reflect on the year that was. My year has already been chronicled in my last twelve posts but even though the pain still rings in my ears, I asked myself and my children to think about or reflect upon what was good about the year. For me, the one bright spot was being offered a solo exhibition at my gallery in Dallas. Happiness came in the form of a surprise baby for my 44 year-old high school friend who was amazed that she was able to bring a healthy child into the world despite her and her husband’s ages. Good news arrived as a devastating diagnosis for my nephew was downgraded to less critical; possibly avoiding the dreaded surgery once almost a certainty. Getting to work with and help heal other survivors of domestic abuse has been the most unexpected and fulfilling development in my art. Making sculpture again after more than 25 years has been like a dream. My daughter’s blossoming musical talents have been a thrill to nurture and watching them perform live is by far the most amazing and deliriously happy moment of 2016. To my friends and family who rallied support behind me when I really felt all hope was lost, I thank you.

This month’s music: TokiMONSTA

 

Moving On

As my children and I come to terms with moving on from the house they grew up in, I’m thankful for so many things. I’m thankful for the chance I had to transform a house into a home. This slideshow shows some of images of how the house was restored by my love for art and design. The final project for the house was the landscaping. It will be bittersweet to leave my home of the last 15 plus years but the good news is that I turned this house:

martel-house-facade-before


 Into this:



530northmartelfacadeafter

And I can do it again.

Three of the last fifteen years were spent in Valencia, Spain where I designed the kitchen and baths while maintaining the original charm of the flat. I’ll live and work in a temporary home while I dream of designing my next stop. I feel invigorated by the idea that I get to rescue another house and turn it into something new.

I finished my first painting for my solo show next year. Now that I know how the series will unfold, the panic of producing an entire exhibition is tempered by a sense of relief. The relief in knowing and seeing the entire show in my minds eye. Here is Cluster Compendium, 2016, 56″ x 72″, acrylic on linen:

clustercompendium201656x72in

And a detail shot:

clustercompendiumdetail

This month’s music: A Tribe Called Quest