Featured Artist: Samantha Marcone

Samantha Marcone is an incredible local artist who creates beautiful nature-inspired colors and brightened up our week with her stunning watercolors. We are thrilled that she was able to take the time to talk to use about her work and to share this interview with you.
© Samantha Marcone

How did you start out as a painter?

I always really loved art, and got into painting acrylics a little bit when I was in college. I really started getting into painting, especially watercolors when I had to take two days off from teaching due to a cold last fall. With no much to do and an unused watercolor palette I really just fell in love with the medium and I’ve been almost addicted to it since.

Walk me through the process of beginning a piece. Is each painting done with full intention? Or do you find yourself crafting new ideas as you go along? How do you pick your subject?

Almost every piece is started with me staring at my watercolors and deciding what color Id like to work with. I usually end up scouring the internet looking for whatever interesting animals, plants or fungi I can find with that primary color and I go from there. Depending on the day or mood I’m in, my artistic intent can range from being as accurate as possible, or more loose as I decide to play with colors and let go of the realism that usually drives me.

© Samantha Marcone

Your work finds a lovely blend between abstract and realism.  How do you balance these two aspects of your work?

By day I teach Biology and Anatomy, so often I go for the scientific illustration when it comes to my art work, specifically when the subjects are things I am familiar with. At one point in my life, as I pursued a degree in zoology, I had intended to pursue art to be a scientific illustrator- this ended up switching to a masters in education, where and I find myself using art to teach almost daily. If I can’t explain something verbally to my students the next thing I do is try to draw it out, and I find that’s where a lot of my practice comes from. I think that also dictates what my subject is some days, after I’ve drawn the brain 6 times on the board in expo market and erased it to draw a neuron, I start to miss the brain so I go home and draw a nice one to keep for myself. When it comes to the abstract aspect of my art, I think it tends to come out when I’m not familiar with my subject, or have a lack of resources. The giraffe, one of my more abstract pieces, was painted during one of the blizzards we had last winter, I had no internet, no good books for reference, just a doodle of a giraffe. I actually think the abstract work takes me a lot longer to paint because it is just so different from what I teach and interact with on a daily basis. It’s a fun challenge for me, and I like trying to change my perspective from the way I typically view the world.

© Samantha Marcone

In a broader context, what inspires you about nature?

Outside of work I consider myself a naturalist, and can spend hours outside. I constantly find myself  appreciating the perfection and beauty of what nature has designed, something I try to reflect in my artwork. I was a 13 year Girl Scout, something that I think made me appreciate not just nature and outdoors, but trying to protect it. I  have my degree in zoology, and have spent most of my working life working with animals (specifically fish and insects) or focusing on conservation through environmental education. One of my really good friends Sam Jaffe, who owns The Caterpillar Lab in NH got me interested in bugs because of the way he photographed them- listening to him tell me how amazing these plain looking caterpillars were. He would literally drape them on my shoulders and head when I would go hang out with him and it definitely started to change how I saw macro universe.

© Samantha Marcone

Your work is very colorful! I also adore how soft yet boldly geometric all your pieces are. Was this choice on purpose?

I love color. I think the color and line work I choose is a reflection of the ebb and flow of my personality that I impose onto my art. Growing up in New England I faced some harsh winters and found myself always looking forward to the burst of colors of spring, summer and fall. My personality I think definitely flows with the seasons, and reflects what environment I’m immersed in. My art in the winter tends to be those more geometric and lined work, with more muted and softer colors. I have seasonal depression and tend to see things as more hard and muted when I’m in those lows that I experience. When I’m in those highs, especially when it’s warm, I spend more time outside and I’m generally seeing the world in brighter color, which I bring into my art to hold on to that happy place.

© Samantha Marcone

Your work appears scientific in nature. Do you keep your pieces more accurate to the subjects or do you take creative liberties with some?

I don’t often take creative liberty with my subjects- I have been fascinated with anatomy since I took a comparative anatomy class in college and have transitioned my observation and inspection of nature to be more of a comparative approach, trying to observe and admire the adaptations that each living thing has that has allowed it to survive on this planet. I really enjoy researching why my subjects are built the way that they are and try to reflect their unique differences in my art. If anything, my creative liberties come in the form of overly bright colors, mostly highlighting the things I see as the most impressive in an evolutionary aspect.

© Samantha Marcone

Is there a personal meaning to any or all of your work?

All of my work is based on things that I find interesting… I am a bad business person in the respect that if someone wants me to make something, almost every bone in my body is like “don’t do it, go paint this ugly vulture that almost no one would want to hang in their home, just because you’ve been really into researching why they’re bald this week”. Every piece I make is meaningful to me in some way- I pour my emotion into my art every time I make it, sometimes based on my photography or my friends Naturalist photography, sometimes based on something I saw while hiking, sometimes based the subject of a question a student asked. I tend to get momentarily obsessed with the idea of something until I paint it, and then get to sit back and appreciate it.

What project are you currently working on? At any given time I’m honestly working on 3-5 things. I am not one of those artists who can sit and work on one piece for more than a few hours. I like to take mental breaks by switching up my mediums and subjects (which sometimes means I have art that goes unfinished for days, weeks or years at a time). I’m currently trying to play around with graphic design, and explore the world of Lino printing. I also have been getting back into acrylics, but using wood slices as a canvas for naturalist based art. I am absolutely obsessed with bones and skeletons and I have been working on doing more anatomical artwork.

© Samantha Marcone

What is the greatest achievement you’ve reached so far as an artist? What are you the most proud of, and what are your goals?

I think the greatest achievement I’ve reached as an artist is having a few people get my art tattooed on their body. Being asked to design something they wanted to have on their body forever is truly the biggest compliment I could receive, and their happiness with the final product is just overwhelming.I’m most proud of taking the step to sell my art finally. The response has been empowering and made me better myself as an artist; I feel like I am much more motivated to make art, as well as up my game and my techniques. I truly think each piece I make is better than the last.My goals currently are to create an educational coloring book, and to start designing a naturalist art clothing line-  there is a very small niche of people I think will be interested in it, but I would honestly love to see people wearing my art. I just think that would be the absolute coolest thing I could do.

What kinds of reactions do your pieces get? How do you feel about those reactions.

I’ve started doing pop up shows to sell my art at indie-style craft markets and I’ve gotten a lot of compliments. A lot of people will sit and talk to me about why I have painted a specific piece and end up buying it once they have heard my (sometimes bizarre) backstory to why I chose a specific subject. One person visited my booth, talked to me for about 20 minutes, then came back with their parents and said “Mom this is the artist I was telling you about!”. That kind of  positive feedback blows my mind. I think the craziest thing is that the people who come to the pop ups don’t know me, and then end up buying 3-5 different pieces because they truly enjoy my art so much. I had a woman tell me that my art “brought her so much joy” when she saw saw it that she had to have it. It’s crazy. I’m still not used to it.

© Samantha Marcone

What words would you use to describe your work?

Naturalistic and nature inspired- I don’t think I’ve really found my niche in mediums or style aside from my subjects, so this is definitely still to be determined What do you try to express in your work?  In general, I think I try to express the beauty I see in sometimes unappreciated nature. I paint a lot of insects and mushrooms, which is not a go-to subject when people look for living room art, but I get to explain how amazing these things are when they ask why I paint them, and I hope it makes people reconsider stepping on them at the very least.

© Samantha Marcone

Are there any artists who inspire you?

Dino Nemec, Laurelin Sittery, and Joe Weatherly are all contemporary artists that constantly inspire me. They all are nature based artists, very different in styles but I really enjoy the realism aspect of art, mixed in with sometimes abstract linework or colorful additions to their pieces.

What is your goal as an artist?

I just want to make people happy, and maybe teach them something through my art. I would love to incorporate more conservation into my art, and help people appreciate and understand nature and our role in the environment.

Samantha can be found on Facebook HERE and on instagram at @birderincrime

© Samantha Marcone

Featured Artist: Valerie Prosper Imparato

© Valerie Prosper Imparato

Valerie Prosper Imparato is originally from Haiti ,but has lived all over the world. Valerie’s aesthetic draws from the diverse cultural influences in her upbringing, with an emphasis on East-African and Caribbean art.

Valerie’s art teeters on the balance between the ethereal and the earthly; the fantasy of the whimsical and the perspective of the realist. She hopes to make art that inspires dialogue on issues of faith, race, immigration, feminism, and the plight of the oppressed.

Her most recent work is focused on the Black Woman and all of the identities folded within the intersectionality of blackness and womanhood.

Valerie attended our first Boston Visual Artists meeting at Zuzu in Cambridge, and we were all stunned by her work, and we are excited to share this interview and samples of her work.

© Valerie Prosper Imparato

Is there an overall theme you try to express in your work, or does it change piece to piece?

 It definitely changes piece to piece, but I think that I get in these moods where a series of pieces will be about the same thing. Lately a lot of my work has been about  black women and presenting black women as holy. It has been about the godliness that lives within black women. As a Christian, there are all of these representations of white Jesus which are frankly, historically inaccurate. More than that though, I think that many black women don’t see themselves in the American Church, and they certainly are not often presented as holy or pure in American media. The golds that I use, and the Renaissance style-esque aesthetic that I  incorporate in my work all point towards that holiness. 

I see you are from Haiti, how did you end up in Boston? How do you find the art scene here? What is the most artistically inspiring place that you have lived?

I am indeed from Haiti! I have moved around A LOT. I was born in Haiti, and then spent 13 years in Maryland, followed by 1 year in Johannesburg South Africa, followed by 3 years in Nairobi Kenya, followed by college in New York (with a brief stint in Spain), law school in Cambridge MA, back to NY for work, and back to Cambridge when I got married a couple of years ago.  So I guess the short answer is that I moved back two and a half years ago after I got married because my now husband was located here. I am still learning the art scene in Boston. I have found great community here, which is wonderful, but I will say that it has been harder for me to find my art people in Boston than it was in New York. The most artistically inspiring place that I have lived is New York, but only because New York is filled with art from all over the world.

© Valerie Prosper Imparato

How did you start as a visual artist?

I have only recently been calling myself an artist (in the last 5 years), but I have always loved art. I did a lot of art work with my mom when I was a child, and drawing and painting have always been soothing for me. I started taking my work more seriously when I was in law school and the stress of life made me a true insomniac. I would paint at night since I couldn’t sleep, and then I had so much art around the house that I figured I should start sharing it with others.

What kinds of reactions do you think your art gets? How do you feel about that?

Recently a lot of people have told me that my art makes them “feel something,” and that’s the goal. It is often difficult for people to articulate, which is great, because it’s difficult for me to articulate too. I think that a lot of my work feels intimate, even though it’s about more universal themes. I love that people feel that way.

Do you hope that your work will inspire a change in the people who view it?

I do. I hope that my art makes people view black women differently. I hope that it makes people view faith differently. I hope that it makes people view the world differently. Ultimately, I hope that people share a private moment with my work, and that that moment causes introspection.

How do you start a piece? Do you have the finished idea in your head when you begin?

I never have a finished idea in my head before I start a piece! I think that has happened maybe once. The way that I start depends on the kind of work I am going to do. If it is mixed media, I usually start with an image that speaks to me, and create the are around that. If I am working on canvas, I usually start with the figure that I am going to paint, and then create my world around her.

© Valerie Prosper Imparato

Are there any artists who inspire you?

So many. I have always been inspired by Dali’s surrealism. I am very into Kehinde Wiley lately. I would say that any artist that puts themselves out there inspires me. It’s a really hard thing to do, and it is sharing such a personal part of yourself.

What draws you to East African and Caribbean art?

I have always been drawn by the color and whimsy of both East African and Caribbean art. A lot of Haitian art has this ethereal quality to it, and I often incorporate that into my work. Kenyan art to me has always felt alive. It’s just so full of life and color, and I love that.

What is your goal as an artist?

I think I am still trying to figure that out. I want to make art that is true. If that truth sparks something in others, then all the better, but I never want to make art for other people.

© Valerie Prosper Imparato

Valerie’s work can be found on her website Valeriepimparato.com and on instagram @Vp_visualart.

Featured Artist: Steph Glass

Steph Rose Glass is a visual artist and comic book writer from Boston, currently living in New York. She makes bright things in bad taste.

Explosion © Steph Glass

How do you plan out a piece before you start?

Usually I have an idea I want to convey, which is apparently odd. I rarely sit down and paint spontaneously. I have a growing list of ideas to do, and the idea itself usually necessitates some material or another, so I figure out how to build the structure I want first and then go in and do it. I do often start with an idea and then add onto the work as it develops. It’s a difficult thing to describe! No wonder everyone’s obsessed with process.

Portrait © Steph Glass

Has formally studying art changed how you work as an artist?

I work a lot more, a lot more often, and I have people knowledgeable about art history and what I’m trying to say that I can bounce ideas off of. All of that is amazing. I have so many things that I want to do.

“Green” © Steph Glass

Has it changed how you think about and define yourself?

The downside of studying art is that it’s injected a lot of crap into my brain about galleries, and cliquey fine art politics, and art as a financial investment, and making shit for rich collectors that I could do without, and I’m trying to figure out where I want to sit in relation to all of that right now. To be honest, being exposed to so much more work has me thinking that there’s not a lot of people making things like mine. That feels good.

Installation © Steph Glass

What is the significance of the pink tent? Is there a story or a meaning?

The pink tent is something of an in-progress piece. I wanted to create something immersive, like a naturally formed cave. It became a lesson in adapting to new discoveries — the contrast between the caged outside and the clothing that makes up the skin, and the way light filters through when you’re laying down on the inside are both things that weren’t part of my original design. I’m letting it sit while I rethink my approach to the inside and bottom, but I am quite happy with how experiential it is even now.

Glass Icon ©Steph Glass

Are you inspired by pop/counter culture?

Sure. Though I’m not exactly plugged into modern mainstream popular culture, “counter-culture” is a super relevant influence for me. I’m a comic book reader and writer and I have a really deep appreciation for the form and how it lets you handle time and space, and right now I’m trying to talk about that with some of my “fine” artwork. Comic books are one of the few art forms still commonly considered “not art” in the post-modern art world where almost anything goes, so I enjoy really shoving that in people’s faces.

Self Portrait © Steph Glass

Is there a significance to the human figure in your paintings?

I enjoy portraiture as an exercise. I’ll paint any model I can get. You have no idea the number of self-portraits in my sketchbook. I’m a little bit self-obsessed. I think of a lot of my more abstract works as self-portraits too.

Self Portrait 2 © Steph Glass

What kinds of reactions do you think your art gets? How do you feel about that?

I get sometimes very strange reactions. Teachers of mine often laugh in disbelief. Usually what happens is classmates and peers of mine understand or at least like what I’m trying to do formally, and often my teachers don’t. I think people react viscerally to the fact that I use colors straight out of the tube, like pure blacks and neon paints, and how casual I can be about construction and technique. Shirley Irons said, lovingly, that I’m not trying to make things in good taste, and I think that’s a completely accurate assessment. Peter Hristoff once told me he wasn’t sure if I had good ideas or if I just got lucky.

I have a really great tattoo that I use as a litmus test of people’s personalities: either they laugh and say “Holy shit, that’s awesome,” or they frown and get uncomfortable and judgey. I think my painting is the same way.

Portrait © Steph Glass

What is your goal as an artist?

I have lots of goals. I’d like to make some money, first of all. I’d like to use art to improve the real world in a tangible way. I think that’s the most important thing.

To that end, I’m really trying to illustrate the artistic process in some of my current work. Andy Gerndt keeps telling me that what artists do is magic to non-artists. And I know that personally, because I didn’t consider myself an “artist” until I was maybe 19. It’s something that can seem very opaque, very “I could never do that, I can’t even draw a straight line, that’s just not who I am.” For me, the end goal of trying to demystify art is to make it more accessible to other girls and people who don’t think they could ever do that. I could name you a lot of female artists with similar goals who improved my life so massively.

Diary © Steph Glass

Is there a unifying theme in your work?

Not consciously, not at this point in my life. I’d call out formal experimentation as a major throughline, though. Most of my paintings are not just two dimensional images; they move off the canvas in some way, or use the canvas itself as a ground and leave it uncovered to keep focus on the actual elements. Lately I’ve been working with the idea of iconic paintings, as opposed to abstract or representational – and there’s another comic art reference, frankly. Where on the plane of complete abstraction to photorealistic representation to pure iconic representation do you fall?

I love all of the bright, expressive colors in your work. Do they mean something to you?

I try to push everything to the extreme. It often gets me in trouble in my personal life, but it does mean that I make interesting things.

Diary © Steph Glass

Can you pick a piece and talk about what it means to you?

My diary paintings are about my sobriety. I’m thinking of calling them Counting to Infinity, which I believe I cribbed from an out-of-print version of the Invisibles by Grant Morrison called Counting to None, although you never really know where you get these things. The terrifying thing about sobriety is that it hypothetically never ends. You’re never done. You’re stuck in your own head forever, and that’s the conquest, that’s the win. The plus side is that you get to make horrible jokes about your own alcoholism, should you ever want an entire room to fall silent.

Steph can be found on instagram @stephroseglass

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Featured Artist: Madeline DeWolf

In one sentence, can you say what the series “Ethan” means to you? If it’s too personal or you’d like to leave it up to interpretation that’s ok. “Ethan” is about healing, the series itself is a story about my experience with sexual assault, it is about speaking up and getting stronger.

How do you start a mixed media piece like this? Do you start by painting, writing, or something else?I usually start a piece like this by brainstorming an idea after I’ve got a clear narrative I begin to collect images and sort through the box of stuff I already have.Then I just go for it, arranging pieces of paper and seeing what works. I glue everything down and then I add to it with paint or ink.

How did you start as a visual artist? Do you have any specific artists who inspire you?Growing up art was my first form of expression, my most comfortable form of communication. My mother took me to a lot of museums in Boston as a child,so my first experiences in the world of art were with some of the greats; Monet, Rembrandt, Degas. Today some of my favorites are Ray Johnson, Jenny Woods and Georgia O’Keeffe.

What is the significance of the color in the series?I use to want to be a therapist, that’s what I thought I would be when I grew up, specifically an art therapist. I’ve studied a lot about the psychology of color and how different colors make people feel different things. I try to incorporate color in this way into a lot of my pieces. With a series like this, filled with emotion, I chose colors that represented (to me) the emotions I was feeling about the pieces themselves. That’s why the paint went on last, when all was said and done, I just let the colors show how each piece made me feel.

I know you are in school for art, how do you think this affected you as an artist?

Being in school for art has changed the way I look at myself as an artist. When I started 3 years ago (with my major undeclared) I still thought of art as a hobby of mine, something I was wildly passionate about but didn’t believe could be a career. It wasn’t until I worked with my teachers Kelly Popoff and Penne Krol (two people who have been very influential to me) that I realized that I could do this if I really wanted to. It’s been a lot of hard work, sometimes discouraging even, but worth it. I feel stronger now that I’ve been through the art program at my school.

Is there an overall theme you try to express in your work, or does it change piece to piece?My work has always been very personal, more like a diary than anything. I make art about things that are often left unspoken (sex, abuse, drugs, suicide), it’s in your face and raw. Some people have told me that my work makes them uncomfortable, that secretly makes me really happy because it makes me feel like I’m doing something right. I wouldn’t say there’s a particular theme to everything I do. What I would say is that my art is form of healing for myself and the dialogues that I’ve engaged in due to showing my pieces are rewarding.

Madeline can be found on instagram at lupine_art_