Interview with Brooklyn Based Artist Mary Younkin

Tell us about yourself & how you became an artist

I’ve always created art as a response to my everyday surroundings. Growing up in a conservative suburb in Southern California, art started as an outlet for feeling like I didn’t belong. I continued to grow that sort of punk “rebel girl” approach during my high school days in Catholic school. I deepened my artistic identity at California College of the Arts in Oakland, where I dove into painting and became interested in color theory. I’m drawn to a vibrant color palette and attribute this to my California upbringing. I moved to NYC in 2008 to pursue an MFA at Parsons The New School, and have been here ever since. My light-filled studio is located in Greenpoint, Brooklyn where I live with my husband, son and tabby cat.

What is your art addressing? What kind of message do you want to convey through your art?

I’m interested in ways of seeing, whether that’s creating a still life from everyday objects or arranging collaged materials. My observational artworks are remixes in a way - taking “ordinary” moments from my home and life and applying a hyperreal color palette or dreamlike elements. By using traditional feminine subjects such as floral design, childhood, and motherhood, I want the viewer to observe the work through a feminist lens.

What is your creative process?

My creative process involves working on multiple paintings at once, switching between smaller paintings on paper and larger pieces on panel or canvas. I often use photography to develop my compositions, whether it’s taking reference photos of individual elements, using collage materials, or staging still lives. In between bigger projects I like to explore new materials and processes, most recently paint pouring and gouache.

3 words to describe yourself as an artist

Intentional, Tenacious, Idealistic

Your go-to music for when you're working?

Since storytelling is at the root of my work, most often you will find me listening to true crime podcasts or novels while painting.

Do you have a routine or ritual for when you're working?

Every week on Monday morning I set a series of goals for the studio which include the business and administrative side of operating a studio as well as creative goals. My current routine is to spend 3-4 days during the week in the studio focused purely on painting during the hours of 9-3 while my child is in school. I then pickup my child and have a chance to play and explore in the afternoon.

Where / When / How do you get inspired?

I get inspired by the way daylight changes an interior space, flowers and the natural world, the uncanniness of parenthood, playfulness and humor, everyday objects such as toys, books, and candles. Inspiration sometimes comes to me on walks through Brooklyn, or in the middle of the night.

What makes you happy?

The physical act of making.

What impact does living in your current town have on you?

Living in Brooklyn, art and life are intrinsically connected. Space is a commodity and I bounce between my home and studio, which are both within walking distance, as is my son’s school. My daily life orbits around these three locations in a small radius.

How has your art changed throughout your career?

I was an oil painter for many years, primarily focused on the human figure and portraiture. Over the past few years, I’ve committed to exploring water based pigments including acrylics, gouache, inks and watercolors as well as collage materials. Opening my practice up to new materials has allowed me to explore color in new ways. While human experience is still at the root of my work, I typically obscure or only partially reference the figure in my still life work, focusing on creating emotion through objects and environment.


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