Friday, August 8, 2008

Interview with Marionette (Kauai Artist)

I have been thinking a lot lately about how place influences people and visa versa. So much of Maine is stunningly beautiful and stunningly destitute at the same time. The Maine winter offsets the wonders and beauty of an unfolding spring, bountiful summer, and brilliantly colored fall. All this is inscribed in the faces of the people who live and die here: the farmers, foresters, hunters, and fishermen. It is both a rugged and sensational existence, living in this state, and bound to leave a lasting impression on anyone who spends time here. Its essence rubs off and into the way one thinks and works and speaks and moves through the world.

Recently, I met Marionette, an artist from the Hawaiian Island of Kauai. She is the creative inspiration behind Kauai Artist. The vibrancy of her work not only reflects the textures and colors of a tropical island, but also the textures and colors of a life lived well. Her work embodies a place she fell in love with on her first visit in 1992 and celebrates the culture and imagery of Hawaii. This work, I believe, gives you a glimpse into the inner beauty and openness of this Kauai artist. It is with great pleasure I bring you this interview.

"In 1999," Marionette tells me, "I started out doing my art part-time and opened a studio in the small historic town of Wyandotte, Michigan. It was in a very old building with other artists, restaurants, a coffee bar and galleries." Sparked by visits to Hawaii, Marionette, here, started developing a very tropical style to her artwork.

"In March of 2001, the whole building burned down." Marionette continues. "Quite the eye-opening experience! By this time, I had no plans to re-start my art career in the same town and focused instead on moving to Kauai! I felt that God was trying to tell me something." Along with her artwork, Marionette used her degree in biochemistry working 14 years at a major chemical company in the Detroit area. "After massive cut-backs and layoffs at the company and the fire, I was ready to do what I really love--paint in Hawaii!"

It took a few years of planning and saving. Marionette moved to Kauai in 2004. "I am now a full-time artist running my own studio in Waimea, a small town on Kauai, where I teach art throughout the week. I wholesale my art to shops and galleries around the island. I also do graphic design and have had my images on packaging for Kauai Coffee. I recently did the cover of Bob Tripp's first novel, Last Clear Chance which was recently published. I also do commission paintings. I truly believe that if you do what you love, the rest will follow."

"I work in many mediums and generally flip-flop between them. Pastels, watercolor, acrylics, silk painting and scratchboard are among my favorites. I tried oil painting but never liked the turpentine. I prefer to work fast, anyway. I love bold, bright colors and the way sunshine lights up my subject. I guess this is why I love Hawaii and painting tropical scenes. The sunlight here on the island of Kauai gives the vegetation a beautiful glow. The sky is a brilliant blue. With spring/summer weather year round, I can always find something in bloom to paint."

Marionette's subject matter is tropical flowers, landscapes, hula dancers, plantation cottages, and the ever-popular Kauai chickens. "If you have ever been to Kauai you would know that chickens roam freely over the island since they have no natural predator here. Other Hawaiian Islands have the mongoose, but they never made it to Kauai. The chickens and roosters flourish everywhere--parking lots, at the beach, and especially in your own backyard. You either love 'em or hate 'em. I actually love the chickens and enjoy watching them."

"Whatever the subject is," Marionette continues, I want it to be colorful and fun. Dreaming of a tropical paradise takes you away from your day-to-day problems. Most of my collectors have been to Kauai or somewhere in the Hawaiian Islands. They connect with my art as a way to remember their trip or honeymoon."

Turning serious for a moment, Marionette offers some insight into her resolve to bring art and beauty into the world. "When I was a child, I was abused. I carried around guilt, and as I grew older, I realized that what happened was not my fault--I was a child. As I started to connect with other women in my life, I found the majority had been the victim of some type of abuse through rape, incest, or spousal abuse. I realized that I was not alone."

"I decided in my early twenties," Marionette continues, "that I would not let what happened to me ruin the rest of my life. I guess that is why I am a very independent, self-motivating person. My goal is to be happy and productive in life. I have forgiven my abuser and let go of any anger. I can't change what happened in the past, but I can certainly change my present and future by following my dreams and making a difference in the world."

"Life is definitely full of challenges. I enjoy a good challenge and attack it head-on! Be persistent and don't give up. The first time I opened my own art studio, it burned down. No one was hurt, and all I lost were "things." Some people would have quit right there. Instead, I put a plan into motion to move to Kauai and open another studio where I can show my work and teach classes. Every day I come across little challenges. The first time I try something new, I usually fail. I learn from my mistakes, make changes, and try again. On the second or third attempt I generally succeed! Just keep doing what you love to do!"

I love to teach children art. Every so often I have a "free craft day" at my studio where I provide all of the supplies and refreshments to the public. Anyone (but mostly kids) can come for the day and freely create. I usually have 4-5 different projects to make. The next one is on Saturday, August 9, in celebration of the one year anniversary of my studio, Painting Paradise."

Marionette's favorite music is, of course, Hawaiian. "I enjoy the mellow slack key" guitar music that tells many stories of the islands. I find the music to be relaxing and great for painting!"

As to what shoes Marionette wears: "I only wear "slippahs" (local talk for flip-flops). They are extremely comfortable and everyone wears them. The best part is that you can pick up a pair at your local grocery store for under $5. I have gotten so used to wearing slippahs that I can't wear "real" shoes anymore. For my wedding, I wore white flip-flops with rhinestones because I knew if I wore heels, I would be miserable and all blisters!"

You may find more about Marionette and her work on her website, blog and shop.

Marionette is a member of the Visual Artists Street Team and the Garden Island Arts Council.

Mahalo and have a warm and beautiful day!


Jean Levert Hood said...

What a delightful lady! I love her strength and determination. She has made her life to be what she wanted. Bravo, Marionette!

Overcoming the adversity in her life has given her such presence and character. She must glow with confidence and compassion.

Mystic Silks said...

Lovely interview and story!

Marionette said...

Mahalo Nui Loa for this opportunity. You have really captured the essence of my development as an artist!

With Warmest Aloha!

Barbara said...

Beautiful work and great determination!