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An artist profile of Maryanna Hardy
Your book "So I've Been Told" has just been published by Conundrum Press. It's full of illustrations, some I recognize from your solo show at 107 Shaw. What was your inspiration for putting your first book together?
The book is made up of several series of drawings from the last 3 and half years. My main inspiration is to give all of the stories, characters, and events that whirl around in my head a place to rest. Once I have drawn something I have given it a home. I take pride in my personal history and the people that have made up my world. I love storytelling. I want to document parts of the oral history that I hear in my lifetime. For me it is not about documenting stone cold facts but rather celebrating the people and the events that made an appearance and an impact in my life. The drawings are often a collage of imagery, combining and repeating some moments and characters. There is magic that floats around us, I want to reveal that feeling of wonder with art. I think real wonder is a feeling that is often traded in for a reflection a popular culture. I want to create that feeling of excitement about the natural, intimate and spontaneous world around us. I think if you look at old folk art there is a fascination with magic and spirits. This was because people were using their creative minds to show the magic and wonder that exists in first hand interactions. I love just sitting down listening to music or talk radio and drawing. When I just draw for the sake of it, that is when it in its purest form. It helps me to sort my brain, relax and come up with new ideas.
I noticed that the cover of your book is screen printed, and the original illustration was a water colour. Why did you decide to screen the covers by hand?
I wanted to have something special to offer for a portion of the edition. I redrew the water color into 4 colours and printed 2 of those layers with gradation on the tone of the color. This way each wrap cover is unique. It was a process I had to do myself and take my time doing it. Publishing the book is a big deal for me; I wanted to be able to offer something that commemorated that. I like that my hands touched and my eyes looked over every one of those wrap covers at least 4 times each, it makes the book a very personal product.
You also just completed an artist residency in Halifax, at the Robert Street Social Center. Can you tell me about your experience there, and how it differs from a city like Toronto or Montreal?
I did my Residency at the Roberts Street Social Centre in Halifax at their Inkstorm screen printing shop making the wrap covers for the book. There is a zine library with over 3000 zines, a kitchen, a screen printing shop, and a meeting room in the attic upstairs. I slept in a little wooden shed with a bed located in the back yard. They gave me a bike so I could take some time out from printing to cruise around or zip over to Kinko's. There are always people coming in and out working on projects, holding meetings or workshops. There was an exchange of skills and information happening every day there which was pretty cool. There was a real feeling with everyone I met that the more experience we shared the stronger we could all become individually. I'm not sure if this could be said for all of Halifax but that was my experience at The Roberts Street Social Centre. It is hard to make a Centre like that work, it is volunteer run and I know from firsthand experience that running a screen printing shop alone is a ton of work. I don't know of anywhere like this in Toronto or Montreal.
Looking at your blog, it seems like you do a lot of posters for bands. How did that start? And is that something you want to do more of?
I made most of the show posters in Montreal for promoters Blue Skies Turn Black. They pay an artist to make a poster for every one of their shows. So there is an evolving roster of artists who have made posters for them over the last 10 years. They would encourage me try to keep the band in mind when making the poster but I could pretty much do whatever I wanted. That is the great thing about those posters is that you can just go for it, work creatively without any boundaries. There is a history of pretty awesome show posters going up on the streets in Montreal and the bar is set pretty high for creativity. Being able to make show posters meant that for a while I could consistently put up drawings for people to see in a completely different format than a gallery.
Most of your work is black and white ink illustrations, but you also do screen printing, painting and embroidery. What can we expect from you in the future?
I am in the process of doing another round of applying for shows, residencies, grants and awards. I will always be drawing it is my favourite thing and my faithful friend I spend a lot of time with. I would like to do some more big embroidery projects and put together a show with all the embroidery I have done. I would like to find a mentor and learn quilting. The old folk quilts are very well thought out huge drawings that keep you warm at night. I love the old Amish and Mennonite quilts that have strong simple patterns that are so stunning. I would like to make my own quilts that I can sew my own iconography onto that will last forever on someone's bed or wall.
Any last words?
Thanks!!! I am launching my book 'So I've Been Told' at 107 Shaw this Thursday December 16th from 7 to 11 pm. I'll be telling a few stories to explain a few drawings in the book and I am going to put up some of my larger scale drawings that I haven't shown in Toronto before. Then Nordic Nomadic will play. Beer drinking and hugs will ensue.