Pierogi: The works of yours currently in the flat files are small, intimate paintings on paper. You seem to employ layering in a very considered way, hiding portions of layers under opaque acrylic. Can you talk about how you build up these works and the materials that you use?
Marcie Paper: I use acrylic paint because it allows me to complete layers on a particular painting within one sitting. I am then able to go back into the painting the following day and add another layer before sanding back into the surface to reveal the “events” of previous days. I also paint mostly negative space, allowing the figure ground relationship to alternate with the layers. In that way, yesterday’s painting becomes the surface pattern of today’s figure.
P: I’m interested in the dates that are written in script on the face of the works. What do they refer to, and why have you decided to make them part of the work?
MP: In most cases I title paintings with the date that it was completed, and in a few particular paintings I even put the date on the painting’s surface. The date is important because the paintings are meant to be a representation of a place in time, a time capsule really. Even if the paintings are made over a period of weeks, it is the vantage point of the top layer, the day it was finished, that I am interested in emphasizing.
P: Are there narratives present? Do your marks signify specific objects/people/places?
MP: I am not sure I would say that there are specifics narratives, but there are hints of narratives for sure. All of the shapes that I use are personal symbols and markers taken directly from my life. Before I begin working for the day, I make a list of words or phrases meant to be a short hand for memories that are in my mind at the present moment, ie;
conversation with my sister,
can’t control the heat in my apartment etc…
In addition to these words I also have a running photo project, where I have alarms set up on my phone randomly throughout the day, when the alarm goes off, no matter where I am, or how mundane the material, I find something to take a photo of. When I get to the studio, I then use these photos in conjunction with the list of words or phrases to formulate symbols. These symbols then get worked into the painting that I am currently working on.
P: Have you worked on a much larger scale? Do you prefer a particular scale to work on? Why?
MP: I would say that my scale generally ranges from very small (6 x 7 inches) to medium (36 x 42 inches). This allows me to work the surface of the painting through many layers. I have tried this on a much larger scale and feel there is something lost in the process.
Having said that I do have a side project of painting hand painted wallpaper. I take completed paintings and manipulate them digitally into patterns. From there I project or use hand made stencils to draw the patterns directly onto walls, and then hand paint the walls.
P: Your work tends to have an innocent, child-like quality to it (in a very sophisticated and deliberate way), especially present in your animations. Can you elaborate on that?
MP: I am not sure how to answer this one! I don’t deny that quality is there and I do think that I am drawn to this same quality in others. But I can only say that I have developed a sort of painted “handwriting” and it is where I feel most at home.
P: Who are some of your major influences?
MP: (In no particular order) Louise Bourgeois, Thomas Nozkowski, Allan McCollum, Yayoi Kusama, Kiki Smith, William Kentridge, Hiroshi Sugito.
P: Where did you grow up? Did you study fine art?
MP: I was born in Maine and grew up mostly in Massachusetts. I studied painting and art therapy in undergrad and then went to grad school for painting at the University of Massachusetts.
P: Can you attribute aspects of your upbringing, be it geographical or familial, to the current state of your work?
MP: When I was 21 and just becoming immersed in painting and developing my abstract vocabulary that would turn into a sort of language, I also learned that my father had (what we now know to be) a rare genetic disorder. The main symptom of this disorder at the time was his rapid loss of short-term memory. The experience of witnessing this loss led me to many questions.
What is the difference between short and long term memory? If long-term memories define who we were and short term who we are, then what happens if we lose our ability to retain short term memories? If you take a short-term memory out of the context of your life and other memories, what is left? And similarly; is our sense of our selves greater than or equal to the sum of our short-term memories.
It was around that time that I began making paintings in the way that I do today, layering symbols of short-term memories, in an attempt to preserve and make sense of them. This grew into an interest in sense memory as well. If a song or smell can bring us back to what would have been a short-term memory (something specific and fleeting), can an image or painting do the same? What can I embed in my painting or in the act of painting that would allow for this future visual sense memory experience?