Excitedly this month I get to do my studio visit with an artist of whom I am very fond. Marissa Raglin is not only an incredible visual artist, creating whimsical ethereal collage works on paper, she is also one of my studiomates at #nextdoorstudiosokc. Raglin’s work fuses together dynamic imagery from the past, to create comedic, dramatic, and sometimes frightening narratives that envelop the viewer in the process and content. I got the opportunity to hang out with her, in our shared studio space while she was coming up with titles for her upcoming exhibition at Hojas Artspace. You can find her current works at mgralinart.com.
How did your process develop into what it is today?
I finished my BFA and an emphasis in painting from Oklahoma Baptist University in 2012, where I was drawn to acrylic because of the quick fluid movement of the medium. I found myself drawn to paper just as much, I would tear sheets out of magazines, and books, and try to paint over them or incorporate them in the paintings I was making in some way.
I inherited a book my Great Grandmother was drawn to, the John James Audubon book of Illustrations. The idea of found imagery came from cutting up this book and using parts of it.
Was there anything besides the Audubon book that influenced you?
More recently, I’ve been drawn to collage after reading “Creative Block” by Daniel Krysa. I was following her blog called the ‘Jealous Curator’. I’m not sure how I stumbled upon her, but I got the book quickly off of amazon and read through it because I was in such a block with the abstract painting I was doing at the time. There was a lull in my art-making after school.. The book encouraged me to practice exercises from several different artists that are interviewed, I decided to pick up some different utensils and create. Funnily enough, she wrote another book called ‘Collage’ and I won a signed copy of it. After hearing about it, I knew I had to have to have a copy, I left a comment on her blog, saying something to the effect of ‘I’m a collage novice, and I don’t know what I’m doing but I’m excited about it!” and I was chosen as the one person out of hundreds, to receive the free copy. It felt like a sign, something saying ‘Keep Going!’
You have a specific aesthetic and set of imagery, can you tell me about them and where they come from?
I use found imagery from vintage magazines, postcards, and books that I purchase from thrift shops and half price bookstores. I’m drawn to natural elements and nature based imagery, as well as the different forms and shapes. I love that I can collect other people’s postcards. I love to travel, and I feel like I’m getting their memory book when I purchase these items. I am getting their appreciation for where and what they’ve experienced and wanted to share with others.
Quite a bit of the imagery comes from old publications that depict women defined in certain roles, are you interested in those ideas?
I often feature women in my work, because I’m drawn to the imagery. Elements like contours, or facial expressions, that when put together help bring your eye into the piece. I enjoy finding the humor and the absurdity of the women in these images because of the roles they are cast in, that’s why I further feature them in unexpected locations or surroundings. It is absurd to have a woman in a specific outfit and pearls at the washing machine for example. I recognize the absurdity and that is what adds to the ease of being able to manipulate the images into having her do something just as ridiculous, like embracing a mountain.
Part of your process is looking for and creating humor?
I definitely look for the humor in the work even if it’s just through the title. I’m drawn more to the illustrative imagery. I had a lot of fun recently in finding romance novel covers and cutting them out. It’s comedic to see a loving embrace between two people and then cut him out and make her hug something totally bizarre like a mountain.
Are you aware of the content you’re creating when you’re making, and do you try to push those ideas if/when you realize it?
Yes, and no. Certain pieces come to mind in which I try to create a dialogue or narrative around a specific theme. Recently, my husband lost his grandfather, and I created a piece entitled “Void” which featured a woman in an intense embrace from the point of view of the back of the man’s head. I knew I wanted to encapsulate the idea of a huge loss, I removed his image but left his figure there and blacked him out using gouache. I knew I wanted that feeling of loss or emptiness.
Specifically in one of my earlier works entitled “Mother’s Pill” it was representative of my Mother through a flower, a woman and child, and an alligator. That brute force of her and creating imagery that spoke about her. I knew I wanted to create a pill shape, or something to suggest a dietary supplement that someone could take to become like my mother. I utilized the cut shapes and forms in order to get that to happen. Often, when I’m creating I have a specific characteristic or individual in mind that I’m trying to classify through the imagery. Sometimes there are certain concepts or ideas I want to create in removing or keeping or clustering, but I am interested in happy accidents. It comes with the territory of cutting out so much imagery, that sometimes you happen to put one from next to one another and you like the way shapes and forms interact.
The layering or removing of imagery helps create the narrative?
Yes, if I’m creating and I have a specific family member in mind or I have a specific phrase that I want to say I will be deliberate in what imagery I’m trying to find and how I manipulate it.
A lot of the time the narrative can come from finding the imagery and either removing or adding to complete the story. The found imagery is key to drawing the idea, in this way the idea then comes after. I’m drawn to negative space, because the white exterior allows the imagery room for conversation, there’s more of a dialogue happening in my head and on the page. Questions along the lines of why would these images be next to each other? I utilize the negative space element in order to create the idea that the imagery is becoming unified. Sometimes the placement of shapes or negative space is only whimsical and there is not necessarily a meaning behind it, but it’s more about the shapes and the colors and how they play with each other.
Does that come from your background as an abstract painter?
I believe so, I’ve always simplified, my abstract works were too busy and I needed to simplify to this idea of minimalism. The collage pieces are more thoughtful. I find even if I’m partial to an image, I don’t copy or manipulate any of my images, once I use it it’s gone. A lot of stress goes into the gluing process. When I’m working I’ll take photos and go home and sleep on it until I’m sure, or I’ll glue it down and come in the next day and think ‘that’s not funny or interesting’ why did I do that?
It’s a commitment to put those images on paper?
Yeah, the gluing process is probably the most stressful part of the process because if something doesn’t take well to the vintage paper and it rips that’s my one shot. I can’t get these images back. I am usually careful about when I commit to putting the images together permanently.
To that end, how is process important to your work? How do you feel about failure in art making or time periods when you have to fulfill a need to make-work?
During times of loss I have had an idea that I want to be fluid in my art making. I wanted to use the repetition of covering something up and sometimes painting with black in order to fulfill a need to create. The evening we found out about my husband’s Grandfather I needed to come to the studio and make something happen. There is some concept of knowing I need to continually be creating when I’m working. I’ve begun exploring the idea of making just to make, now. I was enjoying the path I was on, creating collages, but now I’m getting to the point where I’m willing to try something new again. I have found that in the monotony of just making to make, I’m not as deliberate and precise as I am when I’m cutting and gluing for collage, things are more solidified. With painting, in my mind I continue to think that I can paint over things and fix mistakes, but it’s not the case with gouache. I think the experimentation leads to something better. I’ve made a lot of bad art, and I can say that happily, that it’s led me to a point where I’m much more confident with doing or excited about the outcome of the work I’m making. Failure is frequent; I choose to just take it in stride. To try to keep seeing if that could lead to something else.
How do you think it is different to be an artist in this part of the country? How has it shaped your artist life?
I think there are groups here that assist and promote the idea of being an artist in Oklahoma and nurture that fact. Things like OVAC, Fringe, Artist Inc, and Oklahoma City Girls Art School all play a role in shaping an artist opportunities. It has become a worthwhile pursuit, being an artist here. I feel nurtured by being in a smaller pond or a tighter community, but I feel like we stick together, we promote one another's works, and appreciate one another. The quality of life and the ease of living here, family, friends, and the people here are all factors that keep me here, it’s mushy, but it’s true. I’ve been excited that since I’ve been pursuing this work, it has taken off. There are opportunities if you apply yourself; it is possible to have lots of opportunities here.
I get an awesome opportunity to share my studio space with you and keep updated on your work but can you tell the rest of them what’s next?
In terms of the studio I am incorporating some gouache elements, trying to think about the idea of altering the scene, not with my exacto knife, but minimalistically eliminating or adding something to an image instead of splicing together many pieces. Working larger, 18”x24” for a few shows coming up, and also working some with line work creating a background or a grounding to the works, instead of having them float in space.
What about exhibitions?
I have an opening in April at Hojas Artspace in Goldsby Oklahoma, which I found out about from an Artist Inc fellow, and I’ll be showing works through June there. It will include quite a few new works. I’m featured in the second round of the ‘Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition’s Collector’s Circle’. I've been commissioned to create a piece for a collector in May. After that I have a show in July called ‘A Hiding Place’, which I’m in with you. It’s an exhibition wherein the gallery has given each artist a poem to create a piece based on. I haven’t started the piece yet but I know the size and have the some of the elements I’m going to use.
I haven’t started yet either.
I’ve got some of the natural elements cut out but not together yet, so hopefully that will happen soon!