Kim Marra is a young artist living and working in Ridgewood, Queens, New York. She is originally from Long Island. Kim graduated with a BFA in painting from State University of New York New Paltz in 2013. She now works full time at a wallpaper company in Manhattan, assisting with production and design.
When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?
I don't think there was ever a moment or a decision. I grew up drawing a lot, particularly Disney characters. I had these "Learn to Draw Goofy!" books that I would draw from all of the time, and as a young kid I thought I would be an illustrator. Somewhere between middle school and High School that turned into painting.
Do you have a preferred medium? Your work has a cohesive style despite being done with different media and on different surfaces. How do you choose your media and surfaces?
At heart I'm an oil painter. The work I've done with acrylics on wallpaper was really a decision made out of necessity. After college I didn't have a studio or a lot of money, so I worked with what was accessible. I had a job at a sign shop that had some extra stock of wallpaper so I started experimenting with that. I liked the idea of wallpaper because it coincided with my themes of home and domesticity. I created a series of paintings this way, but when it was over I really missed oils. Even so, I'm always trying to force myself to experiment. New materials are both fun and scary, because usually at first the work isn’t great. You really have to stick with it to figure out what works and that is something that I have to force myself to do.
When were you inspired to create these particular architectural series?
I started working with the idea of architectural landscapes in college. It really came about through an endless series of trial and error. When I got to school, I was painting portraits like everyone else because I didn't realize that I wasn't that good at it. One day, I decided to paint the picture of a toilet instead. Toilets turned into bathrooms, bathrooms turned into interior spaces, and interior spaces turned into abstract architecture. With architectural landscapes, I have found an endless amount of inspiration to draw from.
What does the word "home" mean to you?
What does home mean to me? I have no idea. That's where the work comes in! The places I've called home have all been simultaneously stable and unstable. That constant discomfort and sense of anxiety is why I keep asking that question. I don't know the answer so I'm just going to keep making paintings about it.
How did you choose to associate "home" with spaces and structures as opposed to material items, faces, etc.?
I'm not really sure that it was ever a choice. My work is mostly intuitive, and I never plan a painting before I make it. I usually start with perspective lines to create spaces, and just paint and repaint until something feels right. I think if I were to put figures or more literal renderings in my work it would feel forced. My goal is to illustrate the tension between comfort and discomfort that I associate with home by creating spaces that I feel also evoke this tension.
You're currently living in New York. How long have you been there? Does this particular city environment shape your idea of "home"?
I live in Queens now. I was in Brooklyn for about a year after college and have been in Queens for almost 2 years. Living in the city has definitely shaped my idea of home. Since moving here, my parents who lived on Long Island have moved for Florida, and my brother who was also in New York has moved to California. Having my family all over the country has really shaken my sense of a "home base", because I've always felt that home is where your family is. Brooklyn and Queens have fulfilled a lot of what I was looking for, but there's still a lot missing.
Your newer works take a different perspective than your older pieces. Some have a more bird’s eye view as opposed to horizontal one. They seem to make the space more deconstructed, open, and vulnerable. Did you have a particular intention?
My newer work is inspired by the aesthetic of collage. I thought it would be interesting to try and piece some imagery together while creating deeper space at the same time. My intention is to have the viewer’s eye stop short in some places and get lost in others.
What was the inspiration to expand on the bold patterns and colors as opposed to drawing into the black, gray, and sepia tones of some of your earlier pieces?
This shift really just came about through experimentation. I think the paintings I tend to gravitate towards have bright and bold colors so I started to incorporate that into my work. I think the combination of bright colors with some of the gritty visual language I use contrasts in a way that I really like.
Has your concept of “home” changed for you over the course of these three years as you have been working on these series?
I think part of me will never quite feel at home and so I’m constantly trying to reinvent what it could mean to me through my work. The unfortunate consequence of this is that the more at home I feel in my paintings, inevitably the less at home I feel in my apartment. I guess what I’ve started to learn the last few years is that home can be wherever you find comfort and stability, whether your bed is there or not.
What direction do you think your work will take you next?
I have no idea... I’m at a place now where I’m ready to start discovering new things. I am still intrigued by the themes my earlier work addresses, but I want to find a new way to express them. We’ll see what happens!