25 Questions for Shapeshifting Artist Andrea Mary Marshall
25 Questions for Shapeshifting Artist Andrea Mary Marshall
Name: Andrea Mary Marshall
City/Neighborhood: Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY
For your second solo show at Allegra LaViola Gallery, you created a series — including video, photographic portraits, and paintings — all in the guise of an alter ego named Gia Condo. The character is inspired by the Mona Lisa, and the series makes explicit reference to Leonardo da Vinci's life and career. What does it mean to create artwork “in character”? How did you determine what Gia Condo would be like, and what did you do to get into character?
Creating artwork in character is a completely liberating experience for me. It allows me to work from a new perspective. Gia Condo symbolizes my impulsive nature. She acts from the gut, from the heart. She has a wild streak and is very aggressive and confident. I kept focusing on working with her energy. Whenever I felt myself go back into my usual critical, judgmental frame of my mind, I refocused on Gia, and began again without fear, instead working with instinct, intensity, and integrity.
Gia Condo was inspired by da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa,” but she also relates to my personal evolution as an artist and as a woman. My point of departure for this work, which is all self-portraiture, was the theory that the “Mona Lisa” may be a self-portrait of da Vinci in drag. Playing with this duality, Gia embodies the importance of balancing one’s masculine and feminine nature. Embracing her masculine streak and playing subtly with drag, Gia Condo, is more fearless and empowered than my previous characters, who(m) I refer to as Damsels in Distress. As the “Mona Lisa” is “the subject of all subjects, the ultimate muse,” I wanted this body of work to signify the muse becoming the master. Gia Condo is taking control of her own destiny, challenging her personal fears and limitations. Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” will always remain seated with her lips sealed, but I am exploring the emotions and confidence related to the challenge of standing up from your seat and saying what’s on your mind and in your heart.
Stylistically speaking, the visual aesthetic of Gia Condo’s character was inspired by the “Mona Lisa,” and various reinterpretations of her by artists such as Marcel Duchamp and Salvador Dali. But I was also influenced by a late ’70s Diana Ross, the glamour of Halston’s Pat Cleveland, S&M portraits by Robert Mapplethorpe, the ’90s electric pop of Prince and Vanity 6 and the provocative attitude of Fabien Baron’s early ’90s “Erotica.” There is also a strong element of fashion in this body of work, and I focused on styling Gia Condo in mainly Italian fashion brands such as Dolce and Gabbana, which is perfect for Italy's most famous portrait.
Getting in character as Gia Condo for the film and photographs took commitment. I was shooting and filming around the clock without sleep. Every day I was in the wig, makeup, costumes, brown contact lenses. Gia has no eyebrows, so I was constantly shaving my eyebrows. Perhaps it would have been easier to simply put makeup up over my brows, but I’m a purist…you can’t cut corners.
You put yourself in some extreme situations for this project: posing with two pythons, tracking down and then pressing yourself up against a massive beef carcass, allowing assistants to cover you head-to-toe in spaghetti. Describe your state of mind while creating this work.
I was feeling uncomfortable. I felt I needed a good bath in holy water.
You started out studying fashion design at Parsons. According to a recent New York Times profile, friends have told you your work is “too much involved with fashion.” How does that background inform your work, and why do you think the art world is so wary of embracing the fashion world?
For me there is no art without fashion and no fashion without art. It is a completely symbiotic relationship for me. My background in fashion brought me to art, and before that my background in art history brought me to fashion. Fashion can be frivolous but it is also a powerful source of insight and commentary. The art world is trying to engage more with fashion. But lately I’ve been thinking fashion needs a little more soul, and art needs a little more glamour!
Before “Gia Condo,” you produced artwork as a series of other alter egos including “Karen the Killer” and “Loretta Minx.” Do you have a favorite? Why?
Do you mean a favorite alter ego or favorite project? My favorite alter egos so far are Gia Condo, and second to her, Rosemary Myst. They are such opposites of each other. But without Rosemary Myst, I don’t think Gia would have been created. All my alter egos feed off each other. But in terms of a body of work, I really like that Gia Condo allowed me to explore an alter ego in greater depth than before. I really enjoyed the experience and challenge of creating a complete body of work from this new perspective.
What project are you working on now?
The great demise of Gia Condo. A non-smoking body of work titled “Evolution.” And a series of self-portraits of a woman with the middle name Meredith.
What’s the last show that you saw?
Matisse at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
What’s the last show that surprised you? Why?
I don’t like surprises.
Describe a typical day in your life as an artist.
There is no such thing as a typical day for an artist. When I am creating work, anything can happen, from taming boa constrictors to swinging a beef carcass. Besides the inevitable little sleep and lots of coffee, the one guarantee for the artist is the routine of dreaming!
Do you make a living off your art?
What’s the most indispensable item in your studio?
Where are you finding ideas for your work these days?
Do you collect anything?
What’s the last artwork you purchased?
My newest piece(s) are two Tulip watercolors from David Croland’s 1993 one-man show, “Dutch,” at Stubbs Gallery, NYC.
What’s the first artwork you ever sold?
A small, oil on masonite, self-portrait painting from 2008, titled “Self Portrait as Querida Senorita Gringa Maria Gonzalez Veronica Guadalupe.”
What’s the weirdest thing you ever saw happen in a museum or gallery?
Actually, I will never forget when my little sister threw up twice in the Louvre museum.
What’s your art-world pet peeve?
What’s your favorite post-gallery watering hole or restaurant?
Gemma at the Bowery Hotel. Milano’s because it is what it is.
Do you have a gallery/museum-going routine?
I like to go alone to see art.
What’s the last great book you read?
What work of art do you wish you owned?
This is an impossible question. “The Sleeping Gypsy” by Henri Rousseau.
What would you do to get it?
Sell my soul. But I doubt MoMA would welcome the exchange. Hahaha.
What international art destination do you most want to visit?
I always want to visit Mexico City…over and over and over again.
What under-appreciated artist, gallery, or work do you think people should know about?
The Haitian artist Hector Hyppolite. Haitian folk art in general. Folk art in general.
Who’s your favorite living artist?
Richard Prince, George Condo, Nan Goldin.
What are your hobbies?
Honing my sixth sense.