Marissa Burns is an artist based in Central New York, recently graduated from Wells College with a degree in Visual Arts. Her work is an abstraction of her memories, which she represents visually through watercolor. She has been featured in Level 25 Artjournal, Bitterzoet Magazine and the Art and Found in Ithaca, NY, among others.
In this interview with editor Catalina Piedrahita she talks about photographing the abstract in nature, representing memories with watercolor and falling in love with color. She also had some advice for young artists.
Catalina Piedrahita: Being a recent art school graduate, can you share with us what you think some of the benefits are of going through an art program? How did the experience change you as an artist?
Marissa Burns: Actually, when I first went to college I thought that I was going to be an English Major. I loved fictional short story writing and wanted to publish short story books. I had done a little bit of art in high school but I was not too into it. My freshman year at Wells I truly learned a lot about myself. My first semester I took beginning art classes and fell in love with color. My sophomore year I had the opportunity to take a class at the Art Students League in New York City. This was the turning point for me. My friend and I traveled the city looking at all of its galleries, museums, and splendor. After taking that class the rest is history. I decided that January that I was going to be an artist.
CP: Now that you are no longer in school, what comes next in your artistic career?
MB: I have been working on some new watercolor pieces involving the cycle of life, and I have also been doing a lot of nature photography. The new watercolors I am painting are kind of like my other abstract water colors, except, they are each a different piece representing a different time in the life of a living organism.
CP: Can you tell us more about the process of recollecting colors from your dreams in order to create your paintings? When and where is best for you to start a piece?
MB: The pieces actually represent my favorite memories. My process for them is I think of one of my favorite past times, whether it's sitting on a dock with a friend on a warm summer's evening, or being somewhere exotic like the jungles in Hawaii, or just having a lovely afternoon with my sister. When I find the memory I try to conjure all of the colors I can remember from it, a burst of yellow in my painting might be a moment from a sunset or the color of someone's shirt. After the colors have been chosen I wet the paper and add the pigment. When I look at my surroundings I see pattern, color, and beauty. I like to bring those aspects of life into my watercolors. My work shows the world as I see it.
CP: I understand you work with photography as well. What are your favorite subject matters when it comes to this medium?
MB: What I really like to photograph are things that might make people feel uncomfortable and make the image aesthetically appealing in a surrealist way. I called my last series "Traps" because I felt that letting people engage in something that was very beautiful, but also off putting was like a trap. I can lure the looker into a beautiful image, and then it's too late, they are trapped once they realize what the image really is. I also really enjoy nature photography. Photographing plants, rocks, and earth up close really gives the image an abstract feel that I love.
CP: Are there any tips you would like to share with young artists on how to keep producing work after graduation and how to get exposure?
MB: My advice to them would be to just keep at it. In order to get anywhere in the world you have to sell yourself, the same is true for the art world. Make your images pristine, your artist statement solid, and be open to critiques that people might have about your work. Above all do not be afraid to put yourself out there.