Join us on August 20th for the opening exhibition of Femina Fortis! Featuring work by…
On Saturday, February 7th, our Operations Assistant, Tori Dillman, sat down with Stage 1 Artist in Residence Maryam Adib to talk about her work, her activism through art, and what comes next.
In this body of work, Maryam ponders and examines the relationship between the dream world and wakeful life. Commenting on her fascination with dream interpretation and how they relate to our subconscious and conscious minds. These works are mixed media; gouache, pen, and collaged paper.”
Maryam’s solo show Between the Conscious and Subconscious Mind opens April 2 and runs until April 17 at the Stage 1 Gallery in Arbor hill.
Tori: How did you start as an artist? What are your background and history?
Maryam: I’ve always really been into art since I was like a little kid. I would do a lot of fashion design and I used to love How to Draw books; I did a little bit in high school because we had a pretty good art program at Niskayuna High School.
My parents always encouraged us to be pretty crafty. I feel like back then, this was kind of like when the internet was just starting, so we did have computer games, but we spent most of our time just trying to find something to entertain ourselves. We would get construction paper and pipe cleaners and do the whole putting stuff together. We were always pretty creative, [although] boredom aided a lot of the curiosity. I don’t know exactly how I was drawn to art but my parents were always buying me [books and supplies]. My mom’s side of the family, they’re all in the fashion business and work as seamstresses, and my grandma taught me [a lot], so there was a lot of creativity around me.
When I was deciding to go to college I wanted to go into fashion design but my parents were pretty strict at the time and they just didn’t want me to go away. I decided on art as something I was interested in but [I was] not as crazy about it as fashion design. So that’s where my practice started. Once I went to college I started to take it more seriously…Art has been a constant in my life and something more serious definitely in the last 7 years of my life.
Tori: I’m seeing a lot of painting and collage work, but also the screen printing. Did you study a specific medium when you were in art school? Do you currently have a medium of choice?
Maryam: When I went to Sage, you would just be a Fine Arts major, and [faculty] would let [students] dabble in everything; I didn’t have to choose a concentration. When I went to SUNY Purchase they had very specific majors, which I appreciated, but I was only there for one semester so I feel like I didn’t get the whole experience. When I was at SUNY Purchase I was a painting major. At SUNY Cortland they had something similar…if you were in the BFA program you choose a medium for your senior thesis. I’ve always been focused on painting, and it’s always been something I’m comfortable with. Screen printing is pretty new to me and a lot of it I’m learning as I go. In my senior year of college, I just graduated back in May-we had one [semester of] screen printing and it drew me in because I like the process of it: the very technical part of it, and the way that you can make any image and print it on any material. [It is also] something I got a taste for when I was in my last year of school. Over the summer my professor let me linger and use the studio because everything was shut down anyways. That was cool and I got to be there and learn more about screen printing and use the studio. [I] just figured it out by trial and error.
I like learning new things as I go and noticing improvements. I remember when I started making the t-shirts, looking back on the first ones I printed there’s a huge improvement, and that’s cool to see.
Tori: You spoke a little bit about your studio practice and what it was like in high school, and at different colleges; How do you think being at Stage 1 these past few months has changed your studio practice?
Maryam: I work here, and I work at my friend Emily’s place a lot because that’s where I’m staying. When I’m in Ithaca there’s a studio space and there’s other people around. Balancing working here and then working at the apartment has been nice. [At Stage 1] there’s a lot of space, which is cool. I feel like I have been more inspired to be more experimental here because I’m doing this very open-ended show, so I have this opportunity to pick whatever I want, l and [I] just have the time to be experimental and tap into things that I’ve been wanting to do that I haven’t had the chance to do.
Tori: If you had to describe your work and what it’s about, how would you describe that? What inspires you, who inspires you? Is there a specific subject matter to your work?
Maryam: It ranges. In the last few years, I’ve been focusing on art that’s more grounded in a certain subject matter. It tends to be political and about social issues or environmentalism. Generally, I feel like my work is [grounded in] surrealism and dreamscapes; even when my work is heavily based in a certain subject matter, it still has a dreamy surreal feel to it. [Surrealism is] always what I aim to have aesthetically as a genre, but I’ve always circled back to examining [the] subconscious mind and the dream state; That’s something I’m interested in for this body of work. At first, I was calling it art for art’s sake, but I feel like that’s never really true. There’s always a reason, but I’m just letting it come to me as I go. It’s almost a stream of consciousness way of painting. I want to examine the unconscious mind. I feel like whenever we talk about art, people always want to have an answer. So much of our brain is unconscious. Our conscious mind is only 25% of our mind, so why does everything have to be so grounded in meaning? I want to present something open to interpretation; the way that we are so impermanent, but also so constant The friends we have and the people around us are very constant in our lives, and very important, but in the grand scheme of things we’re all very impermanent. A lot of my work touches on that idea of the juxtaposition of how important we feel as humans but how insignificant we are. That’s always something I am diving back into trying to examine further.
Tori: How do you balance your work with social justice with questions of impermanence and fragility?
Maryam: Yeah, those ideas are kind of opposing in a way. Taking things that I find troubling or concerning about life or just existence or society and shaping them into something that is beautiful or something that makes you think but also isn’t all doom and gloom. I guess finding balance is the challenge.
My senior show [in college] was called Alchemy of the Spirit, which focused on taking something that is so broken and so diminished and building it into something that is beautiful and powerful and radiates light. That’s how I approach my t-shirts. The first one I did a few years ago was when Brett Kavanaugh was appointed to the Supreme Court, and all of the f***** up things with that, along with the abortion ban in Alabama. The first t-shirt I made was a woman’s rights shirt, [which I sold] and donated some of the proceeds to Planned Parenthood. In general, my work is about taking things that I find wrong about the world and turning them into art while trying to be holistic about it. If I’m talking about abolishing the police and reimagining how we organize our society, it’s really important to me to be giving back from what I’m making- spreading these messages and redistributing the money that comes in.
Tori: Where can we find you?
Maryam: I have [a site on] Etsy called SmarfArt. I’m also on Instagram as @thrifted_underwear and that’s where I post updates about the shop and time lapses and pieces I’m working on. [You can also find me on Instagram under] @smarf.art)
Tori: what does your future as an artist look like? What are your goals and aspirations or next steps?
Maryam: I would love to be a working artist. I remember saying that a couple of years ago and feeling like that was never really a possibility, but more and more lately we’re realizing the value of art, so you never know. But that’s my goal: to be a working artist and support myself through my Etsy shop and my fine art. I’m hoping to do more residency programs and travel, stay in different places and live a nomadic life. In terms of the pandemic, it’s hard to say, but after this, I’m probably going to be in Ithaca for a while. I want to come up with new shirt designs and solidify the business and work out some kinks…and then just continue to make art.
A Special thanks to Jammella Anderson for funding and making this residency happen.