The Art Assassin 2

a nonfiction novel by Albert Wang, or a portrait of the artist as a young failure…

Archive for November 2009

EXCLUSIVE ASSASSINATION: Marissa Shell, Artist Represented by Ugallery

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Photograph of Marissa Shell. Courtesy of Marissa Shell and
Marissa Shell: Afternoon Delight, 2002, mixed media on cardboard, 4 1/2 by 4 3/4 inches. Courtesy of Ugallery.

This summer when I had my solo exhibition at envoy enterprises, I felt grateful to be able to meet an artist friend Marissa Shell whose work I have seen at Ugallery and chatted with on Facebook later on. One night I met her at Connolly’s Klub upstairs at 45th Street near Times Square where she was working for a music promoter. She was rather relaxed but busy and we had an opportunity to talk about art and her practice. Later on, after a few drinks, I found that she lived out in Queens where I had been born. Who is Marissa Shell?

Shell’s works reflect a strong interest in pattern and design, reminding one of the later cutout works that Matisse did for his Jazz series. The decorative elements balance the subtle composition, particularly in her still lifes with overtones of Morandi‘s symbolic paintings of arranged objects that includes vases. Shell’s pieces have multiple references to art history but I notice that she had a unique angle that spoke with her own voice. After all, quiet compositions seem to act as a prism for the way that we tend to project our perspective on concrete objects. Her still lifes express a particular concern for having a congruent and unique knack for having objects behave within a group portrait.

If you have any questions about Shell’s artwork, feel free to contact her gallery at (888) 402-1722 or at

Now here are THE ART ASSASSIN’s details of the “assassination”:

qi peng: You are represented by Ugallery, which is one of the foremost online galleries based in Scottsdale and New York City. How did you get in touch with the gallery and get your work featured on it? How does it differ from being represented by a physical gallery? Has the online model been more helpful for your art career?

Marissa Shell: I found them online actually- from me scouring the internet looking for artist opportunities.

The online sales model provides an affordable option to buying original art. This is great because it allows original art to be accessible to a wider market. It’s also great for artists who tend to make smaller pieces in quantity, which, form my experience, sell well online.

The draw back is that the artists cannot participate in as many shows. Not being able to exhibit regularly means that people will not see their work in person, which is really important.

qi peng: Do you read any art journals or magazines such as ARTnews or Parkett’s or Art in America or ArtForum? How does your knowledge of what is going on the contemporary art scene in other cities influence your ideas or what you choose to do within your art studio? Do you feel that working within the New York area, in your case Jackson Heights, has been helpful to place your artwork within the context of the broader contemporary art world? What joys and frustrations do you face as an emerging artist within a huge city?

Marissa Shell: I don’t think about the “Contemporary Art World” when I am making work. I think about the quality of my work, the process of how the work is made, and about other artists whose work I admire. I have assisted for numerous artists since, and very often find myself thinking about their processes and techniques, while continuously searching for my own.

Everything I experience visually influences me- whether I know it, want it to, or not. If I moved to another town, state, or country, my work would change with the move. You can’t help it. It’s like if you are in Mexico you will eat Mexican food, and if you are in France, you will eat French food. I don’t feel frustrated right now. My biggest joy about living where I do is being near my friends and family.

qi peng: Your work has manifested a seemingly abrupt shift from the paper collages that depict very colorful still lifes towards the hard-edge, abstract paintings that look like a biological  or botanical version of Ellsworth Kelly artwork. What accounts for this change in style and approach? What avenues do you hope to explore within the future?

Marissa Shell: I tend to work with abrupt shifts a lot. I like the disparity between the different materials I am working on. It gives me the opportunity to find a way to make the two meet in a place that is common. Lately I have been working with gouache, paper and paint. They are very different mediums to work with- both in respect to scale and tactility. I have been trying to figure out a way to translate small-scale paper studies to large-scale paintings. The first one’s I did were horrible. But I am working on some now that feel as if they are taking on a good direction.

qi peng: How do you title your artworks? I feel that they are rather straightforward in its description such as “Afternoon Delight.” Do you consider these phrases to be plain-sounding with a hint of poetic mystery? Also do you have any poets or writers that you are inspired by?

Marissa Shell: Yes- the older pieces were titled very straightforwardly. Although, as I look back, and each piece still has personal significance to me.

The more recent pieces that I am working on have titles that are obscured references to music or film.

Literature that Inspires me? I really like Science fiction and fantasy. A few favorites, The Enormous Radio, by John Cheever, Harrison Bergeron, by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., and A Wrinkle In Time, by Madeleine L’Engle.

qi peng: You have a brilliant and lovely, experimental use of the color palette and command of shapes. How do you choose the colors and arrange the shapes into new compositions? How predetermined or spontaneous do you consider your artworks? Do you sketch out your compositions before you work on the final version of the piece?

Marissa Shell: Right now I am doing sketches of shapes that I find in nature, on the street, in other artists work, wherever…I am planning on piecing them together somehow for a larger canvas. Sometimes I sketch things out in Photoshop to see what something will look like.

I also work from photos that I take myself. Mostly of nature. But I will work from anything that inspires me visually.

qi peng: What was your experience at the art school at the SUNY Purchase College like? Do you have any memorable teachers or artists that had a strong impact on your painting or studio practice? What is your opinion about open studio visits and critique sessions for young artists? How do you think that art education can improve to help out artists who are choosing to make painting or other types of artwork for a full-time career?

Marissa Shell: Art school is great for honing one’s technical skills as an artist. I recommend staying in school and practicing making art for as long as possible. However, school will not teach you what it is really like to have to survive and support yourself as an artist once you leave school.

I believe this is the dilemma of the artist. I have spoken to many artists and everyone has a different way of surviving and producing an income for themselves. I used to think that the “right way” was to get a gallery and have them sell all your paintings and the only job of the artist would be to make work. But I know now that everyone has their own, individual way of surviving.

“Whatever you do, don’t ever get a full time job.” This was the piece of advice I received while I was completing my undergraduate degree that made the most sense to me. Although mainstream society will look at this as a failure of a college graduate, it makes perfect sense for the artist. Full time jobs don’t leave very much time for making art.

If I were going to do undergraduate school again, I would focus on doing more internships with artists who have found a way to continuously make work. I would also stay in school for 5-6 years as opposed to 4 years. I know that financially that may not be feasible to many students, however, for me, school was a great place to just get work done and focus on professional growth.

qi peng: You mention that your consistent themes within your artwork are “domestication, decoration, and entertainment.” How are these preoccupations shown within your early collages? Do these themes continue into your latest series of abstract paintings? Are you influenced by Matisse and Picasso in terms of your composition? Is there a feminist slant to riffing off these male artists?

Marissa Shell: [no answer]

qi peng: What is a typical day in the Marissa Shell studio like? What habits or methods would you consider to be your standard studio practice? Does your work get any ideas from your being located in the urban beauty of New York?

Marissa Shell: I don’t have any one particular way of working. Time in the studio can be time to be alone. It is often a personal sanctuary for me where I can sit and mentally explore the ideas of what could be. Sometimes I just sit and envision what I’d like to make. That is my minds way of being creative and coming up with ideas.

Other times it is a space to just bring work to completion. A big part of being an artist is just getting the work done. “Manual labor.” Some people like to hire interns or assistants to do this, which I have done in the past. And other artists like to do it themselves.

Right now I enjoy working on my own, but that may change in future.

qi peng: What is your opinion of the art fairs, particularly the ones in New York or Miami areas? Do you feel that the economic recession will help or hurt artists who are hoping to have their work shown or bought in the market? Do you have any memorable experiences with any of your collectors? Also do you feel that the recession had any impact on online art sales?

Marissa Shell: [no answer]

qi peng: Would you like to share your favorite music, movie, objects, artists, recent exhibitions, galleries, televisions shows, sports, or other cultural artifacts with fans of your work? What things do you enjoy about the things that you have chosen as your favorites? Are there any restaurants or hangouts around New York that you wish to recommend us?

Marissa Shell: NYC is an amazing place filled with culture and all sorts of hidden resources. I could sit here for hours recommending places to eat and check out. But the best way to really get to know NYC is by visiting for an extended period of time or by living here.

qi peng: Would there be anything that you would to share with fans of your artwork or the readers of the column here?

Marissa Shell: [no answer]

For more gossip or dishing me the art scoop: E-mail me at

Written by qi peng

November 21, 2009 at 6:35 pm

Posted in Uncategorized