By Gregory Travis for Dysonia Magazine
She is half an hour late, for our interview in which time the sky has gone from golden to a threatening shade of rain.
The coffee house buzz has cooled a bit too. Alternative rock having been replaced with laid back earth jazz blues.
As a patch of blue hides behind a thick grey cloud, enters our star Marilyn LaGrone-Amaral. Her coffee-n-cream
face is framed by short auburn dred locks which stick out from under a red velvet Cat-In-The-Hat like chapeau
She is also wearing a stylish brown jacket circa 1940's with beaded lapels over blue denim overalls. Cool!
Amaral! Artiste! Is the maker and innovator of "URBAN MYTHOLOGY MASKS."
With a stunning smile she says " Gregory,can you forgive my tardiness? I laugh out loud and say "of course. I then ask after she's seated how does this mask work begin?" I usually put the eyes on first. Without the eyes I can't see what to do.' Her deep throaty laugh mingles in with the cafe ambience. " I mean, they have to tell me what they want and who they are.
I really commune with these pieces." Obviously so does her public, as evidenced recently by her first African Marketplace Festival (The L.A. ART Fringe Festival curated by Peter Sellers) This is an annual festival/gathering of
African inspired artisans to sell and exhibit their work for an intense 5 day festival. Ms Amaral presented 200 pieces. THEY ALL SOLD!
When you see her masks it is easy to see why people are drawn and connect with her work. The faces, the eyes that stare out are animated, and full of the splendor as well as the mystery of life. They are living. Yet each piece is individually unique. They are constructed from cardboard that is aged ,treated and embellished with "found Objects". Ms. Amaral's work is a compilation of bits of industrial scrap, paper, plaster, street glass, wire, rusted and forgotten trash, exotic metals , drift wood., paint , ink and last but not least "her"exceptional talents. Her work is often a comment on a civilization that embraces the practice of becoming a totally disposable culture. If our society could be judged by her masks by a future culture what would they derive from them.?
Masks always try to capture a spirit that lives in the atmosphere or an object. Primitive societies used masks for specific rituals and rites. They were also used as a way to connect man with the spirit world. "I believe spirit lives in everything." She shows me a mask called the " Dead Battery Imp" whose round, yellowish face grins raffishly with windshield glass under his eyes, a shredded car tire hat, with nails and a tangle of rusted wires attached to small old dead batteries. Her ability to put a mask into our daily life situation is astonishing and captivates your imagination.
"The Tenement God", "Goddess of Press And Curl. "The Urban Bush Couple of Uptown" The Gang Gods of East LA" just to name a few.
Amaral's sometimes colorful ands sometimes not but always provoking "spirits" have been selling quite well from coast to coast in galleries and at festivals.
Their appeal is no mystery to their creator." I think what most people find and enjoy about "Urban Mythology Masks" is the humor , the story and the spiritual
beauty of my work."
Marilyn's urban mask images inspire, haunt and are full of wonder. These masks are potent like conflicting emotions, reflecting extremes in concept and high art, but come frighteningly close to reality.