Musée Limited Editions: MaryBeth Rothman
By Ashley Yu
The Musée Limited Edition Print Sale is still on! All prints are taken from the Billboard Creative 2019, curated by our editor-in-chief Andrea Blanch. To see the rest of the prints currently on sale, shop here.
Ashley Yu: Could you tell us more about your Billboard Creative print in particular and how it came about?
Marybeth Rothman: The print, Augusta, is from my series The Hobby Horse Literary Guild. “The Hobby Horse” was the first African-American bookstore in the United States, established during the Harlem Renaissance. This is my tribute.
Ashley: How did you first get into making collages?
Marybeth: For as long as I can remember, I have always had the want and need to create something everyday. During a transitional period, I inherited a box of family photographs from the 1940’s and introduced them into my work. Eventually, I began to digitally manipulate the photographs by exaggerating or subtracting physical attributes and creating illusory collage detail to help realize the story.
Ashley: What is it about vintage photographs that fascinate you?
Marybeth: After incorporating my family photos, I was inspired to investigate other photographs from the same era. As I began to collect vintage photographs, I was struck by the finality of their discard. This notion of the untended became an obsession for me and over the years I have amassed a large collection of unwanted, orphaned photographs. This examination is motivated by a wish to reclaim these lost and forgotten souls by re-imagining their biographies.
Ashley: How do you select the vintage photographs for your work?
Marybeth: The images I choose for my mixed-media portraits are selected individually and then in response to each other. This curatorial process is somewhat circular as the photographs are chosen, discarded and chosen again until an affinity develops among them. Over time the juxtaposition of the photos on my work table, a swatch of paint, or a sketch initiates a conversation among these elements and a series emerges.
Ashley: I’ve read that you use a combination of different artistic techniques, such as encaustic painting (pigmented beeswax), digital photography, and drawings, as creating a dialogue between these different elements. Specifically, what kind of dialogue do you hope to create?
Marybeth: My work is a fusion of all these techniques and other antique ephemera that I alter, combine and repurpose to add narrative texture. The facial expression, the mouth, the eyes and the posture of the figure influence the colors I choose and the lines I make. Everything is carefully considered to reveal a rich, personal history for the subjects in these abandoned photographs. The integration of encaustic paint, photography and collage in my work occurs simultaneously as a dialogue develops among these elements to paint portraits of strangers.
Ashley: Encaustic painting (pigmented beeswax) is a very uncommon technique. Why do you choose to incorporate it into your artwork?
Marybeth: This paint is applied in a molten form with a brush to a rigid surface and each layer is fused with a propane torch. I fabricate a memoir for the subjects of my reclaimed vintage photographs by embedding them along with drawings and other ephemera within many layers of encaustic paint which creates a visual depth that is unique to this medium.