Out of Context

Marta Pelrine-Bacon’s Word Art

Marta Pelrine-Bacon, an Austin, Texas resident, began creating art out of text six years ago. Her images incorporate words from her own novels and feature images such as girls on the moon, rabbits, and cityscapes. “I kept seeing art that used text, and since I'm a writer, I have a fondness for words. I wanted to incorporate words into my work, but I didn't want to copy the work I'd seen and I didn't want to use other people's words. I wanted everything in the image to be completely mine.”

Her first piece began with a printout of the rough copy of one of her novels. She cut out text and glued them down into the image of a cityscape. With encouragement from an artist friend who saw potential in the experiment, Marta endeavored to create more word art pieces. After a first successful art showing, she found her niche and moved forward, exacting her process and drawing from numerous influences, including artist Joseph Cornell and the music of Julee Cruise.

Though she’s shown her work in Art City Austin and The Violet Crown Festival, this artist prefers the relaxed, open dynamic of coffee shop showings. Her current images appear in Dolce Neve, a gelato shop, and appear semi-annually at Genuine Joe’s Coffee House. Marta uses her curiosity and creativity to explore the world of the misfits, eccentrics, and magic. There is an intimacy to her work that draws clients into the eerie, skewed moods of her textured imagination. Like her novels, the artist pursues the inner life of, “offbeat individuals who follow their dreams and express themselves even when others don't understand.”

Using her own text “out of context” allows the viewer to take away their own story, to be drawn into her mysterious, quirky aesthetic. There, the viewer can find their own meaning. Marta delights in this interpersonal dialogue with her clients. She says, “People find meaning I hadn't considered…In recent work where I've had two women in the piece, I've had one person say how much she loved the mother and daughter sleeping side by side, obviously caring for each other. Another person asked why I was drawing dead women.” 

Though the execution of these ideas often begin with copy from her own work, the artist allows the pieces to emerge organically. Ink and glue are fallible, and sometimes the right materials aren’t on hand- Marta incorporates it all. “I start and add things as I go.”  The end product may not perfectly reflect that first imagined spark, but exploring her process allows her to layer and adjust her work in exciting ways. 

Recent ventures nudged Marta to explore shadowboxes. She attributes her work with them to her love for layers and hidden stories that began in childhood. As a teen, she read, The Confetti Man, by Bonnie Jones Reynolds. The book centers on a girl and her family who are obsessed by paper and save it. The character becomes an artist, much like Marta, who uses old images to tell new stories with her work. “People could look endlessly at her work and that's the sort of work I want to create.”

She uses a black X-acto blade and glue to build a base of text, black archival paper, and watercolor paper. Marta refines her work with pencil and a black ink pen and some of her favorite tools- a fat and thin Sharpie, scissors, and a ruler. Using boxes in her recent work means opening her work space and discovering new materials to work with.

Marta never shies from new ventures and use of media in her art. She branched out into illustrating children’s books with Niamh Clune of Plum Tree books, working with the author to “fit my imagination to match her own ideas about her own words.” With this experience behind her, she recently began exploring her love of stop animation. She hopes to invest equipment and time in future projects that further explore the connection between media and unique stories.

The artist’s sensibilities reflects her life philosophy, “My life is conventional in some ways (marriage, house, kid, dogs), but unconventional in others (put writing and art before housework and other sorts of obligations). I keep my job that has no benefits to speak of and offers no chance for advancement all because it lets me be a mom and make art.”

To learn more about Marta Pelrine-Bacon and her work, please visit http://martapelrinebacon.com/ 

Tonia Marie Harris writes speculative fiction and poetry. Her work has appeared in Mash Stories, Flash Fiction Magazine, and will appear in the upcoming Twice Upon A Time anthology. To learn more about Tonia, please visit http://passionfind.wordpress.com

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