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Interview with Artist Marilyn Minter and Curator Ariella Wolens: Part 1

Marilyn Minter, SCAD, Installation view.

Marilyn Minter: Nasty Woman

SCAD Museum of Art

February 11 - August 2, 2020

By PETRA MASON, July 2020 

When the phrase ‘Nasty woman’ went viral, Donald Trump accidentally launched a feminist movement. He also inadvertently re-ignited the already simmering fury of plenty of women worldwide, including artist Marilyn Minter. Minter, an artist and activist with a career that spans over five decades and as many shades of feminism and contemporary art making practices, is this year's SCAD deFINE ART honoree. Not surprisingly, at the dinner in her honor (in Savannah, Georgia, back in February 2020) Minter was also the recipient of the ‘Least likely to be invited to the White House’ award. The difference of opinion is historical: not only did Minter protest the US involvement in the Vietnam war (marrying a Vietnam vet against the war) at same the time 45 was feigning bone spurs, the artist views feminism as the ‘biggest change I’ve seen in my lifetime’.  

Using video, photography and painting to get her point across, simultaneously transgressive and glamorous, Minter, always a provocateur, has a smokey eye for wetness, glitter and glamour.

Kicking off her heels to walk the several exhibitions at the SCAD deFINE ART 2020 showcase in Savannah, Georgia Petra Mason talked to curator Ariella Wolens about ‘Nasty Woman’ and with the artist in person about decades of art and activism, freckles, pubic hair and the Guerilla Girls. 

ARIELLA WOLENS: Every aspect of this is hand painted, you can see in some of the areas where it is more blurry she has painted with her fingers. You can see fingerprints in some of the areas where the light is hitting strongly. And when Marilyn created these images, if she is happy with something, she will often print it as a photograph.  

As you can see from this piece, one of her largest paintings to date. She will skew the seductive aspects of advertising -- the close up range, ensuring to never leave out the microscopic details that make the body an uncomfortable thing to view: all of the taste buds of the tongue, body hairs, makeup smudges.The wetness that becomes incredibly sexual -- this is all something that she is very much celebrating, the reality of sex and femininity.

We have chosen to highlight Marilyn’s video work. In 1990 she found out it was cheaper to advertise on late night television, to buy a spot on David Letterman or Arsenio Hall than to buy a page in Artforum. So she created an advertisement for her show that was at Simon Watson Gallery which was where she presented her ‘Food Porn’ paintings. It (the ad) became an artwork in itself in which she commented on and pointed out how the artist, and the artwork, are inextricably connected to capitalist consumerism. 

Marilyn Minter, SCAD, Installation view.

PETRA MASON: What is your favourite New York decade? 

Marilyn Minter: Now. Except for Trump. I like the fact that now the doors are wide open for people that are not white males. It’s never been like this. Never been like this before. Look out for Tala Madani (video and painting) who recently showed at 303 Gallery. She is amazing.  

PM: Do you think it’s easier for women artists now? 

MM: If they are old! The world loves young bad boys and old ladies. Sometimes they love ‘bad girls’ but then only if you can sustain it. Those are the ones I emulate. If you think about Lorna Simpson or Barbara Kruger or Cindy Sherman. They manage to keep their game changing and they are still making work that is exciting. What I’ve learnt is it is easy to get a lot of attention, but to sustain it is difficult for every artist and the ones that don’t just repeat themselves, its difficult to listen to that inner voice and to just keep making something that’s interesting for other other people to have a dialogue with, I thought when I was really young I wrote off artist’s right and left, but now I think if you’re still showing after 30 years you’ve probably got something to say! (laughs) that’s how I’ve changed. 

Part 1 in a 2 part interview between cultural historian Petra Mason and artist Marilyn Minter. WM


Petra Mason

Cultural historian and vintage photography book author published by Rizzoli New York. Founder Obscure Studio and ArtHit. Whitehot arts and culture contributor since 2016.

Photography by (c) Thekiso Mokhele / Obscure Studio


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