Bad Seeds :


Bad Seeds :
Bad Seeds :
The Art of
Michael Mararian
by Rena Finkel
“There are two types of children I draw mostly in my work, that’s the empowered
and the weak,” Michael Mararian explains. From his early work, Inky Dreadfuls
and Little Unfortunates through his Phobias, Foibles, and Fiends and Les Enfants
Diaboliques, to his newest collection, Youth Parade, Mararian has subjected his
cut out, black-and-white children to all manner of twisted scenarios. Emotionally, he draws his palette from photographers like Shelby Lee Adams, Mary Ellen
Mark, and Roger Ballen. But each piece has a sick wit, a bark of cynical laughter
behind it, so that it dances deftly between melodrama and brass-balled irony.
The message of Mararian’s black comedy is closely associated with its viewing
experience. Layers of disturbing imagery emerge slowly. Perhaps you will notice
the old fashioned wallpaper first, reminiscent of your grandparents’ house, then
your eyes will be drawn to familiar cultural symbols – a Kangol hat, an bag of
blood ready for transfusion, an ironic t-shirt, then comes the child, in ghostly black
and white, and as the final horror – what the child is doing. They are holding guns,
burying their siblings, and popping pills. He describes a scene at an art fair where,
“a couple of women walked up to one of the pieces in my Phobia series, nudged
each other and blatantly laughed out loud – big guffaws. They... kept looking at
the rest of the work. As they got near the end of the series they both turned to me
suddenly, infuriated. ‘How can you do this? You can’t do this! This is horrible!’”
CLOCKWISE “Acestry Breakdown”, “Little Kiaser”, and “Hall Monitor
(Sempi-Fi)” OPPOSITE PAGE “Meat is Murder” all from Youth Parade
“[We are] fed things we
don’t need or want, the most
complex issues are reduced
to rabble rousing sound
His artwork is always very aware of the pressure and pain of modern reality. The
children – surreally floating on top of the image – seem to be spirits of childhood
itself, embodying something greater, but far more ephemeral than the portrait that
we see. Mararian, who disclosed that he and his wife cannot have children, posits
that, “the window of innocence is much smaller now,” and confronts that early
loss of purity relentlessly, but he does not dwell there long. Rather, he explores
our infantilization as part of a consumer culture and in our relationships. In his
words, we are, “fed things we don’t need or want,” and, “the most complex issues
are reduced to rabble rousing sound bites.” Youth Parade was produced shortly
after Mararian’s own father (who shared his name) passed away, and resonates
with the guilt and pressure left in the wake of that bond that begins in childhood
and follows us for the rest of our lives. Still, he maintains levity, splashing malicious color with the precision of a child’s paintbrush. It’s all tragedy, but he lets
us laugh, nonetheless.
Mararian’s next project is a joint show with artist Stephanie Henderson at Last
Rites Gallery in New York City, where he will present a twisted version of Snow
White. Further plans include a study of the overstimulation experienced in day-today life in our modern world. He’s sure to keep a wink and nudge in his creations:
“I guess the big picture for me is to always try and assist my viewers in finding the
humor in what some may deem hopeless situations... if you can’t beat ‘em, you
can’t join ‘em either. So what’s left to do but to slap some lipstick on this pig and
make fun of it to death.”
Michael Mararian’s prints and news updates are available at
ABOVE LEFT TO RIGHT “Corporate Fossil #2, #1, and #3” BELOW
CLOCKWISE “Carnaphopbia (Fear of Meat)”, “Mechanaphobia (Fear
of Machinery)”, and “Xanthaphobia (Fear of the Color Yellow)”