Artist based in Los Angeles, CA
Mamie Young, Portrait of the artist
Tell us about yourself, what's your background?
I am a contemporary artist whose works explore the pop culture icon "wacky inflatable wind dancer" and its relationship to modern society. Born in Guangzhou, China, and based in Los Angeles, I received my Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Southern California, where I also studied Cinema-Television Production. After graduation, I worked as a Graphic Artist in the film industry, collaborating with studios such as Disney, HBO, and Netflix. I always knew that I would work in the creative field but it wasn't until later in my career that the idea of becoming an artist fully took hold. The opportunity to express my own voice and perspective without the constraints of commercial work was a driving factor in my decision to pursue a career as an artist. It's incredibly thrilling and scary at the same time.
(left) Tunnel Vision, 2021, acrylic on canvas, 20” x 24”.jpg (right) Gilded, 2020, acrylic on canvas, 30” x 30”.jpg
"It is often on the edges of reason, where the unexpected resides, that innovation occurs. I believe this to be true not just in the field of technology, but in all areas of creative expression."
American Cowboy, 2021, acrylic on canvas, 20” x 20”
What are you currently working on and where did the inspiration for it come from?
I am captivated by the strange and whimsical objects that are prevalent in contemporary culture. The wacky inflatable wind dancer is a widely recognized but underutilized icon in the arts. But instead of simply appreciating the wind dancer for its intended purpose, I am interested in examining the ways in which its meaning can be reinterpreted and reevaluated. My paintings invite the viewer to consider the ways in which we assign meaning to the objects in our surroundings. Through my work, I aim to challenge the viewer's preconceptions about the functions and cultural significance of everyday objects.
(left) Make a Wish, 2022, acrylic on canvas, 11” x 14” (right) Surprises, 2021, acrylic on canvas, 20” x 20”
Innovation does not only happen in the field of technology — it occurs everyday in a creative practice. What do you do for inspiration?
I seek out the absurdities in the world around us. Modern life can be predictable and mundane, so I look for things that don't make sense because they have the potential to surprise and delight. It is often on the edges of reason, where the unexpected resides, that innovation occurs. I believe this to be true not just in the field of technology, but in all areas of creative expression.
A Better Mouse Trap, 2022, acrylic on canvas, 20” x 24”
Describe your practice and process. Where do ideas start for you? In the studio or being in the world?
It is often difficult for me to trace the origins of my ideas. They seem to have a life of their own and simply choose me as their vessel for realization. Once I have settled on an idea for a painting, I spend a significant amount of time working through it and using Photoshop to combine reference images, sketches, and my own photography into a cohesive composition. Some ideas come together quickly, while others require numerous iterations. The act of painting is the last part which is often the easiest part of the process for me.
How do you make your work, does it start with a sketch?
My pieces are stylized photo-realistic because I want the wind dancer to be easily recognizable in my paintings. While the context in which they are depicted may be different, I don't aim to abstract the object itself too much for now. However, as I continue to evolve in my artistic practice, I am interested in exploring how far I can take the distortion and abstraction of the form while still maintaining a connection to the real-life appearance of the wind dancer. The advantage of focusing on a single object is that I am able to delve deeply into the various possibilities of representing it in different ways all the while providing a sense of continuity.
Detail of studio
Do you have your own studio ritual? What does that look like for you?
During the day, I like to work on ideas, sketches, and renderings. At night, I prefer to paint. The first part of my process is more active and spontaneous, while the second part is more solitary.
Who are your biggest influences?
Rene Magritte, Edward Hopper, Julie Curtiss, Mark Tansey, David Hockney
Intrinsic Nature, 2022, acrylic on canvas, 20” x 24”
Are there books or films that are an important source of inspiration?
I like books that talk about the journey of creative work such as "The War of Art" by Steven Pressfield and "Big Magic" by Elizabeth Gilbert. I want to understand and fall in love with the process of making art as much as the art itself.
(left) You’ve Been Served, 2021, acrylic on canvas, 22” x 28” (right) Studio view, working on You’ve Been Served, 2021
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
This quote by Ira Glass - "Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it's just not that good. It's trying to be good, it has potential, but it's not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn't have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it's normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. It's gonna take awhile. It's normal to take awhile. You've just gotta fight your way through."
What is the best advice you would give to other artists?
Be audacious and persistent.
Stay up to date with Mamie Young