Thérèse’s paintings drew me in from the first moment on. Feeling like scenes from a film, they are very direct and powerful but also vulnerable at the same time. It is like a direct connection into your heart and they touch me deeply.
For the following I asked Thérèse if she want to do an interview with me:
Luna Maluna Gri: Tell me a bit about yourself and your work.
Thérèse Mulgrew: I grew up on a farm in Iowa. I come from a family of artists – my late grandmother, mother, and cousin were/are all serious painters so I was surrounded by it, but was never interested in painting myself. I graduated from the University of Iowa with an English degree then immediately moved to NYC and started working in the fashion industry, mainly producing and styling photo shoots – I think being in that world had a big impact creatively on my painting style or at least how it began. I paint mostly portraits and still life. I’m very drawn to hands and how expressive they can be. In general and especially lately, I’m attempting to make work that is very narrative and tells stories.
LMG: How and why did you start painting?
TM: I think it’s more that I stopped not painting. In my 20’s, I was feeling pretty depleted and uninspired by my jobs so I took a drawing class after work at the Art Students League of New York. Painting always seemed really intimidating for me so it took me a while to try it but finally one of my teachers convinced me to sign up for a class and I was immediately hooked. I quit my job and left New York so that I could put all of my time and energy into painting. When I first started, I remember every night I’d dream about moving paint around a canvas and I’d wake up feeling eager to get back to it.
LMG: What role does painting play for you?
TM: It’s a really loyal companion, something I can rely on and control. And it gives me purpose, which is everything.
LMG: What does your creating process look like?
TM: I direct and style photo shoots then I paint directly from the images created from that process. I usually end up taking hundreds of photos then I go through them carefully to select which ones I want to paint or I’ll crop a small moment from a larger image and project it onto the canvas to see how it looks large scale.
LMG: What inspires you?
TM: These days, almost exclusively films. I want to make my work look more cinematic so I’ve been rewatching some of my favorite movies and collecting film stills that inspire me. I also love going to old bars/restaurants or hotels that feel like they’re out of another era – and of course thrift stores – to get ideas for still-life moments. I’m moved by nostalgia and am currently attempting to capture timelessness in my paintings.
LMG: How does a normal creating day look like for you?
TM: I try to paint every day if I can – even if it’s just for an hour – but normally, I try to work for at least 6 hours. I wake up early, usually around 6 or 7, make coffee, take a long walk, then work until I get tired, which usually ends up being around 6. I always need to be listening to something when I work – usually podcasts in the morning and music in the afternoon.
LMG: What is your experience with the art world?
TM: So far, I feel like I’ve been pretty lucky. I got my first solo show at a gallery in New York 6 months after I started painting which felt pretty crazy. In the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of artists/gallerists I admire and it’s been a relief to learn about how different everyone’s path is in the art world. I’m still learning what it’s all about and how to navigate it – but thankfully I have a really great support system to help guide me.
LMG: Is there something you want to change about the art world? If yes, what and why?
TM: For sure. I think it can be exclusive and snobby. There are so many brilliant painters whose work doesn’t see the light of day because they didn’t attend the right MFA program or don’t have the right gallery connections so I wish there was a more inclusive, direct way to give opportunities to artists who didn’t choose the conventional path.
LMG: What do you think is/are the role/-s of artists and art in our society?
TM: I feel like art is a coping mechanism – both creators and consumers need it as a way of dealing with this crazy existence we inhabit.
LMG: What artist/artists would you like to meet (dead or alive) and if you had one question what would you ask them?
TM: This is hard. There are so many women painters in history whose brain I’d love to pick – the biggest ones being Frida Kahlo and Alice Neel. I love asking other painters about their favorite materials/techniques so I’d probably first ask about that but I’d also desperately want to understand their motivations for making work.
LMG: Is there something you want to achieve in your art life? Dreams? Future plans? Or projects you would like to do?
TM: I’d like to continue to be able to wake up and paint every day. That’s the main goal as of now. I’d like to collaborate with filmmakers and performers. And I’d love to have a solo show in Paris.
LMG: Do you think there is something you can bring to this world through your work as an artist which you couldn’t in any other field of work?
TM: I think painting allows me to be myself in a way that other art forms and especially other fields of work haven’t. I really love writing, for example, but I get bashful about being vulnerable verbally. Visual art grants me the ability to fully express myself while also giving my audience an opportunity to have their own relationship with the work.
Copyright to all photos and paintings: Thérèse Mulgrew