The unflashy vibrancy and careful interior detailing of Carrie Marill's studio on Third and Garfield streets matches her calm and thoughtful demeanor.
With an overflowing bookshelf, a gold mine of paints, and an underused kitchen (there's a reason there's a paper cutter on the stove she explains), Marill's productive workspace proves to be the nest for her creations to take flight.
In October, Marill and her husband/fellow artist, Matthew Moore, purchased an 11-unit building, remodeled it, and transitioned the commercial space into Combine Studios.
The couple each uses part as a space to make his/her own artwork and rents the other parts to ASU's artist residency program where artists from across the world can temporarily live and create work centered around their travels and experiences in the Valley community. The first residents include Clare Patey (England), Matteo Rubbi (Italy) and Miguel Palma (Portugal).
"It's important for an artist to have space to go and work where they are uninterrupted, and they have the time they need to focus and be alone and make work," Marill explains. Though she primarily considers herself a painter, her media also includes drawing, sculpture and mural, which you can see on the corner of Roosevelt and 2nd St. and at Lisa Sette Gallery in Scottsdale.
During a typical day in the studio, Marill works for about four hours before needing a break so she can see her progress with fresh eyes. Often she'll bring in Shackleton, her three-year-old Portuguese water dog, to keep her company and remind her to take a breather and go for a walk in the neighborhood with him.
Marill's colorful works pop against the nude tables and neutral walls in the naturally well-lit space. In a cozy corner near the window are her cushioned chair and muted sapphire blue bookshelf so she can research while she works. Though Marill's subject matter will change in bodies of work, pattern is the central pivot she uses to express her thoughts on environmental or social issues.
The artist finds she pays close attention to the interaction between humans and nature, with birds having an especially popular presence in her work. She says her interest in birds piqued when she saw they are the only wild animals that can be observed in cities and cohabitate with its residents.
True to her artistic habits, Marill is also visually attracted to the detail and color patterns of their feathers.
Along with illustrating nature in her pieces, Marill adds hints of humor. "I think a lot of my work is a little snarky," she says. "This is my way of having fun in the work. I think it's easy to take yourself really seriously. I do take what I do very seriously, but I also like to have a good time. This is my way of making sure you're paying attention."
The clean and energetic lines seen in her artwork are also elements of her studio. Like the space, Marill's crisp and minimalist paintings are still beautifully open and gentle -- but when you study her work just a bit more closely, a quiet revolution surfaces.
As Marill has been preparing for her next exhibition at SMoCA -- southwestNET: Sherin Guirguis and Carrie Marill, which opens September 22-- she's been researching traditional Navajo art, meeting with weavers and speaking with curators from the Heard Museum to give her an understanding of how to take the visual language of the Navajos and use it to describe what is going on currently.
Through her study of Navajo weavings, Marill also questions how to reconcile the feelings of what has happened to Native American societies.
"It's a difficult place," she says. "There's a culture we live right next door to that we know very little about, and it's dumbfounding to me. How can we move past it? I want to know more. This is my way of learning more about the culture."
For the upcoming SMoCA show, Marill bases a few of her pieces on SB 1070 and the Marriage Equality Act: "These are contemporary social situations that I'm hearing about and reading about that I wanted to incorporate because pictorial weavings traditionally describe the everyday life, and these are things that are happening today."
To see how Marill interlaces her observations, wit and socio-cultural views, southwestNET: Sherin Guirguis and Carrie Marill will be up at SMoCA from Sept. 22 to Jan. 6.
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