You probably have at least one friend who is completely obsessed with the art of Marnie Weber. Her approach to creating the “total work of art” — which includes but is not limited to painting, sculpture, music, myth-making, live performance, film, video, photography, collage, set design, installation, costume, extreme makeup, excellent wigs, prosthetics, puppets, and witchcraft — has beguiled and piqued audiences for decades. Her dark, punk-infused humor, fearless embrace of eccentric feminine power archetypes from ghostly cowgirls to sorceresses of alchemy, and willingness to go, as they say, all the way there, combine in tropes of avant-garde theater and tableaux with gut-punch viscerality and a strange beauty that is anything but pretty. Weber’s work is currently on view at ArtCenter as part of Cantos of the Sibylline Sisterhood, an exhibition featuring artists who, “use science fiction, fantasy, spirituality and mythology as grounds for the investigation of identity and agency.”
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
MARNIE WEBER: I took a long and twisted road to becoming an artist. My father, an art historian, said, “You’re good at art you should go to art school.” I complied and went to art school but I had high hopes of becoming a musician. It was in art school at UCLA when I realized art could be the umbrella for everything I loved, music, film, costumes, performance, sculpture, collage and painting. That was when I decided to become an artist, because it was limitless.
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
I say narrative fiction.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
I’ve lived and worked in Los Angeles for decades. The availability of costuming, supplies and the “never grow up” attitude made it all so inspiring. Now I also live and work part-time in Milford, CT. I was born in Connecticut and so I wanted to return to my roots and also to be closer to my daughter who lives in New York. I’m a “snowbird.”
When was your first show?
I consider my first show to be a solo art performance back in 1987 at a small artist-run gallery in Hollywood, Rebel Art Gallery. I played live music on top of homemade pre-recorded tapes and created a theatrical installation with the other performers mounted high up in the corners painted red and chained to the walls. Over time my performances grew more elaborate and eventually my shows existed as exhibitions without performers.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show or project?
I’m working on a show for September in Berlin at Heidi Gallery called Sweet Ravaging Time. It is a historical survey of all the old women, crones, hags and witches I have performed as over the last 30 years as presented in my films, costuming and collage. A real dream come true for me.
What artist living or dead would you most like to show or work with?
I regret not stopping in the Mojave Desert to see Ruby and Calvin Black’s Possum Trot when they were alive. Calvin hand carved the dolls out of wood and Ruby made the clothes and they would put on shows for anyone who stopped in. I’d be way too in awe to even suggest performing with them but in some strange fantasy I like to think we could be friends and I could open for them.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what?
I like relaxing music, mostly Hawaiian slack key guitar or Jackie Gleason mood music.
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