Cassidy Rae Marietta‘s work is truly a treat for the senses.
Blooming flowers, unapologetically nude women and candy-colored hues are aplenty in the Ohio-based artist’s mixed media creations, which get their start with black ink and are then colored digitally. Fueled by a subconscious-driven creation process and an exploration of the human condition, her intricate compositions have details for days. We caught up with Cassidy to learn more about her process, the importance of finding strength in fragility and recharging in the great outdoors.
Let’s start with the basics. Tell us a bit about yourself and what you’ve been up to.
My name is Cassidy Rae Marietta. I am an artist and illustrator working out of my home in a historic village in downtown Columbus. The middle name isn’t incredibly important but when I began making art some years ago under the name Cassidy Rae, I quickly discovered there was a popular porn star under that same signature and ended up embracing all three name components. Whew! Just in case you were wondering.
I moved here from northern Ohio after jumping around the south for some years. Columbus is a rare gem, filled with culture, passion and interesting people—of all the places I’ve lived, it feels most like home (even though we’re land-locked and I’m in love with the water).
These days, I’m usually drawing away at one of my many works in progress, listening to records, getting creative in the kitchen and nuzzling close to people that make me laugh.
“My female silhouettes are a force and even in their fragility, they are strong and unapologetically themselves…I would love for people to see that in my work to perhaps spark a stronger dialogue and connectedness within themselves.”
Your works are so intricately detailed, it’s insane! Can you walk us through your artistic process?
I’m constantly jotting down notes and ideas for new pieces, but my work is heavily influenced by the subconscious mind and the main substance of a piece doesn’t usually arrive until I’m actively working on it. For instance, I’ll compose the “mass” portioning first—figurative elements, human forms, skeletal, etc.—and then when I have the majority of that narrative on paper, I will start adding “flitter” or the ornamental portioning. The wrapping and twisting of linework and decorative elements are what can take me days, weeks or next to a year.
A lot of my work on the site is in mixed media. The pieces are drawn out with black ink (I have a Micron preference), scanned in sections, stitched together in Photoshop and further colored digitally. Digital colorization uses sheets of solid color that is more aesthetically pleasing to me compared to the inconsistency you get with markers for instance. I also experiment with many different media: gouache, acrylic, colored pencil, etc.
My first passion was painting (being a fine arts major with a focus in painting), but when I left college and lost my larger studio space, I had to downsize and ending up playing with pen and paper. Illustration provides the element of control that I now prefer and the array of colorful media speak to my lightheartedness.
On the other hand, do you ever reach a point where you feel like you’ve done too much with a work? How do you strike that balance and self-edit if necessary?
Part of the excitement is that a piece could be ruined at any moment.
It’s all subjective, really, but in the end, I have a pretty good idea of what I want the final outcome to be and make small moves toward that goal. This is why I need to sink into a pretty comfortable headspace before drawing—especially with some of my more involved work. It’s always been a very meditative process and if I focus too much on the potential for error, it would stop being enjoyable and I would lose interest.
With that said, YES, I have absolutely reached the point where I’ve overdeveloped a piece and it is what it is. It does get kind of sticky when working on commission-based stuff. That’s when digital takes over!
I love your depiction of the female form–it’s empowering and provocative to say the least. What do you hope people take away from your works?
The folds and contours of the human shape are both fascinating and very beautiful to me. I’ve always had such adoration for drawing the female figure. Bodies are the most common and most controversial thing, which confuses me because each of us has a body that brings us all into the world and carries us through life.
Nudity can be objectifying, yes (depending on the context), but it can also be extremely freeing. An act of liberation if you will. Society sees women as sexual objects, and thus we are fulfilling that role by exposing the body, but nudity isn’t always sexual and I think that’s where people get confused. Especially in current times where there is so much censorship (though I will say nudity and sexuality are perfectly fine in my book and totally natural, that’s a different conversation I guess).
My female silhouettes are a force and even in their fragility, they are strong and unapologetically themselves. They often turn and stare back at the viewer as confident and empowered portraits. I would love for people to see that in my work to perhaps spark a stronger dialogue and connectedness within themselves.
I read that you also pay homage to beauty and the simplicity of nature, death included. Many of your works feature skulls and memento mori without feeling dark and heavy. Is that effect intentional? How do you treat death in your works?
For me, the skeletal character often represents an inner turmoil. I draw them as part of the female character’s imagination—an unstable part of herself that she keeps buried, an ornery manifestation of her life stressors, anxieties, and moral.
I don’t believe that death is the end, so perhaps that’s why you can read some optimism in my work. It is, unfortunately, something we all experience and often the way it presents itself is in the form of ripping someone we love and putting them in a place that’s not tangible. But it’s part of life and nothing nourishes creation more than our story.
Art has always been a method of healing and I pride myself on being as honest as I can with my work. It’s just a fragile balance of observing those major moments that make us who we are but also not allowing them to define us.
I’m just sensitive and a lover and the older I get the more I see how easy it is to lose those qualities so I’m settling into my tenderness and allowing myself to be vulnerable. It’s also in these moments where I make my best work.
And do your immediate surroundings influence your compositions at all? Where are some of your favorite getaway spots in nature?
We religiously walk four miles every evening with our beagle, Margot (sweetest dog in the world). This is always a nice time to allow my thoughts to recharge, which is a critical part of my creative process.
Whether it’s camping over long weekends in southern Ohio (Hocking Hills, Wayne National Forest) or the occasional hike in the woods—being outside and having a connectedness with nature is blissful and I pull a ton of inspiration from these moments.
My family spent weeks every summer in Lake Muskoka (located between Port Carling and Gravenhurst, Ontario, Canada). The lake is surrounded by tons of cottages and our cabin was on a tiny island along Lake Rosseau. This is my favorite place. Clear, cold water; clean air; tall pines. We would boat all day, sunbathe on giant rock ledges—far from televisions and cell phone reception. Just Neil Young playing and a deck of cards!
I think they call it “Millionaire’s Row” now because it’s peppered with celebrities and most of the modest cabins were sold, torn down and hyper-developed. We got the boot, of course, but I’m so lucky to have all the memories, and if there’s a heaven, you can find me there.
Where else do you find inspiration? I see psychedelic art nouveau and think much of your work would be right at home on a tattoo flash sheet!
I am heavily influenced by art nouveau. Alphonse Mucha is one of my all-time favorites, no surprise there. I love the ornate qualities, the push-pull of negative space and the rich hues from that period. Anything that employs edge-to-edge drawings that are all-encompassing, really.
Over the years, I’ve tried to develop my own style that is unique to me and not mirroring other artists who have clearly mastered their craft.
I have dabbled in flash sheets and a lot of the commission work I get are requests for tattoo designs, mostly stuff that floats around social media platforms and the like. I started turning them down because it never feels authentic to me. Getting tattooed is another story! Gotta’ simmer down on all that.
I also pull a ton of inspiration from music, daily adventures, and simply life in general.
“There have been so many wonderful accidents in my studio just by experimenting and this (to me) is half the fun. I love the frivolity yet permanence of it all.”
Color is obviously an important factor as well. How did you arrive at these really vivid combinations and keep things fresh?
I love the juxtaposition of vibrant, vivid colors against darker imagery. A color story that happens in nature; it occurs in and around us, so I’m always striving to create unique pairings that are alluring but not necessarily relevant to the narrative.
There is a scratch-sheet that I keep next to my desk that I’ll throw different combinations down to see what might work. I’m also continually adding to my phone’s photo album different medleys I see just out and about. A striped pastel vintage gas station sign from last week, for instance.
Going back to your technique, you add a lot of textured elements to your works, whether it’s dropping on thick globs of paint or engraving plexiglass. What is it about these tactile elements that draws you in?
I’ve always shown an emphasis on pattern, tactile elements, and all-over decoration since I started playing with puffy paint and sequins back in the ‘90s—traditionally secondary aspects of art-making, but I see a current emergence of this style being championed by artists and curators alike; pattern-makers, mixed media work, or any of those arts that are concerned with the colors and decoration of objects that are prized for their aesthetic qualities alone.
I never want to settle in a medium. There have been so many wonderful accidents in my studio just by experimenting and this (to me) is half the fun. I love the frivolity yet permanence of it all.
Lastly, any exciting creative endeavors in the works?
It’s been an exciting year thus far, with two amazing shows currently on view, a couple printed publications and a handful of commissions (being a full-time freelancer, this is always exciting). My husband and I are closing on a home this month. Hopefully, by the time anyone reads this, we’ll be getting settled and I’ll be focusing on another passion of mine, rearranging furniture and styling my house. The market has been tough and we’ve been trying to lock down a home for more than a year.
I’ll have a bigger studio in the new space and will be able to get back into some larger scale pieces, so that should be fun. With a solo exhibition coming up in August, I can’t wait to dive into something a little different for you. Stay tuned. xx