Why the Mona Lisa?Andrea Mary Marshall:
I didn’t have a personal attachment to the Mona Lisa before I began this project. We’re so fascinated by her and we’re trying so badly to figure out who she is, but if we knew, then perhaps she would not be as alluring. It’s like a love affair. We want what we can’t have. If we did know what her story was, then perhaps it wouldn’t be a pilgrimage to go see her—she wouldn’t be as fascinating to us.
So then I started researching theories on the Mona Lisa. The theory that was the most relative to my work is that perhaps the Mona Lisa is a self-portrait of Da Vinci in drag. As a self-portrait artist, that was a great point of departure—to explore that even further and create an alter-ego around it.TMN:
How did you decide upon the artists though which you’d interpret the painting? Did you intentionally choose men?Andrea Mary Marshall:
If you take the idea of the Mona Lisa being a self-portrait of Da Vinci in drag, then you’re balancing this masculine and feminine energy. With this project, I’m looking at my masculine side and being less of a victimized damsel in distress. So if the Mona Lisa is the ultimate muse, if she is actually Da Vinci, then that’s such an interesting way of having the muse become the master. The female, the common muse for paintings, takes on a more empowered role.
But it’s worth mentioning that the male references I’m using are artists I absolutely love. I don’t have a problem with them—I love Van Gogh, I love Matisse, I love Manet. I wouldn’t be making art if it weren’t for these male artists. It’s an interesting dynamic. So why not reference this masculine energy in the project?TMN:
The show also has photography and video elements. How do they fit in with the paintings?Andrea Mary Marshall:
The photographs and the film were the first things I made. They were the first part of the process. If I hadn’t understood what it was like to look like Gia Condo, to act like Gia Condo, to embody Gia Condo, then I wouldn’t be able to do the paintings as Gia Condo—I already understood her energy.
She’s not a different persona, she’s part of my persona. I firmly believe that as a woman, we have so many complex sides to ourselves. Gia Condo represents and symbolizes a more liberated, assertive, ferocious, wild, passionate, instinctive, instinctual side of me. This is not a role—it’s a part of me that I felt it was important in the evolution of me as a woman and as an artist to explore, to play with, and to understand.
Understanding this part of myself, this more impulsive side, I then did the paintings, which I consider to be very expressionistic. In the past, my painting process may have been very doubtful, very critical, very judgmental, very fearful, but I wanted to shed that skin. Creating the 13 paintings—one for each member of The Last Supper—was a very passionate, fearless process.TMN:
How did you go about creating the paintings? When did you introduce the element of collage?Andrea Mary Marshall:
They are the exact same size at the Mona Lisa—30” x 21”—and they’re all painted on poplar panels, just like the original painting.
But the paintings were starting to look too pretty, and I decided I wanted to fuck them up a little bit. They were looking too perfect, all the same—they were annoying me. It got to a point where I scratched one—the black Mona Lisa, referencing the Black Virgin Mary. I threw baking powder on it, then I scratched it like crazy.
The same thing was happening to the Lichtenstein one, referencing Julian Schnabel’s broken plates, so I had to do something. I’d never really played with collage before, and I had a lot of fun doing it. One of my favorite paintings in the series is the cow painting with the Italian miraculous medals on top. It gives the paintings a punk feel. They don’t have to be so perfect.
Some of the objects in the paintings are my personal objects. The white cross on the Dan Colen painting is one that I used to wear in my self-portrait photographs. The cigarettes are all saved from my previous self-portraits. The rolled-up dollar bills, the ashtray from some of my very first work back in 2007—all of it is saved. Even the broken plate is one of my grandmother’s plates.TMN:
Which one is your favorite?Andrea Mary Marshall:
The inverted Mona Lisa is my favorite painting. She really represents me—I feel like that’s one of my most accurate self-portraits to date. It’s called Mona Andrea. Sometimes I feel a little bit like the black sheep in my family, like the reversed sister, the reversed daughter, not necessarily going down the regular road in life. This Mona Lisa isn’t quite right.TMN:
Have you seen the Mona Lisa in real life?Andrea Mary Marshall:
I lived in Paris for a while when I was 20. My modeling career was not really taking off, and so I decided to go back to college. In those last couple of weeks in Paris, when I was kind of confused, I spent every day at the Louvre—I sat there in front of the Mona Lisa many, many times.
You think your life is ending. You’re living in Paris, it’s not working out, you’re all alone, you’re 20. But you look back on it, and the journey is more rewarding than the destination. And I think that’s the key in life.