Marie Claude Marquis Admits "We're All Kinda Fucked Up" at Spoke Art's New Gallery Space
Recess fittingly presents their inaugural exhibition, We’re All Kinda Fucked Up by Canadian artist Marie-Claude Marquis. In addition to her trademark raunchy dinner plates, Marquis’ newest collection features framed embroideries, a Recess-exclusive coaster set, and a selection of creative home goods from the artist’s product line Merci Bonsoir.
In clever and very funny obscene typographical interventions, Marie Claude Marquis springs new life into vintage found objects. With a keen eye for color and contemporary feminism, she pokes fun at everything, from technology and consumerism to religion and sexuality, with serious reminders about environmental impacts of artistic production and consumption. Considering her own “creative carbon footprint” as a found-object artist, Marquis hopes to inspire others to appreciate richness of old objects, each with a soul and story.
Quippy, irreverent one-liners poke criticism at tech-influenced narcissism and voyeurism. The title itself, We’re All Kinda Fucked Up, speaks to the egocentric fragility of human nature and a dishonesty inherent to the digital age, the modern human as walking contradiction as they curate their social media selves to project superficial truths, cherry-picking value systems, and reveling in normalcy while laying claim to their personal uniqueness. Our digital landscape plagues society with tunnel vision towards curated, superficial perfection. Marquis is here to strip off the blinders, to refocus our attention on candor, communication, and communal awareness. Take a look below at an interview between Marie-Claude Marquis and Lyndsie Fox, Gallery Manager at Recess.
Lyndsie Fox: Your work has evolved so much over the years! Your recent ceramics and needlepoints are quite a departure from your previous series of portrait paintings. What inspired the change?
Marie-Claude Marquis: Well, the love of typography appeared when I switched from a Bachelor's Degree in Visual Arts to Graphic Design. But thrift shopping and vintage hunting have always been part of my life. As a kid, my grandmother volunteered in a vintage costumes shop and my mom brought me every week to a flea market – it was paradise.
Your current work focuses heavily on typography and aesthetics. What other design work has led you here?
After my studies in Graphic Design, I worked in the fashion industry as a textile designer for two years. But the 9-to-5 office life wasn't for me. So eight years ago, I quit and have since freelanced for different clients in graphic design, illustration, and textile design... But less and less because I really prefer to work for myself. My experience in textile design has helped with the embroidery process a lot. The first time I created an embroidery piece for an exhibition, I embroidered a quote onto a vintage needlepoint by hand. It had nine letters total and it took me 10 hours for a result that, honestly, looked pretty bad. So now, I direct the production and make the plan, but it is a machine that embroiders the words.
The ceramic dishes you use are amazing. Delicate florals, religious figures, animal portraits, gilded gold detailing, there’s so much unique variety! Do you make any of your ceramics yourself, or do you use all found objects? Where do you source all of these vintage items?
Thank you! All my pieces – plates and embroideries – are made from found objects. I find them in different thrift stores, flea markets, church basements, garage sales, etc. This part of the work is my favorite! I looooove the search and the rush I feel when I find a beautiful piece. I never buy my pieces online because it really takes away all the fun!
A huge focus of your process and intention is in repurposing objects, giving them new life and meaning, making common everyday objects unique, precious, humorous, controversial. Can you speak to the psychology behind this, and how it might relate to contemporary consumerism?
I truly believe that we cannot base happiness on things we buy. Because once we have it, we'll want something else, and it never ends. Don't get me wrong, buying stuff is fun. I like to be comfortable, I'm ecstatic when I find an amazing $8 dress in my thrift hunts, and I don't preach a minimalist lifestyle, though I really admire people who are able to achieve that. But I really think that it is the time you spend with who is important to you that matters the most. The things you experience, the people you meet, the souvenirs you create; these are what’s good for your soul. So only working with second-hand objects helps me to feel like I am not entirely giving in to the consumer cycle.
There’s always an undercurrent of environmental and consumerist awareness when creating work from existing found objects rather than fabricating brand new objects. Do you ever consider your “creative carbon footprint,” so to speak, as you create? Is environmental awareness something you hope viewers will actively take away from the work?
Totally, this message is really important to me. Again, I firmly believe that we cannot base our happiness on new things we can acquire. So, without being admonitory, I absolutely want my viewers to take away the value of reusing and buying second-hand. I also try to show that old objects are beautiful – they have a soul and a story.
Your last solo show focused a lot on honesty, candor, and self-awareness. It encouraged viewers to participate in the search for truth and meaning – a slow, deliberate process in a contemporary society over-saturated with social media and internalized fragility. Are you continuing these themes in your new We’re All Kinda Fucked Up exhibition?
Yes, a lot of themes from my last solo show will continue in this new one. Communicating, putting our feelings into words, and being honest with our emotions are values at the core of all my work. Ever since my early work in painting, I’ve focused on the idea of putting forward honestly what we all live, without realizing it, so that we feel less alone.
￼The name of the show itself speaks to the fragility of human nature, especially in our digital age. What is the overall message of We’re All Kinda Fucked Up, and how do you hope viewers will interact with it?
We’re All Kinda Fucked Up means that we are quite contradictory: On the one hand, we think that we are the norm because what is normal for us is the life that we live that evolved from the same way of life before, and so on. So sometimes, we have trouble understanding people who come from another sphere or place. But on the other hand, we also think that we are incredibly special and that we’ve gone through unique, difficult shit that other people won’t get. So often, we don't understand people who don't understand us anyway. But what is important is that in the end, we are all kinda weird, kinda fucked up. No one is perfect, everyone has problems and a story. We all want to love, to be loved, and to have a goal. This title is also linked to the sad state of our planet, and the helplessness and anxiety that we feel facing this uncertain future.
You address a lot of contemporary issues through humor – poking fun at technology, sexuality, religion, consumerism, and voyeurism. Which is your favorite issue to explore, and why?
It's hard to say, because it really depends on my mood, inspiration, and what I find as my starting object. But, regardless of the subject, my favorite part is when I find a quote that gives a total second meaning to the graphic on the piece. I'm always looking for that clever twist, constantly brainstorming what I could write. I always keep something on me to take notes, and I just keep adding new things to a list of quotes inspired by what's going on around me. In my head, if something speaks to me, it will probably speak to someone else too.
It seems like you tend to critique religion and technology more often than other subjects, which is appropriate given your consistent focus on issues of honesty, awareness, and self-worth – all of which are heavily (and often negatively) impacted by religious systems, digital consumerism, and external validations. What drives you to critique these things so strongly?
I would say that I criticize certain aspects of those two subjects. I believe that there are good and bad sides to both and that the good sides of one are the opposite of the other. As an Atheist, coming from a Christian background, what I find positive about religions, in general, is that they all bring a feeling of community to its practitioners. By always having the impression that a superior being is watching over you and by having special moments to go and gather with other people, it helps you feel less alone. Quite the opposite with technology, whereby people are less and less in real contact with each other. Because we now live in this digital era where the feeling of community is weakened and loneliness is stronger than ever. We hide so much behind our screens, whether to fake a life, to bully, or to brag about what we achieved. It's depressing. However, with technology also comes accessibility to information, freedom of thought, and a greater openness to the world –exactly what certain religions tend to oppress.
In addition to your all of your studio work, you’re also an entrepreneur! Can you tell us more about your product line, Merci Bonsoir, and how it all started?
Exactly! Merci Bonsoir is a cute, humorous line of products mainly consisting of stationery, accessories, household objects, and games. I conceptualize, illustrate, and design each item myself, in the same vibe as my gallery practice. It focuses a lot on nostalgia, puns, and pop culture. It started five years ago when I created a series of birthday cards featuring portraits of heroes from my childhood TV shows. It was super well-received, so I started to create more cards, then tote bags, then mugs, then pins, and so on! I now have more than 100 items in my online shop, an employee, and we have sold in more than 40 boutiques. (YES, I work a lot!) It is a more affordable way to collect some of my work and I’m very happy to be able to offer different types of creations that suit almost any budget.
We’re so excited to have some of your Merci Bonsoir products available at Recess! I agree, I think a big part of what attracts people to your work – both originals and Merci Bonsoir products – is that it’s accessible. Art has become such a luxury to own and support, so being able to provide products like these allow so many more people to appreciate and interact with your work! Artists like you are rekindling a modern love of art and art collection, and we are forever grateful.
I have also never heard the phrase “suck a bag of dicks” sound so beautiful as when it rolled off your tongue in a thick French accent, so thank you for that as well.
See more of Marquis's works at marieclaudemarquis.com, or purchase her products from the Merci Bonsoir Etsy page. Also, check out Recess's website at everybodylovesrecess.com, which includes gallery information and an upcoming exhibition schedule.
We're All Kinda Fucked Up inaugurates the new Recess gallery space (located at Spoke Art's space at 816 Sutter Street, San Francisco, CA 94109) on Saturday, January 11, 2020, with an opening reception from 6 to 8 pm, and is on view through February 1, 2020.