CHONCHY Interview

CHONCHY Interview

Alright! I get a chance to say this out loud—very fitting for CHONCHY, I think, a place where we get to be loud and folks just smile about it (so my fantasy goes) plus I don’t get smacked with a ruler or stuck in a corner for it.

Yes, I’m old enough to have had nuns who were in that HABIT & believe me, I’ve cleaned it up here, being too tired of hashing out that childhood horror…but anyway, what I want to start with (thank you very much for this interview, by the way)…what I wanted to start with is this:

What’s art therapy all about? You asked (let’s make that clear). I gave up this conversation years ago, but…well, after 25 years of doing it, I’m very certain that I don’t know anything at all about it. Too bad you didn’t ask me this in grad school. I would have, very authoritatively, told you exactly what it’s about. Thankfully, I’ve gotten better over the years. I really know very little about art therapy now and that’s not for the lack of trying. For a more thorough description of this profession you can find plenty of practitioners who have boiled this down. They know the answers. That annoys me quite a bit as many things are apt to do. I suppose my quick irritability is one reason I chose CHONCHY in the first place.

Back on point…the fact is that if I could tell you with words what art therapy (or what art is, for that matter), we really wouldn’t need either one of them, would we? I mean art is art and words are words. Oh, yes, I wholeheartedly believe that words can be art, but then they are then art not words. It gets complicated. So, art therapy? It’s about art. That’s all I know at this date which is a late date & I have, proudly although blindly I now see, dedicated my career to it and its related shenanigans, but let’s move this into the larger thing. Let’s talk, or try to get to a place where we can, about art, for god’s sake.

The more I do it, look at it and live in it, the more I don’t have words for it—at least none that satisfy me and I hate dissatisfaction! Hmmm…I hear the ominous clacking of rosary beads…control the drive to find satisfaction, child.


I think we use art with people in pain for the same reasons that artists become artists. So, there you have the core. I’ve known many fine folks with schizophrenia, depression, bone-numbing trauma and the like and my job was to do something for them. I thought the very best thing I could possibly do was to help them become artists. What else was there to do? I thought art would save their lives and that’s borne out for some. Fortunately. I did not want to be totally mistaken.

What kind of art saves us? All kinds. I don’t care if it’s stick people (stick people have feelings, too) or if it’s a masterpiece of draftsmanship, that works, too. There’s something about starting out in pain, creating such things and getting somewhere else. People in pain (and these are not always patients!) do whatever it is that “real” artists do when they create. The question becomes then, “What are these artists all doing anyway?” What’s that about?

I don’t know. It is a mysterious, transcendent, non-tangible thing. I love it.

Do artists start out as crazy or does art make them crazy? Yes. That much I do know and thank you for asking.

I was crazy when I started—very desperately crazy and 6 years old, I think, when I claimed art to be my own: “I’m an artist!” I told the significants. They, thankfully, approved and gave me space to be it. It was really all just about paper dolls. I hated those pre-fab clothes they came with. I wanted well-dressed dolls, dolls of Mary Quant and Carnaby Street, but in the middle of all this art business, years later, I’d say art has made me exceedingly crazy! Later in the game, it’s made me happy to be as crazy as I am. It’s a wondrous thing: self-acceptance.

The “citizens”, people who don’t make art, they’re alright people. Some, in my extremely expert opinion, are more tightly wrapped than others, but I’ve got issues with all of them, all the citizens. I’m fraught with issues despite my increased comfort. In fact, I go about in the world in stealth mode hoping to conceal these issues or, at least, to function with them. I may have let someone use my toothbrush or I may have worn dirty underwear one day—these are strange things that you wanted to know, but now that I think about them, they’re really good questions. They do say something about how I separate myself out so that I know who I am. Individuation and autonomy are two of my vices.

What I mean is, I go sneaking about the world in my disguises because the world and its citizens typically bother me (I told you I was irritable). I realize this is all about me. What isn’t?! I don’t blame them (the citizens) for my irritability, paranoia or mood swings, but I do have to wear sunglasses constantly or I might engage, frenzily, in such blaming. I used to remove them (the sunglasses) when asked. I don’t do that anymore. There’s such freedom in age and I have realized that I do not have to answers questions because they are asked.

Anyway, about the toothbrushes and underwear, it has to do with losing time, losing anchors, flying off from behind my shades to more easily viewed scenery. How grateful I am when that happens! It’s glorious and disquieting. After holidays, for example, I sometimes have to sneak around to find out what day it is. Sometimes I’ve pretended to be reading the newspaper headlines just to steal a peek at the date. I’m constantly worried that I’ll forget to go back to work…a little weird, but that’s when life is good, when I don’t care if you brush with my toothbrush and I can’t remember if I changed clothes today or not. That is perfect freedom for me so I’m glad you asked. I liked revisiting it. I also liked the self-disclosure. So…these bouts, fits, episodes, interlopes or whatsit usually mean I’ve been making art. There’s the real point. When I make art I get to be totally unself-conscious and free. That makes me happy.

So…back to the citizens. They often stare at my work rather than see it with some responsiveness that thrills me. I like responsiveness. It helps me feel un-invisible. Some citizens have liked my art. Some smile. Some have actually said they’re frightened by it. These are the people who usually don’t buy it, of course, and having more and more crank out of me and pile around can spiral me. I mean, what do you do with this stuff after a few decades and I could really use some money to ward off this “Victorian decay” phenom I’ve got going at my house. But I circumambulate…so, the citizens ask me, “What’s this mean?” and I just want to slide out the back, in my shades, in my black car, thinking thoughts that disguise my thoughts so no one can find me.

A good friend of mine said, “Marie, people like a good back-story. Give it to them!” He meant well. He thought I could sell my stuff better if I’d cooperate. I wouldn’t. Something foundational in me wouldn’t. That may be my demise in the end. I may never sell my work beyond the trickle, trickle of this and that, but it just doesn’t make sense to me. The back-story is everything that’s ever happened and everything that hasn’t. Uh…I don’t like people who go to the gallery to read the cards. I don’t want to enable that thing.

Those are some of my issues with this bubbling we’re doing, not literal red bubbling, but the cooking/boiling away as making art. I find even more to say about the viewers/non-buyers/non-getters/citizens, though. I don’t do very well with them. I try to, but in the end I don’t. In a way, I use my art to screen people out of my life anyway. I mean I have to screen people out of my intimate workings where some investment and vulnerability lives. I am naturally so full-tilt wide open that I must have artificially imposed respite and I have to work hard to install it. Not all of those non-getting-it citizens who live on the other side of the proverbial soundproof booth must leave…some can stay, but mostly it is the really sinister ones—the really flat ones—that I cannot interact with very much. If you see my art and you don’t get it, or you want to get it, but can’t or you’re (for some unfathomable reason) frightened of lightwaves toned down (for chrissakes) to paper, please don’t bother me. I’m bothered enough already. The unmitigated lightwaves are attacking me and yet though there is pain there is no fear so I can’t much get it. The repetitive noise is attacking me. Where are the glories of silence to frame the music of noise? My arms hurt from all this work. Where is my Factory? Oh, and…

My man misses me and I’m usually low on sugar free cherry popsicles, trying desperately to titrate my dose to extend the dwindling stash. Long, long story short: I’m usually busy or exhausted because I do these joyous, non-frightening, extremely meaningful, stand on their own things that need no back story (they are the story) and so, I’m really booked right now is all. No offense intended.

I think words are the easiest part of my creative work. They fly out of me endlessly, crazily. Doctors have names for that. There’s medication for that, but words are, for me, just the social graces and visual art is something deeper. Art comes from the heart of the little girl punished and stuck in a corner by something truly frightening: women living in heavy black clothing. That’s where you have to deal with me verbally, I suppose, at the child threshold (sorry, but it’s gifted child). As for explanations of why I’ve done something or what process is being explored…I have little else to add except that wordplay is my one modality and sightplay is my other. They both have gifted me with great joy and passion—that’s why I presume to say I was gifted as a child. Let’s move on.

Who would I delete from Red Bubble? Ha! Put me on the spot. Evoke the frightened little girl who wants to stay out of trouble because she’s already got enough trouble. There are tons of candidates. It’s a big site. I’ve obsessed over this since getting that question put to me. I can’t pick one. There’s an army out there out of potential delete-ees. I know some of the markers of their work, but I don’t know the artists’ names. The markers go something like this:

Their work has tried to kill me.
I’ve flown past it as fast as my crampy hand can click and scroll and I’d like to speak to them for a sec…

You live in the most fascinating geographies on the globe and you’ve try to kill them, too.
You chalk these paradisos up to sunrise.
You nail them down to postcards.
You make me sad.

You think “treatments” are clever and you think angst is where it’s at.
You think shock value is valuable.
You think macro close-ups are poetix.

That’s a good start.
Technique and clever titles…

Leave my brain alone!
It works on its own!

I have compassion for this army of delete-ees.
They are at least looking.
They can’t help that they’re lost, stuck on veneer, wandering in some experiential wilderness of something, something, something.


Anyway, to wrap this up, you asked what 3 pieces of mine represent me best. It has to be 3 I flip to right now and identify because that changes from moment to moment. As of this moment they are: Nightsea, Dangly and Daniel.

They are good examples of why I support CHONCHY and of what I’ve been babbling about here. These works are confrontive, particularly Daniel, for many people. It is a page torn out of a hotel Bible and used as medium. It says nothing vulgar. It depicts no adults/only content, but it feels vulgar and XXX to many who see it. That type of covert astonishment is very satisfying to me. The vulgarity for many people is that I tore the page out of a mass-produced, translated to dirt and distortion, book. It is not the book defiler in me that so outrages, but what book I have chosen. That’s very interesting to me. It tells me that the paper on which an artist works is not sacred. I see that differently.

Nightsea captures me today not only because it is of enormous scale in my eye, but also in the swell that rushes in, the very word “sea” itself and the script that writes out a loud and important something to be said. It is more important here that the writer has written than that it is fully readable in all its content. That this site we are in for this interview is like that for me is enough reason to include it. For more on the nightsea of the soul, I refer you to your own.

Dangly is a push of many envelops. It has angered several people. I did it without permission to alter it from its models. I had permission to have the image. Obviously, they have posed for me. The image is mine. I don’t need permission. Some assumptions about what a photographer/artist might do with an image got in the way here—socially, emotionally, psychologically—for some viewers. That is the way art, true creative action, springs into this world of mine. It must come, surprisingly. The artist must take permission not ask it.

Marie Monroe

CHONCHY Interview

Marie Monroe

Louisville, United States

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