Marisa DeMarco

Life’s Intersections

By Chris Brunelle

Marisa DeMarco uses painting to bring details and ideas into focus.  Her use of primarily black and white paints emphasizes the focus on the context and the detail and interplay of the subjects.  She reserves the occasional use of color to add a new dimension of meaning with her paintings.  Her canvases are relatively large for portrait work, which increases the visual focus.  She’s bringing us in as close as she can to the ideas she’s exploring.  DeMarco will often create a visual divide in her paintings that creates the point of conflict from which her meanings emerge.

Demarco’s “Models” series splits the subjects into two halves that each vary in depth and closeness to reality.  More specifically, one half will be a close-up context in comparison to the other and each half has differing visual distortion.  The visual distortion leans toward the effect of a drunken caricature or funhouse mirror image.  We can interpret the word, “Models,” to mean the pretty people who adorn clothes for designers or to mean a subject posing for an artist. If it is the case of the former, DeMarco may be dwelling on the visual oddness of a group of women described by your everyday folks as alien in appearance and size. She is possibly in agreement with that assessment and is enhancing its depiction.  If we are to interpret “Models” in the case of the latter, DeMarco similarly seems to be interpreting her subjects with a certain poetic madness.  Is this a comment on people who model in any form?  There is no obvious hint as to which meaning DeMarco is exploring.  Whatever the case though, DeMarco is focusing her lens and what she is seeing is abnormal.  She’s honing in on facial features and revealing abnormality.  There is a sense that she is also commenting on the style of caricature itself, revealing its brutal honesty and simultaneous absurdity.

More and more, artists seem to be facing the issues technology poses for humanity. DeMarco’s series, “Communication,” reflects this modern interest.  In it we see headshots of women with a style that appears to reflect the early part of the 20th century whose faces are covered with modern popular techno-gadgets.  These gadgets are painted in color.  In the world of DeMarco’s paintings, color is so absent we could view that these objects are subsequently otherworldly and possibly even invasive.  Though the characters in these paintings are smiling, the gadget is interrupting.  They also stand between the subject and the viewer.  DeMarco is showing the disconnect technology can create.  Our headphones are a buffer from the people we are near whether commuting, at the gym, or walking down the street.  The camera has become the focal point of capturing an experience rather than just enjoying the moment with our own sensory perception.  The style she created for these women reflects the style of an earlier time when these kinds of things didn’t exist.  For DeMarco, these modern gadgets provide a hiccup in human experience.

The series that drew me into her work is her “Family Portraits.”  The series covers three couples in two paintings each.  In these paintings, the couples’ faces are combined at the vertical halfway point ultimately creating a head that is equal parts of both people. Whether these subjects are her family or not is irrelevant as clearly the subjects within each painting are related.  Beyond suggesting the union of these people in marriage, family, and life, you see that the major relationship of their life defines them.  It shows how they are a complimentary unit.  DeMarco also blends the lines connecting their features in ways that reveal the similarity in their faces.  We’ve all seen couples that kind of look alike or maybe even start to look alike after years together.  This series does not suggest that these people have chosen partners that remind them of themselves but rather that they have chosen kindred spirits.  Another striking feeling in this series is the happiness each portrait exudes.  DeMarco clearly has a deep love for this family and her admiration comes through in how she captures these peoples’ joy from a life together.  It is brave and rare for a modern artist who indulges abstract thought to focus her palette on such positive vibes and family values.  Marriage is literally a joining of two lives and the combination of two people.  Radiohead have a song entitled “Where I end and you begin,” which as a title so simply and poetically muses on this line that DeMarco so successfully illustrates in this series. DeMarco’s message is much less dour and broken than that of Thom Yorke’s however, as she’s concerned with the meeting of two people as a shared identity, path, and mutual joy.

Demarco’s work includes more series than this column can cover and I encourage you to explore them all at


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