© Mariel Capanna

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Mariel Capanna

Artist Statement

In North Little Rock, Arkansas there’s a ranch-style house facing Lake #3, and this fall I turned the walls of its single-car garage into a fresco. On the one hand, this fresco is a permanent installation. On the other, it is a work in perpetual progress that I’ll continue to change over the course of decades. When the garage door is rolled open, the fresco is a visitable feature of its suburban environment; when the door is closed, the fresco is a room inside a private home. It is garage and artwork, complete and unfinished, outside and inside all at once.

I’ve been working to figure out how contradictions like these can be reconciled in painting since my year-long road trip around the United States in 2013 when I hiked to the tops of mountains for bird’s eye views and visited local homes to look closely at the stitching of needlepoint samplers, wanting to push far and near, big and small together into a single painted portrait of a place. As I drove 30,000 miles around the country I was inspired by vernacular artists who stayed put and painted in and about a particular region, like Clementine Hunter and Grandma Moses. Interested in the aesthetics of stay-puttedness but never staying put myself, I reached back into art history toward cave painting and found that fresco, a medium inherently integrated with architecture, offered the possibility of making paintings inextricable from the places where they were conceived.

I traveled to Florence, Italy to study fresco history and techniques with conservator Lorenzo Casamenti and, later, when Rafa Esparza invited me to make a fresco on the adobe walls that I helped to build beside the LA River, I discovered the medium as a bridge between art and labor, sacred and domestic: the lime plaster used as a substrate for narrative fresco cycles is the same material traditionally used as a finish for mud brick walls.

My practice has, generally, been motivated by a compulsion to braid together traditions of painting as craft, as labor, as fine art, and as folk form; to bridge my optimism in the multidisciplinary, the social, and the public with my attachment to solitude; to champion the small parts of which big things are made; and to use painting as a vehicle for the stewardship and preservation of personal and communal memory.

© Mariel Capanna

Mariel Capanna's Portfolio

© Mariel Capanna

Artist Biography

Mariel Capanna lives and works in Philadelphia. Recent solo and two-person exhibitions include the site-specific fresco "Little Stone, Open Home," at Good Weather (North Little Rock, AR); "Bone Dry", a collaboration with Lucia Thomé at Marginal Utility (Philadelphia, PA); "Left" at Gross McCleaf Gallery (Philadelphia, PA); and "Con/Safos", a collaboration with artist Rafa Esparza at the Bowtie Project (Los Angeles, CA). She is the 2018 Haverford College VCAM Philadelphia Artist-in-Residence and a 2014 Independence Foundation Visual Arts Fellow. Capanna has attended residencies at Skowhegan School of Painting, Guapamacátaro Art and Ecology Residency, the Mountain School of Art, and the Tacony LAB – a project collaboratively managed by MuralArts and the Philadelphia Free Library. She received her BFA and Certificate of Fine Art from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and will attend the Yale School of Art in Fall 2018.


© Mariel Capanna

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