To create one’s world in any of the arts takes courage.
Linnea Maas is an artist in two-dimensional media who collaborates with paint and courage as a member of the band Marvelle in Minneapolis. The band describes itself as “a new sound from Minneapolis, thick arrangements for a sparse trio” consisting of violin, bass and drums. But Linnea makes up the fourth element in the band as she creates an acrylic painting on an easel on stage for each set the band plays. Linnea’s performance is directly in front of the audience, and the audience has the pleasure of watching the painting emerge as the music flows through the venue.
During a recent interview with me in her studio in the Casket Arts Building in Minneapolis, Linnea discussed the process of collaboration between artistic platforms and her role as an “action painter.”
Collaboration is central to her partnership with Marvelle. Derek Schultz of the band approached Linnea a few years ago with the idea of having her create a painting during the band’s sets. At first she was panicky about being on stage and being expected to create a piece of art. “I hate the spotlight and I paint representational; rarely abstract,” she said. So, she needed to create a painting that would be recognizable to the audience.
The first collaboration presented the most unknowns. Linnea said, “It was so intense I didn’t know what to expect.” To prepare, she listened at length to the band while doing many sketches. She found that her preparation allowed her to visualize and use some of the images—such as clouds—that she had conjured up in her sketches while listening to the music.
Now she has performed about 30 times with the band since 2008. Her first task when the band starts playing is to “cross over into ‘paint brain.’” This phrase she coined describes that mental state where the artist is immersed in their artistry and creativity.
For her with Marvelle, the energetic core of the music and her visual cues sync up. In that mental space, she can paint without having to think any words, and in fact, at that point it is virtually possible to think in words. She merges her energy with that of the individual musicians and the specific energy in the performance at that moment. Tapping into the energy is crucial for her painting.
She often returns to specific themes in her paintings, like clouds or barn swallows, based on a particular mood that comes to her when Marvelle plays. For example, she says that with her Marvelle action painting, the “barn swallows represent—I don’t know—the minor chords or something. They pull my heart the same way each time; sort of hope and sadness and swooping and flying.” She also discovered that for her, it is the drummer and the vocabulary and mood of the drums, that connects her painting to the music.
And, as if in synch to her thoughts, at that moment in the interview, one of the drummers for the band, Andy Uzendoski, strolled into Linnea’s Casket Arts Studio. (He is included here in a photo.)
Her Marvelle paintings are landscapes or skyscapes. When Linnea paints in her studio, she is working on a series of paintings presenting robots. She has challenged herself to convey as much emotion and internal intentionality in her robots through their facial expressions, the colors of their tank-bodies, their “wheels” and their antennae. Linnea now additionally performs as an action painter with a group of other painters, dancers and a D.J. at a Minneapolis club. She calls it s comfy sensory event…
A wonderful familiarity of understanding the harmony and collaboration of artists filled me during my interview with Linnea. Each participant in this action painting/trio-musicians collaboration allowed the other members to create and share.
Members of Marvelle are: John Holm, violin; Derek Schultz, bass and guitar; Linnea Maas, paint; Brian Warden, Brian Herb, Andy Uzendoski, and George, drum.
Marvelle website: http://marvelle.org
Listen to Marvelle on MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/marvelletheband
Photos by Jane M. Mason. Citation for O’Keeffe quote: “Georgia O%27Keeffe.” BrainyQuote.com. Xplore Inc, 2010. 19 July 2010. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/g/georgiaok163985.html