Maria Calandra

Return to Artist

“Well, I’m up here in this womb, I’m looking all around
Well, I’m looking out my belly button window,
And I see a whole lot of frowns”
– Jimi Hendrix

“Painting must give us the flavor of nature’s eternity.”
– Paul Cézanne

When I started drawing more consistently, lets say around age 14, the pursuit gave me two satisfactions: (1) I was able to lose myself in a portable piece of paper anywhere I landed and (2) the end resulted in a collection of covert journals that I could later use for reflection. In a pure state of my adolescence, the drawings came flowing out, unabashed, directly from my subconscious. Without annotations, I assigned significant moments of my experience to each mark, color, and shape. I fused recognizable objects with the visual equivalent to pig latin. My promising affections or underlining frustrations were described as awkward piles of blazing bright abstractions. I recorded my dreams and fantastical ambitions with zig-zag thunder bolts and linear mazes. And the pictorial notes remained as inscrutable as a psychedelic song lyric. I was heavily into Miro and Jimi Hendrix at the time and still am. I assumed that they also used a hidden language to describe their truths. My idols and I had all been looking out our belly button windows to make sense of the world.

I have come to realize that the pre-teen Morse Code that I scrawled out on spiral ringed sketchbooks was rooted in the tradition of automatic drawing and surrealism. And twenty-five years later, my approach hasn’t changed much. I don’t know if an artist’s mark-making attributes ever change for that matter. So with a pencil and kneaded eraser still stuck to the inside of my pocket, I aim to liberate my thoughts and experiences from any boundaries of the rational, tapping directly into my most desired state of mind. While I might make connections between objects and landscapes, remembered as well as directly observed, I continue to use automatic drawing as my memory tool in place of the written word.

Joys and blind hopes are described with clouded imagery. The simple gesture of a flower, mid-summer, on the second half of its life, best explains my sensitivity to the natural world around me. It is beautiful, chaotic, dark and stoic, but more than that it is all-knowing. Mother Earth will live longer than us no matter how despicably we treat her. Repeated dashes, or trail markers, running through the drawings reveal the cycle of life as they create pictorial movement, making connections between reality and the desire to escape. My stories of love have shifted from youthful infatuation to surmounting jagged climbs over the mountains of Acadia National Park’s Isle au Haute. In my adulthood, nature, along with art, has become my obsession. I was lucky to spend time painting in remote Brooklin, Maine for the month of July. Late one evening the full moon and I were caught in a staring contest. A moon-bow surrounded it like the sunlit ripple in an algae-laden pond. It was stone still at the center and surrounded by undulation, agitating my insides until it came out on my panel. One thought overlaps with the next as images from nature, travel and dreams, mingle in and out of recognizable spaces. Recurring motifs of natural forms, from tree trunks to rocks to spiny sea urchins, become interchangeable. I gain phantasmagorical satisfaction from recreating the tiny worlds I find dancing on the ground of a forest or the ocean’s shorelines. I use the window motif as both a structural and narrative element in my work. We often see the world outside as separate from ourselves, but I blur this distinction between interior and exterior space. We are not separate from nature at all, but a part of it, which I hope to show through this collapsed dichotomy. The white rectangles at the bottom of several of the panels represent sheets of paper, echoing the drawing itself and bringing the act of art making into the world I portray.

Additionally, for nearly seven years I have been drawing the interiors of artists’ studios and the artworks inside of them for my project Pencil in the Studio. I also write about each artist’s work and the day we spent together. There is an intense sense of generosity I feel from the artists through the kind of sharing that happens throughout our day together. I strive to return the generosity shown to me by way of my blog. I will continue this project for years to come. I feel that it serves as a historical record of the artists of our time in NYC and beyond and is a way for me to bring the human experience to the forefront of art and art making. In this recent body of work, I hope to show my equal affection for nature, in all its glory and incomparable spirit of giving.

Born London, England 1976 Lives and works in Brooklyn, NY

MFA 2006, Painting, Cornell University
BFA 1999, Painting, Ohio University

Select Exhibitions
Wall Drawing, Lobby of the Wythe Hotel, Brooklyn, NY (forthcoming) Weekend, Mindy Solomon, Miami, FL (forthcoming)
Secret Life of Plants, Freight and Volume, New York, NY
Wythe Hotel Collection, Wythe Hotel, Brooklyn, NY
Salami Salon, ROE Projects, Brooklyn, NY
Inaugural Exhibition Romeo, Romeo, New York, NY
World Made by Hand, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York, NY Artists for Woman’s Rights, Safe Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
The Oasis, Gitler &_____, New York, NY
Summer Flats, Shrine, New York, NY
Super Sketchy, Alleyoop Projects, New York, NY
New Drawings, Sardine, Brooklyn, NY (solo)
HOUSE, Geoffrey Young Gallery, Great Barrington, MA
Salon Society Edition 2, curated by Fabiola Alondra, Brooklyn, NY #FFFF2 (Fifteen Fragments For Feature), White Columns, New York I am What I am Not Yet, Madelyn Jordon Fine Art, Scarsdale, NY Mercury Rising, Mulherin New York, New York, NY
Wagers, Essex Flowers, New York, NY
SPACES, Sierra Nevada College, Incline Village, NV (solo)
Key Party, Orgy Park, Brooklyn, NY
Moore College of Art Design, Philadelphia, PA
By Invitation Only, Kinz + Tillou Fine Art, Brooklyn, NY SPRING/BREAK, Old School, New York, New York
Pencil in the Studio, Sardine, Brooklyn, NY (solo)
Typhoon Haiyan Relief Auction, The Lodge, NY, NY
Cat Camp, Helper, Brooklyn, NY
Giacometti and Contemporary Drawing, Norte Maar, Brooklyn, NY Thank You, Lu Magnus Gallery, NY, NY
Can’t Stop Rock Lobster, Shoot The Lobster/Martos gallery, New York, NY WAVERS, curated by EJ Hauser and Rob Nadeau, Brooklyn, NY
Haywire, STOREFRONT, Brooklyn, NY
Temporary Antumbra Zone, Janet Kurnatowski Gallery, Brooklyn, NY New Year, New Work, New Faces, STOREFRONT, Brooklyn, NY

Awards and Residencies
2016, Wythe Hotel Residency, Brooklyn, NY
2015, Nominated for the Rema Hort Mann Foundation Grant
2015, 2013 DNA Summer Residency, Provincetown, MA
2004-2006 Full Art Fellowship, Cornell University
1996-1998 The Francis M. Paulson Scholarship, Ohio University Publications
Fukt Magazine for Contemporary Drawing, Issue 14, Germany, 2015
Maake Magazine Issue 4, 2017

New York Times. Inaugural Group Exhibition at Romeo. Roberta Smith, April 22, 2016
Time Out New York. Listed as one of the “12 Talents shaping the future of New York City’s culture”. 20th Anniversary Issue, September 23, 2015
Time Out New York. Jennifer Coates, Review, June 19, 2015
New York Sun. Xico Greenwald. Inside the Artist’s Studio, May 23, 2013
Wall Street Journal. Lizzie Simon. Absorbing Inspiration From Her Fellow Artists. May 20, 2013

Guest Lecture and Visiting Artist
Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
Columbia University, New York, NY
The New School, New York, NY
Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, NY
School ofVisual Arts, New York, NY
Fordham University, New York, NY
Sara Lawrence College, Bronxvillle, NY
Sierra Nevada College, Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Cuddle Works, Reno, Nevada
Hunter College, New York, New York
California College of the Arts, San Francisco, CA