Here is Marilyn Rondon. She’s a multidimensional artist from Miami, yet a traveling nomad at heart. This awesome lady is one contemporary artist to keep on watch.
Though I’ve never met Marilyn, I’ve followed her through the years, and I’m continuously drawn to her absolute devotion to her artistic endeavors. Marilyn literally eats, breathes, and sleeps her own art, dipping into different mediums to help channel her emotions. Via photography, painting, writing, zine-making, and even Dj’ing, Marilyn expresses her truth. She also candidly shares her creative work on both her Instagram and website. Born in Venezuela, Marilyn moved to Miami at a young age and stayed in the 305 well into her late-teens. As a young girl she initiated her artistic calling through drawing, painting, and photography. She progressed into zine-making in her early-twenties, where she truly honed in on her illustrations. Eventually Marilyn enlarged her illustrations to create grand-scale murals at various local establishments.
No matter the medium, woman and the female experience are a common theme throughout Marilyn’s work. In her illustrations, we see women depicted in bold and colorful strokes. The women often have large and entrancing eyes which exude innocence or, when the words “I Was Gross As Fuck” are cast over the portrait, the price of innocence lost.
In her photos, we see raw depictions of the female body and sexuality. Marilyn uses herself or friends as subjects, and challenges her audience to view the women’s bodies through the female gaze.
In her bold “Latina Seeks Thug” project, we come to understand the female experience in a world that lusts and preys over women. Marilyn, as a joke among friends, decided to post a picture-less ad on Craigslist asking for a “thug to have a baby with”. In less than 24 hours, she received over 101 emails from men wishing to fulfill the forward request. The unfortunately unsurprising responses ranged from “Just Sell Yourself” to “I’m a different thug, not your everyday, let me know and we can do this”. Marilyn picked her favorite responses, printed them in large format, and lined the walls of a former office-turned-art-space in the Little Haiti Country Club of Miami. The result was a human-sized email inbox that illuminates the lives of women who daily endure catcalls, unsolicited dick-pics, aggressive courting, and, well, the force of human thirst at its height.
Finally, in her most emotionally bare state, Marilyn invites us into the world of female heartbreak in her “You’re Not Drake” zine. Here she exposes the brutality of grief in full and unapologetic glory. The zine is a collection of images of her abusive ex-boyfriend’s apartment, which she spray-painted after she become aware of his infidelity. Viewers are dragged through 30 pages of unleashed chaos, vivid pain, and the anger of a relationship gone awry. However, Marilyn’s vibrancy and strength is felt throughout – a refreshing alternative to a world that all too often encourages women to swallow heartbreak passively and persevere in silence.
Her latest endeavor is a children’s book called “Why Does Mommy Have Tattoos”, which she wrote and illustrated herself. The book playfully explains the nature of tattoos as an art form and mode of self-expression. The book serves to teach children and adults about diversity in an imaginative way.
What I love most about Marilyn is her unique transparency and brave invitation into her world of feelings. In an age when technology is everything and IG filters cloud our judgment, Marilyn reveals herself with a rare and admirable lack of self-consciousness. She displays the good, the bad, and the ugly without a need for approval. Marilyn’s work reminds us that people are still real and emotions, despite our generation’s knack for sarcasm and flippancy, still run deep in us all.
We got the chance to talk to Marilyn through e-mail and are honored to showcase her work on the site. Enjoy the Q&A below.
Let us start with the basics: What art medium are you most into right now?
Marilyn: Writing has been a good outlet for me, but its difficult because I don’t publish my writing often. It’s more like projects that will take time to evolve vs. paintings that I do in a matter of hours/ days. I’ve been really uninspired with painting lately so I’m seeking new opportunities to make it come back as my main focus. I love to paint, but got burnt out. Been thinking of perhaps going back to school in the fall.
Having been born in Venezuela, raised with Latin values, in a city rich in Latin culture (Miami), how do you think your environment and heritage has helped shape your art and creative vision.
I don’t think my culture has much to do with my art. I think art has always been a coping mechanism for my emotions and as an escape, but its never been inspired by my culture, not consciously at least. I’m more American than Venezuelan, but I don’t have full rights like born Americans do since I immigrated when I was five. I feel like having that battle most of my life has forced me to work with little free time to relax. The best way for me to feel alive really is by creating art.
Tell us about the Miami art scene. What’s going on over there?
I don’t know. I’m not involved in much of a scene. I’m more involved in the fitness community than I am in the art scene. Creating art is private and sacred to me. The internet, on the other hand, is a great way to share my work. It’s more intimate than being in a gallery filled with strangers and their judgment. People can appreciate or judge my work without the anxiety of me having to speak to them face to face. I don’t like the idea of cliques or feeling a need to be around a ton of people i.e. an art scene. It’s a moderation type of thing. I enjoy collaborating with other artists at times, and supporting my friends at openings. For the most part though, I’m a hermit and a gym freak, lol.
Are there any art mediums you’d be curious to explore that you haven’t already?
I would really love to start doing motion animation. All I watch on TV, when I do watch, are cartoons. This is another reason why I’d be interested in going back to school. I’d love to animate and possibly, with the help of a team, write my own cartoon. It’s part of the 5-year plan.
Let’s move on to some of your highlighted projects. What was the inspiration behind your “Latina Seeks Thug” installation? Did it shine a new light on the male gaze or were you not surprised at all?
It was a joke that I took too far. It was an interesting response to something I gave very quick thought to. I found that most people enjoyed the simplicity and human “rawness” of that piece. I’m still surprised by how much shine it got because it was an absolute joke. I wasn’t surprised with the response from the dudes. I get worse messages on Facebook and Instagram without even asking for it.
You made a zine called “You’re Not Drake”, which was inspired by a tumultuous relationship, and your quest for retribution. Could you tell us about it? How did you feel after you published?
I want to set the record straight: I did not make the piece to get back at him. Let me explain the story behind my work because I feel like people have misinterpreted what it is actually about.
I was in a toxic relationship with someone I loved very much during a low time of my life. This person made me hate myself by being verbally, sexually and physically abusive while we were together. He was in a pretty bad place in his life also, so a part of him needed me to make him feel better to survive. Whenever things got really bad, I managed to always take him back and vice versa. Our relationship was toxic, and I destroyed the walls of our apartment when I moved out after our last fight. I wanted him to hate me so that I could rip him out of my life forever.
I don’t regret what I did and I made the artwork as a reminder of a place I will never allow myself to reach again. I’ve never been so angry. It was my natural human reaction to the lies and the pain I was going through. I do wish him well though, and hope he’s in a better place and taking care of himself. The piece was never meant to be for revenge. I had to kill the worst part of myself to get to where I am today, and that was by making that piece. I don’t regret publishing it. I only made a few copies of the zine with the photos of his walls as a teaser for the full story I’m currently writing. It’s a memoir about our relationship and the story of how I became sober called “Welcome Home, Mi Amor”.
What compelled you to make “Dat Ass Zine”? What’s it like to capture the female body from a female perspective, or rather, how is it different from a male’s point of view? Could you elaborate on this idea of the female gaze…
The zine was a project inspired during Miami’s Ultra Music festival in 2014. After shooting 3 rolls of film of just ass, I decided to dig through the archive of my photographs and make a compilation of images of different shapes, size and colored butts. As a woman, it’s a way to live through my subjects. I give them the opportunity to present themselves however they want with very little direction. I let them choose their level of comfortability, either completely in the nude or in their panties, jeans, short-shorts etc. I have a tiny butt, so I also like to admire what I don’t have. It’s also fun to see what makes different women feel sexy without being sexualized or feeling like they could be sexually assaulted or talked to in a way they don’t want to be spoken to. I give my subjects creative freedom and then edit what I think will look most visually appealing for my zine.
Do you feel like different periods of your life, and the feelings you’ve felt at those times, have inspired you to use different art mediums to express yourself?
Absolutely. I made the first 3 volumes of “Dat Ass Zine” and “Latina Seeks Thug Zine” while I was abstinent and getting over my ex. They helped me cope with losing touch with my sexuality. My paintings have always been a coping mechanism for sadness, and writing my first book was like finally having my voice be heard.
Speaking of your book, tell us about “Why Does Mommy Have Tattoos”, which you illustrated yourself.
It was a passion project that took 3 years to create. Being a heavily tattooed woman, I get asked “why” a lot and I figured I’d be a pretty good role model to explain to small children why a lot of people get their tattoos in an imaginative way for them to understand. I wrote everything from beginning to end and also illustrated everything in the book, including the font used. It was a challenge, but my most rewarding challenge to this day.
What’s on your playlist these days?
Drake always, Lil Yachty, Spooky Black, Made in Heights, Misogi, Crystal Castles and mad techno work out shit.
First word that comes to mind when you hear the words “Social Media”?
What’s one thing most readers would never guess about you?
I’m not really a human. I’m a flower.
Lastly, what piece of advice can you offer for a young aspiring artist?
Take your time perfecting your craft. Don’t compare yourself to other artists. Never stop producing work. Allow yourself to do everything you want. Don’t smoke cigarettes, fight for peace.
Visit Marilyn’s website for full collections and purchasing info.