In the Studio with Tania Marmolejo on the Lower East Side
Dominican-Swedish artist, Tania Marmolejo, paints ethereal goddesses with large haunting eyes. Her women emit fire and ice vibes, paintings of gorgeous bronze-skinned women from the tropics hang next to blonde ice queens. I spent a warm Sunday afternoon in October in her Lower East Side studio getting acquainted with her oil on linen paintings and intricate ink drawings.
The women in her female-focused canvases have bold, expressive eyes, and it’s the first element that grabs you when viewing her work. “I think the story I’m trying to tell is through them”, Marmolejo reveals. She continues, “these women all represent a feeling that I've had, it's very intimate, its like I'm telling you a chapter in my story.” Tania is inspired by women she encounters in everyday life and through personal experiences, “ it's never a self-portrait and it’s never a true portrait of somebody else.”
I asked her about her global upbringing (she was born to a Swedish mother and a Dominican father in the Dominican Republic) and how those European and Caribbean sensibilities play out in the work. “Some works have Swedish patterns and tropical patterns. There is a big ambiguity in my paintings, you're not exactly sure who this person is, where she is from, what color she is.” Major influences include Munch, Vermeer, and female artist superstars like Kara Walker, Julie Mehretu, Mickalene Thomas, and Cindy Sherman. Marmolejo also creates ink and pen drawings which she describes as more “loose”.
A Parsons-educated artist, Marmolejo's diverse career includes character design in animation for PBS, MTV, and Nickelodeon. So, this passion for character creation translates into her subjects being so animated and unique. As a graphic designer, Marmolejo has designed textiles for fashion brands like Nicole Miller and Nanette Lepore. Her flair for fashion is highly evident too, her exquisite personal style runs fluidly throughout her appearance and in the gorgeous muses in her work.
Marmolejo recently participated in an all-female group show in Chelsea with AZART Gallery and is prepping for an upcoming solo show with the Lyle O’Reitzel Gallery in New York in early 2018. She has exhibited in two previous solo shows with the Lyle O. Reitzel Gallery in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY CIDNEY HUE