Denver artist, hacker and Westword MasterMind Mar Williams works at the intersection of art and technology, creating humane, often goth-futurist works, mind-bending murals and installations, and smaller-scale pieces that have been exhibited all over the world — and most recently during live-painting sessions at 7:30 p.m. every night on Facebook.
We caught up with Williams by email to talk about making art in the era of coronavirus.
Westword: How are you handling this crisis?
Mar Williams: Like I've had enough chaos and upheaval in my life that I can just switch to "deal with pandemic" mode, apparently. I'm not convinced this is a healthy coping mechanism. Ha.
How does it affect your work, your ability to sell work, and your process?
It's a little precarious. I left a couple of steady sources of illustration work recently. I was prepared to rely mostly on sales from my own art, but now with everyone else losing work, that kind of art will very likely become even more of a luxury item. People are, understandably, holding on to what they've got.
What I do have going for me is that I'm well practiced at working at home/studio, in relative isolation, on unsteady financial ground. I'm a shut-in artist, and I've had to make very few changes to my lifestyle. Haha.
Talk about the streaming project. Is that something new? What's it like to paint live like that?
It's new! I've been wanting to try it for a while. I've been doing a Patreon for a couple of years now. I physically mail people art objects like stickers and cat-shaped baubles. Streaming is popular on that platform, and this situation has pushed me to try it.
Right now, I'm mostly just live-streaming on Facebook. I think it's useful right now. If people are entertained or soothed or inspired by watching me paint, awesome.
How are you showing up for community, and how do you need community showing up for you and other artists?
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I'm doing what I can. Picking up friends' albums on Bandcamp to play during the painting stream is a start. Helping get the word out about funds as I see it.
I think artists support artists, and that's going strong, but I don't think it's financially enough on its own. It's good to see funds popping up. More of that, I hope, from institutions that can afford it, instead of asking a struggling community to continue to support itself.
Anything else you want to speak to?
It's great seeing funds like medical support for artists and other types of programs that are helping vulnerable people. Community support is very real right now. I love seeing this happen, but my main thought is that it shouldn't take a pandemic. The way people are going to be affected by this is already a lot of people's daily reality. Hopefully, we learn from it and, ya know, eat the rich already.