It was her particularly smart photo submission to our recent small appliance uploader that led us to discover Mary Beth Acosta a.k.a. The Feral Housewife. You know we adore vintage collage here at Retro Renovation, so we loved meeting Mary Beth, seeing her retro inspired collages, and talking to her about her work. Continue on for our interview, along with more examples of her beautiful art work.
Mary Beth’s work often juxtaposes seemingly delicate women with strong architectural and mechanical imagery — exploring issues of sexuality, irony and beauty, with humor and innuendo. Her collage’s vibrant colors, strong compositions and attention to detail draw the viewer in, but it is the narrative in her work that holds our interest.
After looking through her image galleries, I had a few questions that Mary Beth was kind enough to answer:
Q. Where do you find most of your vintage magazine collage materials?
I’m always on the look out for magazines. Because of copyright laws, they have to be published before 1963. Garage sales and thrift shops are good sources, as well as ebay. Because I don’t care if the cover is missing, I can get them rather cheaply in lots off ebay. I also get a lot of magazines from people who have been saving them, sometimes for decades, and realize they’ll never use them. They’re happy to see them go to a good cause. Even still, I often only get one or two usable images from each magazine.
Q. What got you interested in collage and more specifically, using retro imagery in your collages?
My first collages were journals and I’ve filled several books with 100s of collages. I liked that some meant something personal, yet others didn’t. As a result, my journals were written in “code” even though I was able to put all my feelings out there. I’ve always been fascinated with vintage fashion, industrial design, and old cars, so using old magazines was a natural. I liked being able to recycle old magazine images. I adore the irony of combining seemingly disparate images into a whole. It’s satisfying to liberate women from those pages. I love the color palettes in the old magazines.
Q. How did your collages go from a hobby/journal exercise to shows in galleries?
When I moved to Traverse City 7 years ago, I displayed a collage in a regional art show.
People responded and generally, galleries have contacted me. I was very fortunate to have been selected to be part of the Romancing the Automobile show at the Dennos Museum Center. I made 25 collages for that show and got a lot of exposure. It’s been very busy for me ever since.
Q. What do you hope people take away from your collages?
I concentrate on composition and irony, but I’m pleased when people walk away with a smile. Most people, even when I tell them they are handmade, think I’ve used Photoshop to assemble them. Though I strive to make each piece appear as a single image, there are often 50 or 60 pieces in each one. I spend a lot of time covering up typeface and rebuilding parts of images that just aren’t there.
In this digital era, it is refreshing to see an artist — like Mary Beth — who continues to use hand techniques to make her art work. She uses her skills to reacquaint us with imagery that has long been discarded and forgotten — presenting it to us in a new and fresh way.
How did we discover Mary Beth? Through these cheeky images, which she added to our small appliances uploader:
How did Mary Beth discover Retro Renovation? “I’m pretty sure it was through Facebook,” she said. “I’ve got a lot of friends who also “like” RR. I also remember running across the RR site when I was researching metal kitchen cabinets.”
Metal kitchen cabinets? Hmmmm, maybe there’s a story about Mary Beth’s kitchen in our near future.
Mega thanks to Mary Beth for sharing some of her artwork and her inspirations here on Retro Renovation! Be sure to see more of her work — on her website Feral Housewife.