Mixmaster Milkyway
Mary Beth at Frank Sinatra’s house in Palm Springs.

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.

Red Becomes Her

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.

Feeling Luscious

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.

freshfruit vintage retro collage
Fresh Fruit

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.

Nina Pinta Santa Maria

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.

Feral Housewives

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.

This is the back of one of Feral Housewife’s collages — which illustrates how many layers she builds up when constructing her work.

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:

gumby and pokey in the vintage appliance corral

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.

  1. denise says:

    These are awesome! Incredibly well done in composition, detail and cutting. I like the cheekiness, the retro styles, the glamour, the humble…all pulled together so cohesively. Amazing that it’s all hand cut. Love that!

  2. tammyCA says:

    BTW, I do think Mary Beth’s work is amazing…love the “Red becomes her”…the mirror capturing all the chrome and sharp angles…red pointy fingernails, red pointy car lights, red pointy lipstick…Wonderful!

  3. Annie B. says:

    Yes, we do indeed love our vintage collage here at RR. And, these are terrific, Mary Beth. Love the ironic impact created by just a few images placed in perfect spots at perfect angles, in perfect colors. Lots of wry smiles involved in the process, no doubt.

    How seamless you make the total visual appear. I know from having attempted vintage collage myself just how intricate an endeavor it actually is. But what joy it is, as well: a hands-in, cerebral, creative expression, layer by layer, level by level. Great work.

    Thanks so much for sharing your artwork with us. Pam, you KNOW I love this post!!

  4. vegebrarian says:

    What talent, Mary Beth! These are so wonderful ~ I love the Feral Housewives piece! I can’t seem to stop staring at the chocolate frosting in the first collage…maybe I need to eat breakfast…or chocolate. 🙂

    This truly inspires me to get back into collage making and do something with the Life magazines I picked up this summer.

  5. Stacia says:

    The Nina Pinta Santa Maria one is really terrific! Well, they all are… I was wondering if they are for sale? Or prints maybe??

  6. Janet in Ct says:

    Mary Beth, just wonderful! I don’t have an artsy bone in my body; I can copy things but I cannot create. My mother saved all the Women’s Day and Family Circle magazines since 1949. I borrowed a couple once and it must have been years later that she noticed March of 1952 and July of 1953 were missing and did I have them? She would inventory them every once in awhile, all stacked by date, to make sure they were all there! She gave them to me but I had moved into a much smaller house and had to give alot of them away. I just had no room to store them at all.But what fun they are to peruse. HOWEVER, it makes me cringe when I see how they show plans to take a vintage antique piece of furniture and make it into something more modern and serviceable! But penny pinching was the subject of the day! Your collages are just fantastic!

    1. tammyCA says:

      Oh, I cringe at those sections, too! They were all about getting rid of the “stuffy” Victorian age and modernizing. But, I do love the ’40s with the cushy arm chairs & colorful sofas so I might agree about some of the hard, uncomfortable antique furniture becoming softer.

  7. Chris says:

    Mary Beth — I just love your work! My background is in art, art history, and museum curatorship with an emphasis on costumes and textiles. Is it any wonder I am head over heels?????

    I collect magazines from the era of my house, but so far cannot get past the deeply ingrained museum training to make any sort of art with them. (Little voice saying “must keep magazines intact!”)

    I enjoyed each and every piece — you are so talented!

    Thanks for sharing with us!

    1. tammyCA says:

      You’re like me (also have an AH degree)…I LOVE collage but will not cut into vintage magazines that I have collected…if I do find a ripped, damaged one I will use parts of it…I’m not making art to sell. One of my prized possessions is my 2 big ex-library binders of Home magazines from the ’40s…I stumbled upon at a flea market years ago. These continue to make me happy every time I look at them.

    2. Diane in CO says:

      I absolutely LOVE this article and these wonderful collage creations – Feral Housewives is hilarious, Nina Pinta Santa Maria is brilliant and Red Becomes Her simply dazzling! Hope you, Mary Beth, are Feeling Luscious for having such amazing talent and artistry — with sophisticated wit to infuse it. Incredible combo right there and then we get a jolt of our favorite elixir: Vintage! Thanks for the show….

      p.s. how DO you cut out the images? Can’t be an exacto can it?

      1. pam kueber says:

        I was just looking again at every page on her website — I think that Nina Pinta Santa Maria is my favorite. I can get close cuts with cutter bee scissors. You gotta like to cut.

        1. Annie B. says:

          Can we buy Cutter Bee scissors on Pamazon??

          PS Meant to say yesterday that I even love the reverse side of Mary Beth’s collage. Wonderful “accidental” art.

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