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Alive in Wonderland
Alive in Wonderland
An Interview with Indy-artist Mab Graves

Working in a creative field, it’s always inspiring to see what’s happening in the Indianapolis arts community. We have incredible artists living and working here, and Fountain Square, with its numerous galleries, is a particularly keen place to see a lot of what they create.

One such Indy artist Mab Graves is opening her new show “Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass” next Friday at Monster Gallery, an old burned-out tavern that she and her husband Larry Endicott (another well-know Indy artist) renovated.

In anticipation of her show, we got the opportunity to chat with her about how she keeps herself inspired while managing the business of being a professional artist.

You’ve made a name for yourself as an artist in Indy and beyond, but for those unfamiliar, how would you describe your work?

I am a painter who paints strange little girls in strange little worlds. My work is inspired by 1960’s kitsch (Big Eye painters like Keane and Eden! <3) and fairytales. I call my paintings my Waifs and Strays because I feel like all my subjects are a little lost…just like me.

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Your upcoming show draws inspiration from Alice in Wonderland. What is it about fairy tales that inspires you and your work?

I love stories. I’ve had a lifelong passion for books and reading and that spills over into my work. I love painting narratives. Fairytales are a universal language that each person has their own reaction to and childhood memories of. The same story can be very different to different people. I think that’s a big part of the fascination for me. The fluidity of a tale we all know by heart.

It’s apparent to anyone who keeps up with your Facebook or Instagram that you’re an incredibly prolific artist. How do you stay inspired? For example, what do you surround yourself with in your studio? How do you get out of creative slumps?

I think a very big part of my drive comes from *Pure Insanity*! Lol. There has never been a moment where I have not known what my next painting (and the 15 paintings after that!) will be. I have hundreds of images and ideas swirling around in my head constantly. It can be really overwhelming sometimes, but I can honestly say that I have never been in a creative slump. I didn’t discover painting until just a few years ago, so I think I have a lifetime of pent up expression that is desperate to come out!

My studio is filled with books, art, old toys and ephemera. I love anything 60’s Big Eyed kitsch (of course!), dinosaurs, fairytales, stones and shells… the littlest things will inspire me to no end ^_^

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What is it like being an artist in Indianapolis?

Being an artist in Indianapolis definitely has its ups and downs. I travel a lot with my work, and one question I always get is “WHY are you living in Indianapolis?!?” People always think I need to move to New York or Los Angeles.

My answer is: it’s a really good city. I have a baby nephew here who needs me, and it’s a pretty quiet city so I can get a lot of work done. The biggest reason I live here is because I CAN. With the age of the internet, artists have a whole new power with their work. We’re no longer bound by location or to the whims of galleries. I could live in the middle of a desert and do what I do as long as I had a Wi-Fi connection!

Sometimes it can be hard. There aren’t many other pop surrealists around, and it’s not the most exciting or inspiring city I’ve ever lived in, but it’s a really good city. I especially love the people. I’ve met some of the most genuine and authentic weirdoes here. (You know who you are, and I love you!)

You mentioned the freedom that the Internet gives artists to live where they want. Similarly, what role has social media played in your professional success as an artist?

Social media has been really awesome. I know I have been given a gift with my art, and I’m constantly looking for ways to give. Social media has been a way to make some of that possible. It’s a place for me to be really genuine and honest with strangers (which can be hard) and find connections with people through my art. I’ve made some really truly amazing friends on Instagram. I do weekly giveaways there that always involve connecting with my fans and sharing our art, passions, or just being silly together. I’ll give them a “challenge,” and then everyone takes photos and posts them to a specific hashtag. Then, I pick a winner who gets a free print or a cameo or something fun. It’s a way to say, “Thank you and I love you,” to the people who support me!

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Etsy has come under fire recently for allowing manufactured goods to be sold now on their site. Do you feel like that this has impacted you as an artist selling on Etsy? Do you plan on or are you already doing anything more to promote your work?

Etsy is an amazing site, beautifully created with very fair policies. I would support them wherever they take their business. Their changes have not impacted my work at all. Most people coming to my Etsy shop are looking specifically for me or for what I’m carrying, not browsing through the site. Between Etsy, BigCartel, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Flickr, I’ve got way more online outlets than I can even handle, so I’m not really searching for new outlets!

That brings up a good point. I feel like a lot of people don’t have an understanding or appreciation for the work and the business that goes into being a successful professional artist. How do you balance your role as an artist and producer with your role as a small business owner?

It’s a sad statistic, but the truth is being as artist is 30% painting and 70% business. Whenever I talk to students about it their faces fall. They are hoping to hear, “Just follow your dreams!” And I soberly have to tell them, “Go to business school.” Haha!

It’s always hard to find a balance in Art vs. Business – especially because both sides will take as MUCH time as you can give them, always need more, and will happily swallow the other whole! I make a lot of lists. Focus is absolutely key. Keeping free from distractions is a must for an efficient balance!

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Next week is First Friday, so take the night to check out the galleries around Fountain Square, and make sure you wander into the Monster Gallery to see Mab’s show. In the mean time, you can keep up with her last minute preparations on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.