Artist Interviews 2021

Mamie Young  
By Julia Annabel Siedenburg

Mamie Young creates art that is not only fun and colorful but also talks in a simple and direct way about society and common topics and issues. Her main subject is the wind dancer that we all know to well. Those dancing and always friendly-looking figures come alive in her image. She gives them a sense of purpose, a story. I love everything about her pieces and was so thrilled when she agreed to tell me, and with that us, her story.

Wind Dancers or Inflatable Men are the main subjects in your art. And in your pieces they are way more than just fun moving objects that can mostly be found at businesses. You give them meaning, purpose, a message. What motivated you to do so?

It’s not often that there is a pop-culture icon that almost everyone knows which hasn’t been used over and over again as a motif in art. When I first started painting these inflatable wind dancers, it was just because I thought they were fun and kinda of cool. But as I delved deeper, it became a challenge to continuously build a narrative around these characters in a meaningful way. It would easier to just stick them in front of random things and call it a day, but that’s not interesting. I like solving puzzles; so for me this is a wonderful puzzle to solve continuously through the practice of art. And the more I do it, the more convinced I am that these wacky wavy dancers have the ability to represent the vast experience of modern life. They are such extraordinary metaphors and that maybe why subconsciously people are attracted to them. I’m simply expressing that though painting.

What is your process like? How do you choose the theme of your next piece? 

I generally start with a topic or an idea I want to express. For example in my latest piece “Surprises” I wanted to talk about romance and the expectation of relationships. From there, I find a way to incorporate the inflatable wind dancers in a way where they are an essential ingredient for the narrative, a catalyst of sorts. Other times, I start with the physicality of the wind dancers, maybe the way they move or drape over something, and then think about what ideas it can represent by putting that item in different situations.

You have a filmmaking background. Do you think working with motion picture has something to so with the attraction to the moving Wind Dancer? Do you think you might want to do a movie about it?

In the sense that I think in terms of narrative all the time. These wind dancers are main characters in some pieces and supporting characters in others. I’m telling a story with each painting. It’s frame of a universe that exists somewhere. I am open to doing a movie or animated series featuring the wind dancers.

Tell us a bit about your background and upbringing. How did you get to where you are today?

I studied architecture when I was in college. While I was there, I got a minor in film production and kind of got more interested in that. After I graduated, I went straight into film. I never studied art in any formal way. I did take some lessons when I was a child so I knew a bit of the basics. One day, I just decided to start painting again after skipping it for 20 years. I never obsess over my technical skills with painting, it’s always been about telling a strong story. So in that sense, I never really gave up art. I was honing the same skill set in a different field. I don’t think I would be as good of an artist if I hadn’t been a filmmaker.

Which one of your pieces is your favorite and why?

One of my favorite pieces is “Set It On High”. It’s a wind dancer holding a blow dryer to its face and cranking it to the max. They just can’t get enough! I like it because it’s unexpected but at the same time it makes sense. It’s a simple act but it reveals a much deeper story.

What has been the most exciting event you took part in with your art?

Just before the pandemic really hit the US, I was able to be a part of the Superfine Art Fair LA in Feb 2020. It was the first time I put my work out in a front of a large audience. It’s not my friends or family or followers online, complete strangers. It was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. I felt like it was a sink or swim moment to see if my work could hold up on its own. I guess it’s what they call “proof of concept” in the business world. I wanted to know the honest results. And I did really well. I think I sold the second highest number of pieces at that entire art fair. It was an incredible boost of confidence. 

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