Leaning Into Her Roots and Community Art with Marilyn Fontaine (ep. 185)

Some artists are fine working by themselves in their studios.

Other artists need to move their art beyond the studio walls and into the public in order to be fulfilled.

Marilyn Fontaine oil painting
©2023 Marilyn Fontaine, The Body is a Universe. Oil on Canvas, 84 x 48 inches.

My guest for this episode of The Art Biz is one of those artists who finds gratification in involving others in her art.

[ See Multiply Your Audience and Expand Your Show’s Impact with Jill Powers ]

Marilyn Fontaine is a multidisciplinary artist who lives and works in East London.

Her work is spiritual with a strong foothold in feminine themes. She has begun marrying that work to the history of the local community—in particular, the stories of those who share her Afro-Caribbean roots.

Marilyn and I talk about the work she does within her community, including how it is funded and why her growing network is essential.

We also discuss:

  • Her ritual upon entering the studio for a day’s work.
  • Why she’s leaning into rejection and learning to be curious about negative reactions that some people have to her work.
  • How she is learning to let go—to not hold too tight to the idea that she wants something so badly—and to allow it to come by creating that space.


Marilyn Fontaine painting
Marilyn painting Benevolent Mother, oil on canvas with collage and gold leaf.

Marilyn Fontaine Quotes

“Whenever I went to [Catholic] church, I never saw images that reflected who I was, but I love the magical and the mystical aspects to religion—the iconography of the religious images with the halo.”

“I'm like the keeper of the stories that have been passed down.”

“I got these commissions because it's not so much the resume, it’s because I’ve got a footprint of work.”

“I never sway what I'm doing. So whenever a commission comes, I always say, ‘How can my body of work fit in with this commission?’”

“My practice is always to stretch myself. As an artist, I'm trying to be a bit more disruptive.”

“It's so funny because I think we can push for something and it never happens. And when we let go, these things come.”

“But the joy—and I always forget about this—is when I see the younger members of the public, especially sometimes Black children that haven't been exposed to an artist, and they see me and their faces light up with a proud inheritance.”

About My Guest

Marilyn J Fontaine is an East London-based mixed-media artist who creates magical, intense narratives with mystical and cultural overtones.

Marilyn’s work is often intense, bold, juxtaposed and ironic with strong cultural references and an ethereal aesthetic. The artist feels strongly connected to nature, ritual, community, and the human experience.

Her work embodies esoteric and human cultural themes including human values, heritage and our connection and relationship to each other and something greater. Marilyn is currently exploring audio, film and larger-size paintings as part of her current artistic practice.

Follow her on Instagram @mjfontaineart

Marilyn Fontaine

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