Mariette Pathy Allen
Mariette Pathy Allen is considered a trailblazer for the gender fluid, intersexual and misunderstood communities of our world. A humble and genuine artist and humanitarian, she is also a painter, a writer, a photographer and most importantly, a pioneer. Born in 1940 (making her nearly 80 years old!) she is much, much cooler than any of us or our Grannies…and she has pictures to prove it!
What gave you the confidence and gumption to take on such serious and subversive subject matters in your work? Especially in the beginning....was it something you were conscious of? Where you fearless then and are you fearless now?
I was totally convinced that I had to do what I was doing, that I could make a difference both for the people I photographed, and for those who knew nothing about gender variant people beyond the usual prejudices. I was determined then and now.
Do you feel you’ve had to make sacrifices for your work/career/art? Has it proved to be “worth it”?
People thought I was making sacrifices photographing a subject that was of no interest to most of the world. This material wasn't appropriate for galleries or books, and was not easy to sell. I heard all of that, and it saddened me but I continued to be convinced that what I was doing was really important. I am happy that what I've doe has made a difference in people's lives.
Do you remember every person you've ever photographed?
No! But I do remember people I photographed a lot, or became friends, or with whom I got significant photographs.
Is there a picture you’ve taken that haunts you?
In which way? Pictures that I love? Pictures I wish I had taken?
What is your best advice for an aspiring artist or photographer?
Do what calls you! Don't focus on making saleable things right away.
What is your best advice for someone who is struggling to understand their gender identity?
Don't rush into transitioning even if you're surrounded by people who have. Find a therapist who doesn't have prejudices in either direction. There are more and more people who are knowledgeable as compared to the past when clients ended up teaching their therapists! Also, now transition doesn't have to mean surgery or hormones anymore. You are free to make any changes that suit you, and to stop at any point.
How has the industry surrounding the art/photography world changed over the course of your career? Is it doomed?!
There used to be many more books in the past, but less interest in non traditional subjects. Now there are so many small presses with different kinds of books. The commercial art world is more conceptual now. Unless the work requires a lot of explanation, it doesn't seem to be valued! What's good, I think, is the loosening up of categories. Painting and photography as one, sculpture and photography, mixed together, some unknown material with photography, etc. I don't think the art world is doomed, but I do think prices for works by art "stars" have gotten ridiculous and competitive. I also think that there's too much focus on which art school you've gone to, and being discovered by the last semester of that school. Curators running to senior thesis exhibitions puts artists in a very self-conscious position. It also pushes schools to train students to be "successful" before they've been out in the world!
Do you like social media? What do you like to look at online? Are you a cat or a dog person? Do you like memes?
I find social media too time consuming. I used to be on FB, which is easy to use, and fun to be in touch with people. Now, as you know! I'm on Instagram. I look at different art sites,including galleries, always read "The Daily Beast" and other newspaper kinds of sites, and way too much time looking at clothes! I've had both cats and dogs and was enamoured with each creature. I love looking at the tremendous variety of dogs now, and imagine getting a dog.
Would you like to master a musical instrument if given the option? What would you choose to learn?
That would require a lot of practicing..I was forced to take piano lessons as a child ad thought I might like taking the violin. I love waltzes! If I could play the fiddle, I would play country and gospel music. Luckily, I don't play anything.
Do you still paint? What is the last thing you painted?
I just re-started dipping my brush in paint. I always made collages, and at this point, am trying to figure out new ways to combine painting and collage. The last thing I made was a combination of painting and collage.
Can you describe a day in your life? What does your work space look like? And your living space? Do you collect anything?
I usually "commute" from m living space to my work space- two sides of my apartment. I like the feeling of neatness but wind up with piles of different things anyway. There's order in general but not so much in particular. I like having a lot of walls to hang art, mine and other people's. My spaces are eclectic. My office is full of photo boxes filled with small prints or negatives, as is one of the closets in the office. I face the Hudson. Next to my office is my studio, divided into a painting area and a table with a computer. The wall behind it is used for tacking up images.
Where can one find you in nyc if they wanted to bump into you?? How do you take your coffee? Do you take coffee?
On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, I walk to Crunch. I take people to eat at Kitaro, a Japanese restaurant, sometimes. You might find me at certain gallery openings, and at plays put on by Roundabout. I'm a tea drinker. In the morning, I like Chai tea latte.
Mariette's exhibition, Mariette Pathy Allen: Rites of Passage 1978-2006, is on view at The Museum of Sex through September 2, 2019.
courtesy MARIETTE PATHY ALLEN
interview ASHLEY MUNNS
More to read