Beauty In the Forgotten: Studio Visit with Susan Marinello

"Beauty in the Forgotten" will be a CASP 5&J as part of the September First Friday Art Trail.

Susan Marinello’s photographic works, based on abandoned places (homes, schools, Gatsby-esque firerooms, etc.) surprise me.

I suppose I watch too much Anthony Bourdain, but I was expecting to see abandoned spaces like the many in Detroit: not particularly lived in or used, but still tinged with the remains of human occupation, such as graffiti, smooshed up Coke cans, and the like. That, or something more reminiscent of the abandoned barns you see in Texas-Chain-Saw-Massacre-Wannabe movies, a structure that seems prominent here in West Texas.

Rather, Marinello’s structures have been ghosted, abandoned, left alone for the most part, frozen and occupied by time. I assume that the artist is trespassing, daring to startle any squatter (animal, human, or meth cook) in the space. (When I ask Marinello about this, she says that she used to trespass, until she was caught. Read about it here.)

Sleeplessly Waiting

The artist’s three-year endeavor to capture these decaying interiors began here in Lubbock, at a skate park and used-to-be restaurant across from McKenzie Park. From there, she visited Louisiana, New York, Florida, and across Texas, using intuition and word-of-mouth from friends and acquaintances to find sites. One notable place is the first panty hose factory in the U.S. turned military base, of which Marinello was given an impromptu (legally questionable?) tour by the man removing asbestos from the building.

What I find most interesting about these documentations is that they are not the romanticized Walking Dead sets of abandonment, rather they seem as though they reek of rodents and water bottles filled with urine, both of which Marinello says are regular findings for her. Her work, while carrying threads of popular photography (Instagram comes to mind in her “Selfeets” series), reminds me more of National Geographic than your everyday shutterbug. Still, the images hold a stark beauty, one that traverses high fashion photography locations, specifically “Unreal Imagination,” titled after Chuck Palahniuk’s “Choke.”

Unreal Imagination

The natural lighting and heightened sense of color (apparently after many years of decay, lead paint lends a turquoise hue), adds to the cinematic appeal of the work, functioning like paintings of the past, allowing the viewer to feel the time of day in a room, smell the dust faintly disturbed in the sunlight, the picturesque beauty only disrupted by the piss-stained mattress in the corner. The water stains that are a common motif along the ceilings and walls suggest that the spaces will one day become calcified, aboveground caverns. As for the furnishings, these with time will return to their original material components, settling back into the world quietly, the only evidence of their having been the photo documents of Marinello. In this way, she separates her work from typical urban decay porn, not just pointing the lens, but also occupying the space, turning it into the witnessed empty.

Illusionary Wishes

Susan Marinello is currently a full-time photographer and mother of two. She has a passion for the abandoned, and an obsession with her bike. You can view her commercial work here.

Featured Posts
Recent Posts