A sea of ​​warm and bold neon pinks, greens and yellows fill the space and my vision. It reminds me of summer and the joy that comes with it. All areas of the medium sized studio are decorated with these vibrant colors.

Medium close-up of acrylic dazzled boxed collages on wood panel and paints. Photo by Demetria Osei-Tutu

The space is as warm and inviting as Mary Younkin herself, clad in colorful rainbow-hued flowers, as she offers me a drink on this scorching 90-degree Friday afternoon. It was a watermelon seltzer and quite refreshing.

The space is Younkin’s studio. She got the studio in 2019. Her “oasis” as she calls it with its large window with open light and its white walls decorated with her colorful art which reminds a bit of Matisse and the Fauvism era. In his pop-art approach, we find Californian influences.

Mary Younkin’s studio with her works on display. Photo by Demetria Osei-Tutu

Born in Fountain Valley, California in 1982, Mary grew up in a large family with five siblings of which she was the youngest. As she is the youngest of twelve years old, she was brought up much like an only child. Due to the large age gap, Younkin had a bit more freedom to understand himself and things.

As a child, Younkin really turned to art, but it wasn’t until Catholic high school that she solidified herself as an artist. She was a self-proclaimed art enthusiast and hung around the art room. High school had become her safe haven where she could explore and grow in her art. Art was also Younkin’s way of being rebellious. She always feels like a rebellious teenager whenever she does art.

“Art has always been a kind of self-expression and a kind of rebellion or commentary,” Younkin said.

Untitled studio installation by Mary’s Younkin, acrylic pour paint, collage and gemstones on canvas/wood panel, 2022. Taken by photographer Irina Romashevska Credit: For the photograph (not the artwork): Irina Romashevska

She then studied art professionally at the California College of the Arts in the Bay Area. Then in 2008, Younkin moved to New York for graduate school. She went to Parsons School of Design – The New School and got her MFA. She has remained in New York since and resides and works in Greenpoint with her husband, their son and their cats.

Younkin has lived in Greenpoint for nine years now and on and off since 2010. She loves this community. Greenpoint was so supportive of her. She joined the Greenpoint Art Circle which has been so wonderful for her to be around other artists. They host events that are both artist-related and just plain fun and relaxing like karaoke. Within Greenpoint, she did a cool project for a wine store on McGuinness Boulevard. She was able to make a bespoke piece for their exhibit that was site specific. Younkin hopes to do more custom parts and installs, especially in the community.

From the official Instagram of Mary Younkin

The Artist/Mother Network is another group she is a member of and has been very supportive of her as well. Unfortunately, being both a mother and an artist is stigmatized in the art world. This stigma caused Younkin to worry about not being able to produce enough artwork when she was pregnant. She had therefore prepared things in the studio, such as pouring paint, so that she could make collages when she returned from vacation. However, getting ready has helped her stop being so hard on herself.

Being a mother and being 40 really influenced her work. Younkin feels her more recent work, such as paint drips and collages, makes her think about transformation and growth. She evolves through her art as she evolves in real life. The paint runs challenged Younkin to be open to trying something new, to take a bit of control off, and not be “super planned or super well tuned”. She does not know what she will create and what patterns will appear when she removes the cup full of paint and silicone from the canvas.

Mary Younkin’s work in her studio and gemstones on the side. Photo by Demetria Osei-Tutu.

Making collages of boxwood panels and dazzling them with gemstones and working on a smaller scale instead of his large canvases was an intimate experience. It’s also a way to be meditative with all the stress in the world with the pandemic, recent dramas, and life for example.

She was also influenced by other Californian artists such as Robert Bechtle, Anna Valdez and Hilary Pecis. But also influenced by non-Californian artists like Hilary Doyle whom she met when she was a member of the NYC Crit Club.

Younkin, through the many techniques she uses, is all about creating a narrative. Whether this story is about her life, her motherhood or being a woman, hers is a diaristic approach. She likes to include the mundane and everyday elements of her lived experience in her work, such as a potted plant or a book. She actually included some books that her book club read in her works, such as What she learned about her body and Hunger makes me a modern girl.

Mary’s Younkin’s Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, acrylic on canvas, 36″ x 48″, 2020. Taken by photographer Irina Romashevskaya Credit: For the photograph (not the artwork): Irina Romashevska

Many of the techniques she uses are rooted in the Arts and Craft movement in California. Younkin’s first cycle was founded in this movement. The Arts and Craft movement is more about craftsmanship and hand centering.

“So for me, I think it’s like a feminist act to be able to say…I’m doing something by hand, and I’m doing something with no excuses, and I’m just doing something that feels natural to me,” said Younkin said.

That’s how she came to do it The power of the flowers series – a series of plays about flowers. The leading vibrant streak that mainly surrounds his studio. The power of the flowers is a response to the election, the feeling of being silenced and powerless in the face of what is happening in the world. For Younkin, doing this series was an act of resistance. She was unapologetic in her femininity and use of bright, bold colors. She was able to start this series in 2021 at Sunny’s Bar in Red Hook.

“I just feel joy doing it [art]. I feel like it’s more than, it’s more than just a thing that I do. Or as a hobby, right? It’s like a part of my identity,” Younkin said.

Large portrait of Mary Younkin and her works. Taken by photographer Irina Romashevska Credit: For the photograph (not the artwork): Irina Romashevska

She feels most authentic when she makes art and has so much fun doing it. Younkin starts acting and now that she has had her son, she realizes her inner child is now coming out with art. That she learns to balance “being serious” but also remembering to be silly and not to be devoured by too many worries.

Younkin is working on her next project and also hopes to have more gallery/exhibition opportunities in the future. People can check out his work on his website and Instagram and get a little more color in their lives.

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