Born in Fairfield, Connecticut and now living in Queens, New York, Manasevit conveys the expressiveness and depth of abstraction in her creations. While searching for a career, she discovered the only activity that brought her satisfaction was creating art. After studying at Hunter College, Manasevit started a career of redefining what some would consider conventional art. As Manasevit says herself, her artworks “mirror her internal world of memories, dreams and imagination.”
Mood of Living Q & A
Mood of Living: Occupation?
Jodie Manasevit: Artist (painter)-teacher-parent
MoL: Occupation description?
JM: All aspects of making paintings and drawings and managing a career as an artist. I’ve been teaching painting and drawing, part-time, at Northeastern University since 2000.
MoL: Before your current occupation you were?
JM: I was a freelance paste up artist, a job which no longer exists since computer graphics and digital technology took over. The job involved cutting by hand and pasting columns of copy, captions, headlines and photographs for newspapers and magazines, and creating slides and graphics for audio-visual slide presentations. For several years I was also a tenant activist and the anti-warehousing inspector in Hoboken, NJ where I lived for about twenty years.
MoL: What and/or who inspired you to become an artist?
JM: As I searched for a career during my twenties, I realized that looking at and making art gave me more pleasure and satisfaction than any other conceivable career. I spent a lot of time in museums looking at Kandinsky.
MoL: Where and how did you learn your craft?
JM: I began by studying paintings in museums and then attended and finished both my undergraduate and MFA degrees at Hunter College. I had several very gifted artist/teachers, Robert Swain and Doug Ohlson among them, to whom I am very grateful.
MoL: What medium do you like to work in?
JM: Oil on canvas and pencil and/or charcoal on paper.
MoL: How would you describe your artwork and creative process?
JM: My paintings are small, colorful, abstract, compositions which mirror my internal world of memories, dreams and imagination. I use drawing to build a vocabulary of motifs and to familiarize myself with ways of organizing space. I start paintings on a colored field with a few random marks and patchy forms. I develop the image by responding to the way colors and forms organize the space, generate a quality of light and suggest a tempo and path through and around the picture plane.
MoL: Delving into the thought-provoking realm of abstraction in your work, what is it about abstraction that speaks to you as an artist? What intriguing elements does it add to a work of art?
JM: Abstraction is open ended and full of surprises. It defies comparative interpretation. It allows me to be in charge of the rules, which presents a unique set of challenges. I make the rules, break them, and reinvent them until the image exerts a comfortable amount of control and we are in balance. Currently, I am working without any pre-determined structure which makes the recent work pretty demanding.
MoL: Where do you look for inspiration?
JM: I don’t really believe in inspiration. The work comes from the work.
MoL: In many of your recent creations, there are a compelling variety of geometric shapes and colorations. How do shapes and colors engage you as an artist? How do they uniquely assist in expressing the story and message of an artwork?
JM: Shapes and colors organize and animate the space. They create rhythm, tension and dialogue. They populate a world.
MoL: What is your favorite quote?
JM: “The bluebird carries the sky on his back,” Thoreau.
MoL: How do you achieve a peace of mind and spirit?
JM: I don’t have much peace of mind. But I do yoga, am physically active and spend a lot of time in my studio.
MoL: We find that people who make beautiful things are more likely to lead an artistic lifestyle. Do you spend much time creating a beautiful home? Do you entertain? Do you cook?
JM: My garden is very beautiful and was created over many years from a complete mess. I spend a lot of time there. Being a minimalist at heart, I am happy with as few possessions as possible. I entertain infrequently but enjoy it when I do. I have a longstanding, deep and abiding love of animals and don’t eat meat. My cooking is pretty simple vegetarian fare, a lot of soup in the winter.
MoL: What is your favorite hobby?
JM: Gardening and reading fiction. Just finishing “The Goldfinch” and “The Count of Monte Cristo.”
MoL: Who is an influential figure in your life?
JM: Mario Diacono, my former dealer (now retired) who is currently curator of the Maramotti collection in Italy. He has been a steady friend, consultant and wise appreciator of my work for many years.
MoL: If you could have a conversation with any artist of the past or present, who would it be and why?
JM: I can’t choose one person but here’s a short list. Klee, Matisse, Cezanne, Bonnard, Stuart Davis, Arthur Dove, Joan Mitchell, Shirley Jaffee, Vermeer because I love their paintings.
“I don’t really believe in inspiration. The work comes from the work.”
MoL: What period of art do you most admire?
JM: Everything between 1880 and the present.
MoL: When was the moment you realized you could really do this?
JM: I’m still realizing it and am amazed every day.
MoL: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
JM: I plan on continuing to make art, for the duration, and hope to continue my very rewarding relationship with Berry Campbell.
MoL: What is the message you hope to project through your artwork? What feelings do you hope to convey?
JM: I have no pre-determined message. I hope looking at paintings gives viewers a moment to step both in and outside of themselves. I hope they get turned onto the magic of painting and the social and cultural importance of creative thinking in all fields.
MoL: What advice can you give to anyone interested in becoming an artist?
JM: Work hard, don’t be in a hurry and stay true to your heart.
Jodie Manasevit, Artist