Interview: Mary Jeys

Why this hot NYC-transplant aritst and online curator craves ChapStick, Lebanese Hits and Luke Wilson.


Behind the Scenes With…
Mary Jeys
by kelly lee

The Vitals

Occupation: Yeah, good question. My paycheck comes from real estate, but I spend most of my time on the Internet or with a paintbrush/pencil/marker/hot glue gun in my hand. You decide. [See www.maryjeys.com]

Birthdate/Sign: August 9/
Leo.

Born:
Houston, TX [raised in Lexington, MA].

Current Digs:
(Greenpoint) Brooklyn, NY

The 411:
The self-effacing Mary Jeys is a jack-ie-o of all trades, master of more than her fair share. In her 9-5 role, she plays grown-up at a Manhattan real estate firm. But she’s best known as a hot up-and-coming artist on the New York scene and as curator of the self-titled Mary Jeys Gallery. Scope out her latest shows and work at www.maryjeys.com. In her “down time,” she writes travel pieces for the international travel magazine Paper Sky, volunteers for God’s Love We Deliver and co-writes horoscopes for everybody’s favorite site, kellygolightly.com.

About the Biz

How did you start doing what you’re doing?

From the time I had my own room, I used to play music really loud and play with paint on endless amounts of materials: paper, cloth, Saran wrap, whatever I could find.

How do you go about creating your art?

It’s different every time. Each project requires new materials. It’s part of the process to find materials that best suit each idea.

What inspires you when you’re designing and creating?

Whatever really, really bothers me during the day. When I get pissed off, that’s when I know something is gonna happen.

Why did you create The Mary Jeys Gallery?

Out of boredom and frustration. It began as a journal and a place for writings that came out of me while I was at work. Soon, after I learned HTML (again, out of boredom), I decided I wanted to do more with my site. It occurred to me that I knew enough great artists, in the shape of my friends, to hold a group summer show. I sent out emails to all the artists I knew, and asked them to send me jpegs of their work. Pretty soon, I found myself in the position of curator, selecting works, figuring out how things go together, etc. This is my second show, and things have gotten more focused. I decided to feature more work by fewer artists. This way the “viewer/user” can get a grasp of someone’s work, as opposed to a grasp of my friends.

What has the response been like to your online shows?

I think the response has been positive. I was recently surprised to see how much traffic the site was getting, I’m still in awe of the numbers. The internet is such a strange thing. You feel like it’s you and a couple of people, and later you realize there are hundreds. I honestly have no idea where they come from, or what they think about the site. No one wants to email me. Who are you? Tell me what you think!!!

Have you found that the art community in your city is supportive?

I would say the art community is supportive. It’s just so huge in New York. It’s easy to feel like there are too many of us, but as a whole, the community that I have built is very supportive.

Did you study your craft in school or are you self-taught?

I studied in school [B.F.A. in Studio Art from the University of Texas at Austin.]

You lived in Dublin for a while after graduation. What was that experience like?

Dublin was a great situation. I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I didn’t know what to do after I graduated college, but I had heard that I had three months after graduation to travel on a student visa. The most interesting opportunity for me was Ireland. In retrospect it was a MASSIVE leap of faith. I had no job, no place to stay… I didn’t even have a hostel room booked for the first night! That fact became a problem because Dublin had rescheduled their St. Patrick’s Day festival for the particular weekend in May that I arrived (due to the Foot and Mouth breakout in the UK). Eventually, I got a place, a job, and met some of my most favorite people I have ever met. I believe everyone should try something like that once. Leaping before you look. It’s crazy.

Compare the art scene in Dublin to that of NY. Was the scene in Dublin welcoming?

I didn’t get a great chance to feel out the art scene there. I was a chef in a cafe in the shopping district. There was a great gallery just across the street from us, Kerlin Gallery. I would head up there during breaks some days just to look around. They must have thought I was crazy. I headed up there stinking of the kitchen, dirty with food, and that stupid blue-and-white checkered head wrap they made us wear at the cafe. I went there a lot and went to another gallery in Temple Bar a lot.

You had a show there, didn’t you? Tell us all about it.

The show I participated in is another good story. When I was looking for a place to stay in Dublin, I would go to this internet cafe in the morning when the listings first posted, call all the numbers, schedule meetings, and then have all this time to kill with no money to spend. So I headed into Temple Bar Gallery and looked around. On my way out, I was looking at the flyers by the door. Most of them were sort of the same flyers you see everywhere, poetry readings, movie screenings, etc. But one was a call for entries. I saw that the show was right up my alley [Sculpture in Context, an annual show held at Dublin Castle] and the deadline was VERY soon after I picked it up. So, after that, instead of killing time walking around, I was sketching, researching, and drawing my proposal. I pretty much forgot about sending the proposal out after I got a job and a place and found a few friends. And one day: I got a call. The show was in three weeks and they had some concerns about the practicality of my proposal (I wanted to paint a line on Dublin Castle’s grounds, and it’s a historical site, so there were some reasonable concerns). I came up with a solution and sent it to them. I didn’t like my solution, and figured I would be eliminated because it sucked. A week later, the coordinator, Ken, called me and asked me about the new proposal. I tried to back out, but he said I was already in the catalog. He wouldn’t let me out! Which was really strange… I always figured I had to beg in, and here was this Irish guy demanding that I figure something out. On the phone, just to get him off my back, I came up with using a yarn line instead of paint. He was stoked. And I had two weeks to braid 120 meters of yarn. I worked feverishly every minute I wasn’t working, sleeping or showering. The show was set to open on September 13, 2001. I was in another country, watching what was happening on TV [September 11], and trying to finish the work I had, install, and show up at the opening. I didn’t meet many people at the opening — I was still in shock. My father was supposed to be there, but because all airports were shut down in the U.S., he literally couldn’t fly over. It was a very exciting experience tainted with sadness.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Getting into the studio.

The most rewarding?

The sense that I’ve done something worthwhile, at least to me. That I’ve done something important to my own development as a thinker and as a sensitive denizen of culture. It’s rewarding to notice your own progress. But that happens rarely, but when it does, it’s really a revelation.

How many people work for your company?

That would be one but I have plans to employ millions if I can just make the payroll work. Know any good accountants?

Sorry, no. Advice for up-and-coming entrepreneurs?

I am an up-and-comer! So, the advice I repeatedly have to dispense to myself is: to keep working. Even if recognition doesn’t come on this project, it’s emotionally and professionally rewarding to finish a project. To keep working even when you don’t know what it’s going to look like in the end. Because when you reach the end… and you will, you find yourself.

If you could have any celebrity purchase your work, who would it be and why?

David Bowie because… duh. No, well yes David Bowie. He’s actually an avid collector of British contemporary art. I realize I’m not British, but our American counterpart doesn’t excite me as much: Dennis Hopper. Both of these celebrities are well known as art collectors, and both have been credited with adding a certain amount of marketable interest in the artist’s careers that they collect. So, just based on a Dennis Hopper versus David Bowie: David Bowie.

Where would you like to be in 10 years?

Tokyo.

Where can we find your work?

You can check out a few things at www.MaryJeys.com.

Because We’re Nosy…

Favorite designer?

Lisa Frank.

Favorite mag?

I really liked Shout before they stopped printing.


Favorite restaurant?

Montien Thai Restaurant on 3rd Avenue.

Describe your personal style.

I have been described as being “retro” — whatever that means… Some say “hippie” — all I know is that I love A-Line skirts that fall at the knee, headscarves, blazers, and Mary Janes. I also like the military look.

Favorite city?

Hell if I know, I liked Dublin a lot… but New York is crazy.

Favorite word?

At the moment I’m trying to work “flotsam” into my vocabulary.

Favorite candy?

Straight-up Hershey’s milk choco.

Favorite shop?

I like being in Pearl River Mart [Manhattan].

Favorite website?

Don’t judge: TelevisionwithoutPity.com.



Favorite way to procrastinate?

Sleep.



In the spirit of Inside the Actors Studio, your favorite curse word?

I love an aptly used “cracker.”



What are you craving right now?

ChapStick.


What’s on your Tivo’s To-Do List?

Tivo? To do: Get Japanese groceries, develop my slides, finish the horoscopes. [In addition to her art career, Mary also co-writes monthly horoscopes for kellygolightly.com.]

In your CD player?

Lebanese Hits.

Current Crush?

Tie between Luke Wilson and Orlando Bloom.

AM or PM?

PM in the haus!

Fave Color?

Usually I like pink.

Fave flick?

I still can’t get over The Breakfast Club.

Favorite artist?

Sheesh! What a question. Let’s go ahead and make a composite: Richard Prince mixed with Ed Ruscha, Jessica Stockholder, Jim Shaw, Cindy Sherman, Vermeer, Manet and others.

More importantly, Ben or Jen?

Gwen.

Friendster – yay or nay? If yay, how many Friendsters are in your personal network as of today?

Oh, hell yay! Um, plead the 5th.

If you could be anywhere right now where would it be?

Anywhere where I didn’t have to go to work tomorrow.

Anything else we should know?

I never had a puppy as a child.

Please turn the tables and ask us a question!

Q. What the hell makes you so special?

A. That’s easy…I’m the real Kelly Lee. Please stand up. Please stand up.


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