Origin: LA / Thousand Oaks, California
From painting to writing, Cori Maass showcases her passion for it all. We connected with the artist based in and from California and discussed what we love most, art. Check out a snippet of the interview on our IGTV / Youtube or read the full interview below.
One of the first questions is how is quarantine been for you? Because for us and a lot of the artists that we've interviewed, we all create in different ways, and we all have inspiration in different ways.
I think everything is week by week. I think there are highs and lows. Initially, I had a show that was supposed to be on March 28th or 25th. At first, it was really shocking for me because I had been working till 4:00 AM every single day from basically December working nonstop on the show. So I had to re-frame my whole perspective because the world stopped. That was probably two weeks before the show. It was recovering and I think I was in shock, so I was sad, but I was like 'okay, well. This is the reality now and I don't really know what that means'. I've adjusted and have been working on a book. I think it's hard to sometimes go into the studio because no one's there and it makes me sad but it's been good and bad, but mostly good to have a lot of time to think about everything, and that will transform art in the future. So I'm appreciative of that for sure.
So who are you, where do you come from and what exactly do you do for the people who don't know you?
I'm Cori Maass. (Watch the video to find out how to pronounce!) I'm originally from a town called Thousand Oaks. It's a suburb north of LA about an hour or 45 minutes depending on traffic. And yeah I'm an artist. I live in LA now and that kind of sums it up.
Your style is quite unique and very much recognizable to your own. How did you begin painting? And the style that you have developed now, was that something that came out when you first started or gradually developed?
I think about it a lot. I didn't think I was an artist until I became an artist. I know that sounds weird, but I had been doing design and if I look back, it was more minimal design. I was really interested in it back then. So naturally, my art flowed to the more minimal but I started doing single line drawings because I was really interested in them and I always personally liked it. And then I bought this iPad which changed my life so I was drawing all the time and then I would study. I don't have a huge art history knowledge, even though I am now taking classes since we're in quarantine but I would look at an artist called Cy Twombly or Picasso back in the day but there was a bunch that I would study and look at. So, there are influences there, but everything I do, ultimately reflects how I see the balance or how I see something. Even if I were to look at a photograph I take, I understand where it's all coming from. I can see very similar patterns throughout even a poem. They all have the same thread or essence.
When you first started, did you ever consider it to be something that you would do as a job, or was it a passion project?
I have been working for myself for a really long time. My career progression has been adapting to what I'm doing and how it's working. But to answer your question more directly, no, I don't think I saw it being a job at first at all, because how do you make money doing art if you don't know how to be an artist? When people started responding really well, especially when it was under coral Monday (used to be my username), once I saw people asking me, “Hey, can I buy a print” or “can I do something again”, I had to learn for myself that I was an artist first. So, it took me a long time to even tell my friends that I was doing it or show anyone, that's why I have a separate account because initially I wanted to put it out, but I'm so shy and I didn’t think I'm good enough. Then I saw that actually I have a place here. I took what I knew from design and marketing and created the business of art around it.
You've done multiple brand partnerships and mural pieces with Free People, Baldwin, and different stores within Atlanta and LA. How was it working with brands as a whole and what was in is your creative process when tackling projects?
If I was giving advice, I would say to know what they want first and ask as many questions at the beginning of the project so you’re both on the same page. It's different with every brand. It’s like addressing every single point. You talk about the finance of the project, the goals, what I can do, what I need team members to do. Baldwin, for example, was awesome because there we did some shirts, we did an article and then we did an event. I have to think about how can I merge my style with your style. I'm not designing as your in-house designer or artist. Most of the time they're a collaboration piece, so they want it. People are coming to me for what I'm bringing. I'm not necessarily putting something up for them entirely, but it does have to match their vibe. Usually, I'll present a few concepts that I think I would be happy with, especially if it's a mural. I get so anxious about them because I want it to be something I'm really proud of. I'll usually show them three concepts and then get feedback, edit as appropriate, and it depends on every client, and then go from there. But if you're in a business position, I would say use something called a work scope proposal, so that your clients and you have very clear understandings of what's happening and what you're delivering so there's no question. It's communicating to your client why you're doing what you're doing, how you're nearing it to a level of degree, and what they can expect with what the finances are within the project.
Did it feel like another day creating or did you feel more pressure in the sense that it is somewhere and you have some people watching you do it?
I'm always stressed beforehand. Unless I've thought about a project and worked on it, I usually say I hate everything for about two weeks until I like it. It really depends on what it is. My anxiety is way more managed now, but I have anxiety, so I can spiral. It’s part of the process and I'm used to it now, especially now that I've had so much positive feedback. Overall, I'm not feeling like my heart is out here in the open as it was in the past but I do feel like every time I level up, I panic again and I take everything so seriously. With a mural project, the hardest part is beforehand with the communication, like figuring it out. That's when I’ll be having stomach aches and start freaking out because I'm making all those decisions. But by the time, I’m doing it, I’m usually pretty confident. I could do that all day, every day. I love painting and usually, I'll have an assistant or we'll play music, like the mural for Lately, we were blasting Avril Levine. I had two friends help me and it was fun. Even when I was so nervous, I would be doing the blind contours, which is really scary cause you're drawing someone but you're not looking at them and people are all watching so that kind of trained me to not really freak out and realize that if people know you're really nervous, people feel nervous for you, but if you can act like you're fine, people are like “oh shit, she knows what she’s doing”. You play it off like that.
In regards to the show that you had, which the date is to be determined at this point, but it's ‘Cigarettes Cause Heart Disease’. What was the inspiration for the show? Was it something that started as an idea that you wanted to end up having as a show or did it become something you were like, Oh, I want to be able to display these pieces of work?
It started because I was wrestling with this heartbreak I was feeling, but it was something I knew was going to make me sad the whole time. The whole time I was like, this is going to hurt me. That's why it's the metaphor of the cigarette. It's like this feels so good and I don't want to quit doing this. I like this. It's important to me, but I see the warning signs everywhere. You open the package and it's like “cigarettes cause heart disease, cigarettes cause lung cancer”. And you're still choosing to put it into your system and devote time to it. It was something that I personally was experiencing. And because I was so emotional, I was making art, writing, talking and everything visually for me was geared towards what I was personally experiencing. At the same time, I was transitioning from more commercial art to fine art, which now I straddle both of them. I had the idea to do the show last spring. One of the first art pieces I did that isn't in the show was October 2018 so then it took me so long because it's my first show and I had to learn how to build canvases and what doing a show means. Once I knew all of that, I started doing the pieces, and then I started understanding the full show. But I knew what I wanted it to be visually. Once I have a concept, I could make anything from it. As long as there's this defining concept, I could write a book, write a poem, write a song. I could do all these things based on a thought so once I had the concept, then it became the show.
Is this the first show that you have done?
Yeah, this is the first big show. I've done events or have shown my work, but not in a formal show setting.
So what would be next for you along with the show coming up? (things that you can talk about right now)
We are lucky we did that video a week before everything shut down. The girl who shot it is in Atlanta, so she had to fly out and if we had to wait one more day, it would have been so bad. For future projects, I'm supposed to have a mural coming up, but it's hard in the state of everything. But I'm working on since I've had so much time here, a book.
I've noticed throughout your work that you have pieces of poetry within your paintings as well, so was that always something that you've been into?
I get really vulnerable before I sit on something for a long time. I've written for years actually. This is a poem I did in high school and I tore it out of the book. I remember reading it and I was really shy in high school and I look up and we're all in a circle and they all gasped. And I realized it was actually really vulnerable, but through me, it was very natural to write this and share it and not really think it was going to be anything that did anything to anyone else. I think it's important to put it into a book or into something where people can digest it. I think what's hard is that people experience my art right now, majority, mostly on Instagram. And if you take this piece, it's supposed to actually have a digestion period. You’re not supposed to read it. You're not supposed to be scrolling. I think I was struggling because I would share stuff here and there, but I don't think it's complete if it's not within a whole project so that's why the book I'm excited about to finally share it in a context of a way that people can read it and sit down with and hold it and be like, “Oh, this is what she's trying to say. I’m ready to digest it instead of being in social space” and I'm screaming out while there's all this other chaos happening.
Do you have an end date on or is it when this feels it is finished?
It's probably two-thirds of the way written right now, so we can. It's handwritten and I'm trying to do it since I have this time in quarantine. It’s whether I have the mental space to sit and write, and without having to take so long to create that mental space for myself. In normal life, I have to fight to not have a meeting or not go to the studio or not. I have to really work so hard to have this exact time so I think I have a sense of calm but urgency about it. Also, there are some things that are really making the other side of my job really hard that this seems like the right time to make some of this stuff happen.
You had done a visual project, and how was it doing that? How was creating that video?
That’s actually something I love to talk about because it was so insane. First, we have the song, which I had been listening to it in the studio because I was doing a writing piece. I was listening to the song because I was using pieces from the song in the words, and as I was driving the next day, listening to it again, I started seeing these visuals for it and realizing that I could put it in the show and use that as a piece of the show, but also a promotion for the show. It was creating this interesting visual that I hadn't seen anyone do but I had the thoughts, sit on it for a little bit, and then I call/texted my friend Joelle, who is a photographer primarily, and then has been doing videos now. I was like, so what have I flew you to LA and we made a music video with this song. And she came and I called the girl who we co-wrote the song together because it was a poem turn song and she was teaching me how to write. She happened to be in California too, so she and her boyfriend tracked it so we do the whole video. We have hair, makeup, costumes, locations. We do it. Joelle comes to California for three days. We do it the biggest scene, the first day that she lands. I have hair and makeup within five minutes apparently. And I get up really early in the morning. The next day we're shooting. Two full days exhausted. I'm also freezing from being in the water. I have so much adrenaline that I wasn't that cold. The thing is that she went back to Atlanta. She had been working on the video and her book bag got stolen out of her car with our whole video in it three days after being back. And this the one thing that we couldn't get back. This video that we'd all worked on. We had this full team and worked really, really, really hard on so the video you saw was actually the second video. I'm proud of it. I can't wait for it to be in a bigger space. It's really hard when you're putting out stuff that lives on an Instagram screen and trying to get people to pay attention to it. But once they do, it's awesome. It's the work to get that happening. When it's there in the show, I'll be so happy to see it projected really big.
Along with the book, do you have any plans for experimenting in any other mediums this year? In the future?
Oh, I'm sure. I want to do everything well. You can tell if people jump around and they're not honing in on anything. I'll probably do some, even if it's for myself, like pottery. I want to work on pottery. I'll always be taking photos. I don't show the photos as much here but I've been taking one photo a day on this point and shoot film camera that I have. That's been really cool to gather and collect little moments. I would love to learn how to write more songs. Just keep writing. It's something that's really more for me.
Don't forget to check out Cori Maass on Instagram!
Interview by Madison Everett.