The Powerful Women Behind ManRabbit
As background to their current exhibition, Sweating Glitter, we ask the creative minds of ManRabbit, Lee Selman and Carla Naden, about their work and their creative process. Read on to find out more about this dynamic duo.
Above Piece: “Tomorrow Is A Mystery: Be Here Now”
What does art mean to you?
CARLA: Art must come out or it will destroy you.
LEE: Art in any form, whether it is music, a well-tuned athlete, or a painter, is such a valuable part of everything it means to be alive. It’s the expression of a glorious soul. It fills our life with joy and richness. You want to solve most of the world’s problems? Put art at the forefront.
And how does your process of making art tie into that?
CARLA: The process is freedom. You set yourself free; you dive into this otherworld, another realm, where nothing and everything coexists as one.
LEE: I want to leave a legacy and I never thought it would be through art. Some people leave a child, we leave some crazy bitch on canvas that your parents warned you about and you’ll never forget even 20 years later. She might be the last person you think about when the final light goes out. ManRabbit has enabled us to express ourselves; it’s a magic that I have never felt before. It’s really not of this world.
Above Piece: “Mystical Fantastical Mermaid Eyes”
How long have you been practicing as professional artists? And how long have you two been working together?
CARLA: Approximately 5.75 years ago, I decided to recommit to creating every day.
Lee and I have been collaborating for quite some time as ManRabbit. She’ll say 12 years, I say 10. Lee, the Man of the Rabbit, brings her sticky, shiny, creative world to the pieces, and I, the Rabbit of the Man, bring my art-mess-chaotic-madness to the table…and together we create ManRabbit.
LEE: I was always a hugely esthetic person. I like beauty and weirdness combined. I grew up a fan of paint by number, so I guess all my life I have been practicing art. Carla and I have been together for 11 years; it’s my other marriage.
Above Piece: “They Call Her The Moon Goddess: Because Nobody Gets Mad At The Moon”
What ideas, concerns, or objectives have motivated your work?
CARLA: Situations of everyday life, social protest, the merging of images and words marinated in the idea that we could die tomorrow, contribute to the urgency of making art now. I want to push – or even break – the boundaries of what is socially, sexually, and politically imposed in our daily lives. In a society that’s obsessed with “pretty”, the desire emerges to redefine conventional concepts such as gender roles…when “pretty” is so-called ugly, and the so-called “ugly” is truly beautiful, people start to think, and feel. All the women and femmes in our pieces are caught in mid-contemplation, invoking a feeling of uneasiness, yet intrigue.
LEE: Strippers, trannies, glitter, old school hip hop, seedy bars in small towns. Misfits and outcasts. All the characters in any Larry McMurtry novel.
What is something you feel is unique to you as an artist?
CARLA: Our collaboration in and of itself and the style that we have birthed together is unique. Lee and I, we have a deep connection, an unspoken language of sorts. This allows the madness to unfold, and unexpected forms of beauty erupt. We are always ourselves, yet completely versatile.
LEE: We are women artists, which are few and far between in the fine art world. We stab our banner in the Everest of art, and we just stepped onto the dance floor. Our creations belong to the world.
That being said, how would you describe your artistic style?
CARLA: Avant-garde, collage, graphic madness, sprinkled with aesthetic screams in the night…glitter sparkles and ink messes galore.
LEE: Glam, glitter, celebrating and expressing all things femme.
Above Piece: “Black Gold In Chaing Mai”
What artists or artistic movements have influenced your work?
CARLA: Barbara Kruger, Herb Laubalin, Sue Coe, Gustav Klimpt, conceptual art, the timeless art of typography, 1970s poster art, and pre-1990 graphic design, to name just a smattering.
LEE: The American west in all its wild, expressive glory. The Coen Brothers. Bruce Lee. The Wright Brothers launching that first craft on a shoestring.
How does your choice of material play into your subject matter?
CARLA: The lavish use of glittery, golden, gooey, decadent materials represent living for the day, for in that day and in that moment that is all that matters. The pieces are tangible, uncommon multimedia…a page from my day planner, a currency exchange receipt from Nepal…so each scrap of paper, each found object represents a moment in time, slathered in pigment and gesso. The lips are always FMF (Fuck Me Fuchsia), a color that evokes an underlying sensuality without acknowledging societal views on beauty.
LEE: And we couldn’t celebrate divas and not use glitter, funky teeth and gold caps.
Above Piece: “Space Lashes”
Is there any specific audience you are targeting with your work?
CARLA: Nope – art has the potential to bring all people together. It provokes freedom to feel, without judgment. Together we can make the world better, and together we are the change. Art is the power to the people.
LEE: Anybody with taste, and bold enough to still wear a trucker hat and appreciate Shakespeare.
How would you like your viewers to respond and feel about your work?
CARLA: “Ordinary life does not interest me.” – Anais Nin
Maybe it won’t work out. But maybe seeing if it does will be the best adventure ever.
I want people to feel empowered, magical, evoking a feeling of inspiration to step out of one’s world of comfort and wander into their own personal world of creativity, whatever that may be.
LEE: I want it to light a fire in them like a well-spent 4th of July firework show where you spent your last million on your lover’s 80th birthday, with a bottle of champagne in one hand and a joint in the other, standing on the Rhone River screaming YES, YES, YES! (With silent fireworks of course so it doesn’t scare all the dogs).
Above Piece: “A Hummingbird For Paul”