As a full-time artist
and gallery owner, Mab
Graves is just a bit busy. A self-taught pop-surrealist, Graves curates Monster Gallery (1702
English Ave.), a Fountain Square destination near State and English. She and
her husband, photographer Larry Endicott, bought the building several years ago and renovated the space to
accommodate a gallery and the loft studio where they live. Both work as
full-time artists, which is, by Graves' own admission, 30 percent painting and
70 percent business. "There was a big learning curve as an artist when I
realized I'm a small business," she says.
herself as "self-taught all the way" and notes that while she enjoys the
professional aspects of being a gallerist who is
enmeshed in the art world, she also "enjoys losing herself in paint for 13-plus
hours [a day]."
"As much as I love the piece I was just working on," Graves' says as though addressing several in-progress works, "now I love you."
Graves' latest show is Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass, inspired by Lewis Carroll's
well-known children's books. The opening reception will take place Friday (Sept.
5) at Monster Gallery from 6 to 10 p.m. The show is comprised of nearly 50
pieces, including illustrations, sculptural art, movable art and paintings, and
it could be a far bigger show.
"When I started
exploring the theme," Graves says, "I felt like I needed three years to paint
the story. I feel like I've barely scratched the surface."
As one would guess, the
painter has put hundreds of hours into her work, but is also making the gallery
space and show welcoming for "children of all ages." Too often people worry if
they can bring children to an art show, Graves says. Some of the pieces will be
hung close to the ground so young ones can interact with them, including works with
little doors that open to reveal mini paintings. "Hopefully it will be fun
since kids can relate to Alice in Wonderland," Graves says.
Graves has created almost 50 pieces for the exhibit, which opens Friday at Monster Gallery.
The Alice in Wonderland show has been in the planning stages for about three years, but "kept
getting derailed by offers from really amazing galleries to travel and do big
shows," Graves says. Though she has her shows planned out years in advance, she
wanted Alice "to be a show I gave
A lifelong fairytale
enthusiast, Graves has always loved Alice
in Wonderland and Grimms' Fairy Tales, recalling
with a laugh that she and her sisters would put on plays for their parents even
before Graves could read. "My older sister, who could read, would whisper my
lines to me," she says. Her favorite stories include Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and George MacDonald's The
Light Princess, all of which she developed a deeper appreciation
for as an adult.
"Fairy tales are a
universal language," Graves says. "I love them and I love painting from
literary inspiration. Everyone has a different experience when they read a book
-- they're in a different place, time in their life, a different emotional
state. Whether they're young or old or escaping, they all have an emotional
connection to fairy tales and stories. I love getting to share that with people
and put images to a story we all know. I love getting to see people's
When Graves first
started working on the paintings for her Alice
series, she stayed up for 27 hours straight working on Alice, Serpent!, the point in the Wonderland story where Alice's
ingestion of mushrooms has caused her neck to grow long like a snake. She is
harangued by a pigeon who is sure her eggs are about to be eaten, but is
ushered away by Alice's indignation and her return to a more familiar size. Of
the hours she spent on the painting, Graves says, "That's just how inspired and
excited I was to get the show started."
Graves lives and works in her combination studio and home above Monster Gallery in Fountain Square.
Graves continues to
work hard on her exhibit, the pieces of which she began painting last January.
In addition to the show taking years to come to fruition, it's Graves' first
foray into working with oil paint. She normally works in gouache and acrylic
but "really wanted to push the envelope of my craft with this show and have
more depth in what I could achieve." In addition to painting with an entirely
new medium, Graves had to learn how to work on several pieces at once, rather than
leaning in to one piece at a time until it was completed. The unforgiving
nature of oil paint meant that Graves had two or three hours to work with a
piece before it dried and she would be forced to work on something else.
"It's really hard to
learn to work on five or six pieces at a time. I get really emotionally
involved in a piece. It's exhilarating and frustrating all at the same time. As
much as I love the piece I was just working on," she says as though addressing
several in-progress works, "now I love you."
Many of Graves' art shows
have taken place outside Indianapolis, but that still leaves time for a few
shows at year at Monster Gallery. Emphasizing quality over quantity, Graves explains
that they don't host any "filler" shows, which allows Graves the hours in front
of the canvas that she craves. "It takes about a month to do a show, including
press releases and interviews and getting everything organized. I would love to
show more but there's no way to balance it," she says. "Running a gallery is
Graves' Through the Looking Glass show includes several sculptural pieces.
Sneak a peek at Mab Graves' work online, whether you visit her website,
page, or Etsy
store. A closing reception for her Alice
in Wonderland show will take place Sept. 26 from 7 to 9 p.m., also at
Check out more shots from photographer Jenn Kriscunas' visit to Monster Gallery on Sky Blue Window's Facebook page.
Chi Sherman enjoys writing essays and poetry, being a documentary nerd, and hanging out with her family and friends. Her work has appeared in NUVO, The Huffington Post, and, sporadically, on her blog.
This Saturday Clowes Memorial Hall will bring It Gets Better to the stage for a powerful and entertaining message of hope and support to the LGBTQ community -- and especially to its youth and their loved ones.