Marly Mcfly: Into the Marlyverse
Delve into the curious universe of pop art created by Marly Mcfly.
By: AMANDA MCSHANE
Marly Mcfly started producing art as a way to escape. His escape then turned into more than a passion – it became a career. His artistic path has evolved into one that is specific to him and his life experiences. He has done collaborations with We Are Cultivator and &pizza. He recently did a show with HOMME DC, “Saturday Nostalgia”, expressing his lifelong connection to the cartoons he watched as a child.
Mcfly is a self-taught artist from Newport News, Virginia. Stylistically, he blends pop and street art, full of bright colors and cartoon imagery. His works also display various women and cultural symbols such as Coca-Cola and fashion brand logos. His primary muses, the women in his life, shape the core of what his art represents: whimsical freedom of expression. He refers to that freedom as the “Marlyverse” in his head.
What drew you to becoming an artist?
MARLY MCFLY: I started in 2011 as a way to escape. I was working in retail at the time and hated every minute of it. What was more of a hobby has become a career and opened many more doors than anything on my resume?
Where are you from?
I’m from the 757 area, specifically Newport News.
Many artists use their varying mediums as a platform by which they express themselves. What about yourself do you express through your work?
Yes, I'm no different. My inner thoughts and experiences are captured through layers of bright, bold colors and patterns coupled with images from my childhood which are utilized to express myself. I use a lot of nostalgic images and pop culture references to tell stories of my experiences, mostly previous relationships. I’ve created this wonderland-like “Marlyverse” in my head, filled with symbols and subliminal messages and characters that represent various women in my life.
Who have been your biggest inspirations and why?
Women have always been my biggest inspiration. Not always, women, I know on a personal level or have had a relationship with, but often just women I admire for whatever they are accomplishing. Women are killing it. Of course women are the focal point of my art but naturally, I’m just drawn to them. A lot of my ideas have started as a conversation with women in my life. Just random conversations her goals, fears, insecurities and them picking my head as well.
In what moment did you realize that you wanted to become an artist?
It was honestly the only thing I had a real passion for as a kid, but it was not something I was really exposed to or put on the right track as far as pursuing. It wasn’t really looked at as a career choice and I was pushed in different directions. I would say around 2013-14 was when I really started to understand the business side of things and it really started to click. I can’t see myself in any other career now.
What led you to work with bright colors and cartoon imagery?
I’ve always loved cartoons. Combining cartoons with portraits made sense to me because I’m a big kid and the two together kind of represents that grey area where your interests change as a kid. That point where you put the toys down and shift your interests to other things or that point where you start to experience real-life problems. I just happened to not grow out of that.
Tell us about your show with HOMME DC titled “Saturday Nostalgia” and your inspiration behind Saturday morning cartoons.
That was my second show at HOMME DC and it wouldn’t have worked anywhere else. The nostalgic feeling of Saturday morning cartoons rolled into one multi-sensory display. I needed that feeling of stepping into an apartment and escaping to a simpler time of just being in front of the TV with a bowl of cereal. The Hanna-Barbera cartoons era played a big role in shaping my career.
How did fashion influence your work, such as blending name brands such as “Supreme” and “Louis Vuitton” with comic strips?
It's funny because the way I layer the fashion imagery, it’s never the main focus, Honestly, you can ignore it altogether. It does its job of being a distraction the same way a lot of the stuff I spend money on is just a distraction from things I really want in life. It’s usually layered to hide something deeper. It works because I’m telling you more than you realize but also works on a surface level if that’s what you’re into.
Explain your process that is taken for you to choose what colors and characters you want in your piece?
Well, I usually start with my subject or muse and go from there. I will then think of different subliminal images or comic panels taken out of context, and colors revolving around that person. Every character has a hidden meaning, for example, Felix the Cat. That always represents a particular person as a cat. I never put anything on canvas for no reason. I put a lot right in the observer’s face without them even knowing.
What do you want people to gain from seeing your pieces?
A lot of my work deals with my own personal battles so I want people to think and reflect when they see my work but also feel good and be inspired.
In the beginning of your career as an artist, did you do pop art with a mix of street art, or did you use another medium?
Yes, I love both street and pop art so I experimented with combining the two. I never wanted to be marginalized or put into one category.
You mentioned on your website that you are self-taught. How did this experience of self-exploration influence your work? What would you say are the key differences in learning yourself versus being taught by a professional artist?
Teaching myself is what made me love it so much. It’s completely me. It's just been a lot of experimenting or trial and error. There are no guidelines just complete freedom the way it should be. I probably don’t do things the traditional way but who cares. I have taken art in school of course but the idea of someone grading art or having a deadline to meet never made sense to me. If a student is depressed and is expressing that through THEIR art, how could someone say, “I’ll give it a B+.”
What is one message you would like viewers of your work to understand?
Never take it for face value [laughs]. Take it all in.
Do you have any upcoming shows or collections you would like to share with us?
No shows coming up just working on a few pieces for people’s personal collections.
Have you had a favorite collection of your work thus far?
My favorite collection is always the next one I'm working on.
What advice would you give to rising artists?
One thing I tell all artists is to find their voice and stay true to themselves. It's so easy to fall victim to trying to chase a trend or what you think people want to see. If you’re doing this for the right reasons it shows and doesn’t go unnoticed. Also, just enjoy this. We play in paint. I meet so many artists that get stressed out or take this way too serious.