MALLORY JARRELL’S WORKS ARE A COMBINATION OF HIGH ART, HUMOR, AND OFTEN TIMES, HARD-CORE HIP-HOP.
A devotee of all works classical, Mallory had an epiphany at 15 during a tour of the European capitals with her grandparents where she got to see masterpieces in person. “Before I had only seen these pieces venerated in books, but in person, in the proper ambiance, the paintings and sculptures were now breathing to me. They became alive and I wanted them to exist in real life.”
And a quick perusal of Jarrell’s eye-catching (grabbing, really) artwork demonstrates a strong, tongue-in-cheek connection of the past with the present. But even more so, a common ground of pop culture. In one of Jarrell’s most captivating pieces, she takes traditional, “grandmother” needlepoint embroidery and replaces the hokey platitudes with the lyrics of DMX’s Ruff Ryders’ Anthem.
Her quirky pairings are all spontaneous and “lightning strike” in fruition. “Sometimes I’ll have a quote in mind, sometimes the vintage image and I have to wait to find the pairing. I could be at thrift store and literally have an antique oil lamp spark the idea of My Neck, My Back tattooed on the elongated vertebrae of Grande Odalisque.”
The background of Jarrell is a long lesson in analyzing deeper than the obvious differences to find the universal truth. Jarrell is devoted in her strong faith as a Christian (and an alumna of multiple religious institutions, one of which her comforting of a bleeding softball teammate was condemned as an act of lesbianism), but does not shy away from presenting Jesus “like a G.” In her reimagining of a Noli Me Tangere painting, Jarrell paraphrases John 20:17 as “Bitch, don’t kill my vibe.”
In more conservative circles, this piece has been misinterpreted as near blasphemous, while leftists have incorrectly identified it as a subversive takedown of religion. Intensely devoted to art accessibility, Jarrell understands both interpretations, but maintains her inclusion of Jesus Christ in her artwork is true to his messages of acceptance and charity. And perhaps a bit of diva behavior following the Resurrection.
In her determination to make art accessible to a wide audience (from diligent art history students scandalized but seduced at her treatment of esteemed masterpieces, to first-time viewers), Jarrell devotes a few hours to having standardized proportions for her artwork. “Not everyone wants to invest in expensive, custom framing, but an 12×18 or 16×20 piece offers a wide selection from Target or Home Goods. Ultimately, it is about letting the patron enjoy the artwork in the least cumbersome form.”
And if stagnant, framed art isn’t your choice? Well, Jarrell provides post-cards, greeting cards, even stickers, of her work to enjoy and share her images in more tangible ways. “There’s a balance of commercial sensibility and artistic purity that’s important to your audience—especially your potential audience—and part of being an artist is bridging that gap to let your message come through.”