In the past few years, Mailer has done a number of works on commission, two of which are installed in Torrington, Connecticut: a 12-foot cat mounted on a second-story building façade, and a 12-by-16-foot horse she painted on a scaffold installed at ground level. Most recently, she completed a 14-foot lioness for the Scoville Memorial Library in Salisbury, Connecticut.
Talking about her love of animals, both in her personal life and in her art, Mailer says, “I grew up with lots of pets, including five cats and a dog in our New York City apartment. My mother was a passionate animal lover and she passed it on to me.” As she continues on to talk about her use of animals within her work, she says, “I love the universality of the animal. The cat is intriguing because of the nine-lives metaphor and as an expression of endurance and grace.” Just as with her human figures, all the animals portrayed are females, and self-portraits in one way or another.
Mailer sees her female figures as an extension of herself; they often have long dark hair and elongated faces, like hers (and, she adds, like Modigliani’s paintings of women). Although she says her figures don’t necessarily start out to be in her likeness, “invariably some of the work comes out looking like me.” “I don’t use the male form,” Mailer says, explaining why she chooses to exclusively use the female figure. “As an artist you have to have the integrity to do what feels honest.”
“Some pieces are directly autobiographical,” she notes. “Others are fantastical or iconic.” Her work is also about “getting at the spiritual underpinnings” of the figure. “There’s a story going on.” And she is interested in touching on the surreal, on magical realism. Although introspective and “highly personal,” her works are also universal in many ways. Her imagination spawns female figures and animals that take off in wondrous ways into lustrous patterns, reflective of Matisse.
Not unlike the lively and festive Provincetown environment, Mailer’s art is exhilarating; boldly conceived with serpentine lines that venture into lyrical turns and arabesques, colors that shout, and patterns that ignite your imagination.
Debbie Forman is a freelance writer specializing in stories on art and the author of the recently published book, Cape Cod Artists: Images of Land and Sea.