March Artist of the Month: Mary Dauterman
Director, multidisciplinary artist, art director, author/illustrator
Our Sparrow House NY March Artist of the Month is Mary Dauterman. A Brooklyn based director and multidisciplinary artist, Mary has worked at Droga5, Wieden+Kennedy, and CP+B , has been recognized as an ADC Young Gun and one of Business Insider’s most creative women in advertising. Mary is the author/illustrator of What Are We Even Doing With Our Lives? (Dey Street, 2017), and Dirty Library (Running Press, 2014). She was also invented in Texas.
I first became acquainted in with Mary sometime in 2016 through mutual “Texas friends”, and happily discovered she was part of the collective who invented the Tortilla Towel, which, of course, immediately got me excited. Turns out, that was only the tip of the iceberg! Since that time, we screened her short film, OMW, here last summer, and she has used the house to shoot two more.
Mary! You are the Sparrow House NY Artist of the Month! Congrats! Since graduating from the University of Texas, you’ve worked as Art Director at a variety of top advertising agencies here in NYC, invented wonderfully strange products and written and illustrated two books. You are constantly creating! Since I’ve known you, you recently began directing short films. When did you first start directing, and what led you to that medium?
I started directing some dumb experiments with my SLR in a makeshift tabletop studio I built with my friend Sarah. We eventually made a real piece when we were trying to sell a product called the Tortilla Towel and we thought a video might help (it did!). The scariest part at the time was taking footage and then turning it into something, but then I realized I had editing software through Adobe Creative Cloud. So it’s been one baby step at a time, learning all the pieces and lots of YouTube tutorials. Now I know my main passion is directing and writing, and I collaborate with DPs and editors who are much better at those parts of the process than I am!
What was the first film or art piece you saw that made you think, "Hey! I want to do this! "
The very very first thing I can remember being obsessed with as a kid was Garfield cartoons. I’d just draw Garfield and Jon over and over. I thought maybe I could be a cartoonist or a painter when I grew up. Garfield...is art.
How does creating fit into your daily life? (Personally and career-wise)
Career wise creating is a part of my job- I work as an art director/commercial director. Working in advertising forces you to have and kill ideas over and over, which has been good training for my personal work. I have a fairly long list of personal projects/half ideas going at all times, and try to stop and figure out the best ones when I have some time or get really excited about one in particular.
What’s your creative process like? Where does your process begin? Has it changed over time or from project to project?
Sometimes I give myself an assignment as a challenge (like- I want to shoot something at Sparrow House!). Or there’s certain subject matter I’m kind of obsessed with and want to explore. Most of the time I’m just feeling like I need to start or wish I had already... there’s a lot of stewing involved. Sometimes I carve out dedicated time to work or outline, other times I just wait til I’m in the mood. I’m trying to go easier on myself and practice the latter.
Who or what inspires you and your work these days?
I guess I’ve been watching lots of austere Swedish stuff. I also love graphic novels (specifically poking around Desert Island), and very good animal videos Kirill sends me. Walking around the worst parts of Manhattan (aka Midtown) is kinda horrible but amazing. So many characters. Every outfit that could exist. I love how elderly Manhattanites dress.
Any influences at the moment? Any artists or individuals you admire? Any dream collaborators?
I’m really into Urich Seidl and Roy Andersson right now, they are freaks. I’ve always really admired Mike Mills & Miranda July. I’d love to collaborate with Parker Posey or Steve Martin.
What’s your “escape to create”? Do you have a particular coffee shop or spot in your neighborhood or in your apartment? Do you travel somewhere exotic for inspiration?
My office nook or kitchen table are my #1 spots! Also sometimes after a long plane nap I have good or weird ideas.
Why NYC? How has the City and the Brooklyn artistic community influenced your work?
NYC has been so important in figuring out what I want to do and finding the right community to create & collaborate with. Also some of the most important people in my life (both creatively and personally) live here/have been living here. It feels so nice to finally be close to them. The comedy and comedy/film scene is very active and inspiring, I’ve met so many people I admire just by living here. It really feels like you are part of something.
We’re thrilled you’ve spent time at Sparrow House NY! You even shot a couple shorts there. What’s your favorite room and why?
Nothing beats snacks and beers around the kitchen table!
Also- the bathroom and claw foot tub are pretty epic. We shot in there for like 4 hours.
What’s next for you? What can we look forward to in 2019 and beyond?
Hoping to shoot a bunch of stuff this summer! Some in NY, some in Texas. I’ve been kicking around a book idea but haven’t figured it out yet. Maybe 2020.