Young Voices is a series of interviews conducted by Occidental College students, assisted by the Keck Grant, for Professor Jan Lin's Urban Sociology course. Each interview highlights an individual who has made an impact in their communities.
Melanie Cosgrove is an artist that works under the name Darcydoll. Her specialty is stencil art and she studied Graphic Design at The Art Institutes. She participates regularly in the Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk where she rents an exhibition space in the Medallion apartment and retail complex.
How would you classify your style of art?
I don't know, It really depends on what I'm doing at the time. Because sometimes I'll be doing stencils and it's very street art like. And other times I do very story book like work, by using markers. It really depends on the medium actually.
Who or what would you say inspired you to start painting?
I've been painting since I was a little girl, like five years old. I just always liked it, like watercolors and things like that. I used to keep boxes of crayons everywhere in my room. I sort of collected art supplies when I was little, I think it was the colors that attracted me to things.
Would you say that you have any particular artistic inspirations or influences?
I guess it's a mix of classic and modern painters. Anywhere from Banksy to Dali.
Do you feel that their style of art is represented in your work or do they serve more as inspiration?
I think I just take inspiration from them. I mean, I use a lot of color but I suppose that goes back to any classic painter.
I found out about your work through Facebook, so I am wondering to what extent social media has impacted your work or made your work more public?
Oh my gosh! Completely, like hugely. I don't think I would be very known at all without it. I just barely started doing shows, maybe a year ago, and that's how I started getting in contact with other artists, and I built my Facebook profile because I was showing things. I started meeting people and they all told me, "you need to get on Facebook so you can get new shows and we can keep in touch with you," and I was like YES! OK! It's been extremely important apparently so I jumped on board right away. And this year has escalated so much more than I would have thought.
Apart from Facebook do you have any other social media sites that you use?
I have a Twitter that I don't really use very much unless I am posting about an upcoming show or something. But I would say Facebook is my main one for social media. Other than that I have a deviant art account which is really what I spend the most time on. But it's really more of a gallery site.
You're 25, which by my account classifies you as a young artist. Do you think your work speaks specifically to young people?
I think so. I want to say because my style is very simplistic at the moment I get a lot of young people who like my work. They are usually the ones who end up buying prints or commenting on stuff. I'm not sure what it is but thinking about it, it might be the simplistic style.
Looking through your Facebook profile I saw that you had collaborated with a thrift store to design a handbag. Have you done any collaboration since then, or are you looking to do more?
Yes! It's actually my friend who sells all these vintage items, I hadn't really thought about her as a store, but I guess yes, she is like a traveling store. That was actually one of the first things I did in collaboration and I thought it came out really great. I would love to do more. I think the only other thing I have done is this large-scale painting with friends one time, but it was really casual. I really enjoyed it though, especially working with a different medium such as clothing, or in that case the purse; it's been really cool, really different.
You did the Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk this month right? What was that experience like?
It was awesome. This is my fourth time doing it there, and it's I think the biggest (regular) show I've booked so far. It's really good steady audience and publicity, there are always a lot of people. It is such a wide range of people who come, that its really great exposure.
You rent out a spot in the Medallion. Is the space rental affordable? Is it something that is profitable for you?
Yes, it's totally reasonable. What we do is share the space with several other artists, like however many we can all fit basically. And the fee goes down to $25, maybe $30, depending on how many artists we get. Compared to showing out on the street somewhere -- where its $100 for a space -- it's really amazing. I would definitely say that's the best exposure I've had so far. Not just because of where it's located and how many people, but the range of people is so cool; like whole families coming out and every generation, it's really great. And getting feedback from that type of range is really a unique experience.
You talked about your artistic community and how you all kind of show art together. How do you think that has influenced your growth? Is there a strong sense of community within your group?
I would say a lot. Just seeing their work on a regular basis and seeing their work growing along with yours is just really inspiring. It lets you know that you're not alone, like other people are trying and doing well. It's all about learning really, and if you learn together as a group it's all the more inspiring. There was definitely a sense of community when I met my specific group, the Art Junkies, which is the ones I show with at the downtown Art Walk every month. And Oscar, one of the guys in the group, just sort of walked over to me and liked my stuff and started helping me get shows. It was really nice of them to come over and really help me along.
You call Chatsworth your home. Do you feel that the Chatsworth art scene, if there is one, is represented in your work?
I wouldn't say there is much. That's one thing that really has been a passion project of a friend of mine -- raising the art community in the San Fernando Valley. Because there is not that much, there is a small Canoga Park art walk that we do once a year. That was actually my first show last year and it went really great. So we are hoping to keep that up and get a bigger community out here. But I wouldn't say it's necessarily represented in my artwork, it just happens to be where I'm from. But I don't know, maybe there is an urban style that I don't really see; it's kind of hard to look at your own work and see all that.
Do you think that there is a cultural impression on your artwork? Some of your art is of Mexican Sugar Skulls, are you are Latina, do you think you're more attracted to that form of art?
Probably. Like I said it's kind of hard to pinpoint one thing, but I think it's really hard not to put yourself into something like that. Your whole community and where you're from, I'm sure it comes out in more ways than I can see. I am Latina, I'm half, my mother is from Mexico. I would say that it occasionally comes up in my work, but I am drawn to it; there is such a unique style in it you know. I probably take little things here and there; I like to use roses a lot so I know it comes out.
Do you feel your work has an impact on a neighborhood identity or your kind of public life?
I'm sure it does, because since I have started showing my art, it's all been pretty local, so I'm hoping its raising a positive awareness of art that wasn't here before. I would hope that I'm a part of that.
We talked a little about how your art is connected to your ethnicity and your neighborhood. Do you think there is a transition represented in your artwork?
I think it's more represented in a personal growth area. When I look at my work, especially over the last year since I started doing shows, I think I've really improved quickly. It's all just come from being out there and having a steady passion taking over and I think you can really see that especially when you look at the gallery all at once. You can see where I started about a year and a half ago and how much I've expanded.
This is a broad question, but where do you see yourself headed? What are your aspirations for the future?
I'm really trying to get to the point where I can make a living with my art, and it's nowhere near that right now -- so it's a little tough to see a horizon. But I am positive that I'll get there, especially after five years of this and just seeing how quickly it's going from starting out so small and in just one year getting a fan base going this year. It's really made me positive about the future. But I really want to get to the point where I'm doing freelance painting or illustrating, or graphic design, really anything with art, it doesn't really matter what, but if I can make a living from it I would be happy.