Marla Mirabal was born in California and went to Catholic school. When she was five she remembers a nun showing her a book of paintings by old masters. She says the paintings were “above my five-year-old head, but they stuck with me.” She’s been an artist almost ever since.
Marla moved to Asheville in 2010. She had discovered Asheville years ago when she was on a national tour painting murals for Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurants across the country. At the time she was living in Orlando, Florida, and was interested in finding a smaller community that supported artists—a community where she could paint and be around other like minds. Asheville was that place.
A well-known artist in Orlando, she has been named best visual artist in Watermark magazine and has received acclaim from the likes of Orlando Magazine and the Orlando online publication Examiner. Marla now sells work in Pura Vida in downtown Asheville, and you may have seen her work at the 2011 Bele Chere Festival, where she was hand painting Toms shoes. Since moving to Asheville she has also done scenic work for Carowinds in Charolotte and for the North Carolina Executive Mansion.
She mainly paints on wood, but has recently delved into canvas. Her paintings are generally 3×4 feet. Her favorite subject is the female figure. She remembers in college that the subjects were mostly men. She wanted to do something different. “The female form is more challenging to paint,” Marla says. “It’s more fluid.”
Marla worked with artist and dancer Jessica Mariko in 2006 to create DRIP, an arts entertainment company in Orlando—specifically on a show called “Paint it Black.” This performance was a combination of dance and art for the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival. Looking at her paintings of female dancers, you can see why this collaboration was perfect fit. Her broad choice of color comes, she says, from how she sees women—full of color and fluid like a dance. “I try and limit my palette with five or six colors but end up mixing them and before I know it I pull more paint out and, well, it’s impossible to limit myself,” Marla says.
Her artwork is a sort of modern impressionism. John Singer Sargent is one of her favorite American painters. The first time she went to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art she fell in love with his painting Portrait of Madame X—so much so her dog is named Madame X, or Max for short, Marla explains.
Since she moved to Asheville Marla has mostly focused on producing more work rather than marketing. Other than finding her work at Pura Vida (39 Biltmore Avenue), she is now offering affordable prints of her paintings that she will create in her at home studio.
These prints will be some of Marla’s favorites from her personal collection. She has kept a couple of pieces from her shows over the years that meant something special to her—a painting she completed after her father’s death in 2006 that she calls Guajiro’s Daughter. “It means ‘country man’s daughter,’” Marla says. “I have a special memory of my father that involves bees and you can see that in the painting. Bees are something personal that I shared with him.” Two more of her favorites are Back Pocket and Professional Beauty. There will be about 10 prints available. Prints will vary in cost according to size.
As for her future, Marla says she would like to get involved in painting murals in Asheville. “I’ve done murals in Orlando and across the country in hotels and restaurants,” she says, “but I just haven’t had the time. I’m all over the place—like most artists,” she says with a laugh.
To purchase a print or to otherwise find out more about Marla Mirabal, visit her Facebook page.