October 10th, 2018

Jesse Gussow


What immediately strikes you when you gaze upon the immersive portraits by Mary Esther Munoz are the incredible details in the face; her outlines trap in all the details. She draws big bold hair that give the piece its personality. The fine details within the hair just mesmerizes you, be it tentacles or ornate flowers. Her work is of such incredible beauty and a joy to be able to just lose yourself in for a time.

Also if you have a chance be sure to check out her Victoria series on her website as it’s some of the most relatable artwork if you’ve ever worked in the service industry.




Where are you from?

I am originally from Encinitas, CA (Filibertos has the best burritos!) I have been in San Francisco for eleven years, and Seattle was home before that.




How did you get started on your artistic journey?

Ok I know this sounds cheesy, but my mom swears when I was two years old, I would not stop crying, so she just started handing me random things to try and entertain me. She said I immediately stopped crying when she handed me a pencil, and there has been one in my hand ever since.




How would you describe your style?

Dark, meticulous, intimate, and whimsical with a thick black outline.




Where do you get your inspiration for your pieces?

I am inspired by

a. Strong women: I want to pay accolades to their capability, their muscles, and their rarities without solely focusing on their sexuality. (I am particularly drawn to Rose McGowan; I have referenced her face more times than I can count). 

b. All the little bits: When looking at a scene, I am inspired by all the mini pieces, and how they form a tiny universe. I want to explore each contribution, not just the pretty parts. For example if I am painting flowers, I am also painting insects and earthworms. If I am painting the mind, I am also painting the anxieties and all the dark corners.

c. Repetitive symbolism: I constantly sneak dandelions, cockroaches, ribcages, and red ornaments into my work. For example cockroaches represent resilience, persistence, and durability (and also I am fascinated by their mathematical exoskeletons).




What does your artwork say about you?

What my artwork says about me is that I am in my head too much and that I still carry guilt with me from Catholic school haha. 




What do you want people to feel when they see your work?

I hope that somewhere in at least some of the details, people find something they can relate to, and possibly find comfort in. I never want anyone to feel excluded when they look at my work. Even though my pieces are very personal, I try and translate the emotions in an empathetic and accessible way.





What is the best compliment you've ever received?

Oh man, there are not really words to describe how special it is when someone shares an extremely vulnerable story with me after seeing one of my pieces. Something in my painting made them feel safe enough to confide in me even though we just met. That makes me feel like I painted a language. That crawls into my heart big time.




What's the biggest challenge you've overcome with your work?

Learning to work on several pieces at once (instead of just obsessing over one single piece). And learning when to walk away and come back with fresh eyes.  I have ruined many pieces and worked holes into paper because I would get such fierce tunnel vision. Take a break. Walk the dog. Burn some incense. And then look at it again.




If you weren't an artist what job would you have and why?

Something to do with numbers . . . because I love math, and I love being paid to be organized.




Are bats just mice with wings?

Haha yes! And I love both bats and mice very much!





What artistic medium would you like to be more proficient at?

Definitely oils. Right now I am all water based mediums. I feel like you have to plan ahead with oils, like chess moves based on drying times.





What is something about your own artwork that shocks you?

Sometimes I am surprised at the comfort I feel from some of my pieces. For example a quick exchange of eye contact with some of my ladies will give me a boost in strength. It makes me realize how important it is to surround yourself with imagery that speaks to you in a positive way, especially considering how indoctrinated we are to critique ourselves.





Is Instagram a blessing or a curse for artists? How much of your sales do you generate via social media vs shows and exhibitions?

As of right now, subject to change haha, I am very grateful for Instagram. I have connected with so many incredible artists!  I make decent money selling my pieces on IG without having to pay for advertising. And when people purchase from my other platforms, it is usually because they found me through Instagram. Shows and exhibitions are always a blessing, but they take a sizable cut from your sales.





What goals do you have for yourself in the future?

Short term goal: to finish my Blood Garden series of paintings and to finally finish my Victoria the Waitress book.  Long term: to paint larger pieces, paint more series, and to go big with my Victoria book…like make her an action figure and possibly a short film.




Do you prefer Oreo or Fudgee-O cookies?

Haha love this question! What about some sour patch kids. I have to have sour patch kids and a scary movie at least once a week.

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