The State Hornet

Maren Conrad brings female perspective to Sacramento mural festival

Maren+Conrad+signs+posters+for+fans+on+Sunday%2C+March+11.+The+mural+is+a+part+of+Wide+Open+Walls%2C+a+mural+festival+that+celebrates+the+diversity+of+street+art.+Photo+by+Khanlin+Rodgers.
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Maren Conrad brings female perspective to Sacramento mural festival

Maren Conrad signs posters for fans on Sunday, March 11. The mural is a part of Wide Open Walls, a mural festival that celebrates the diversity of street art. Photo by Khanlin Rodgers.

Maren Conrad signs posters for fans on Sunday, March 11. The mural is a part of Wide Open Walls, a mural festival that celebrates the diversity of street art. Photo by Khanlin Rodgers.

Khanlin Rodgers - The State Hornet

Maren Conrad signs posters for fans on Sunday, March 11. The mural is a part of Wide Open Walls, a mural festival that celebrates the diversity of street art. Photo by Khanlin Rodgers.

Khanlin Rodgers - The State Hornet

Khanlin Rodgers - The State Hornet

Maren Conrad signs posters for fans on Sunday, March 11. The mural is a part of Wide Open Walls, a mural festival that celebrates the diversity of street art. Photo by Khanlin Rodgers.

Khanlin Rodgers

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Sacramento State alumna Maren Conrad is almost finished with her latest mural, “The Wishing Well.” Her koi fish mural from Wide Open Walls 2017 is on display at the Midtown Art Retail Restaurant Scene on 20th street, and she just completed a “Lady Bird”-inspired mural at the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau office located at 17th and I streets downtown.

The mural was completed as a part of this year’s Wide Open Walls, a local festival that, according to its official website, brings artists from around the world to add to Sacramento’s existing collection of murals and street art.

Conrad was initially inspired to paint a different mural depicting three important female figures after first seeing “Lady Bird,” but eventually overhauled the design after being approached by David Sobon, the founder of Wide Open Walls, to paint a mural that was directly related to the movie.

“Greta (Gerwig) invited me, my mom and my son to the premiere at Tower Theater and I was just completely in love with the story she told,” Conrad said. “She showcased a high school love story that had nothing to do with a boy and a girl and instead chose to portray the lovely dynamics of a mother and daughter, and unlike the father-son relationship, it’s something that we rarely see.”

According to Conrad, she first met Gerwig about five years ago through some friends in her old art group, Exhibit S.” Conrad said that not too long after they met, Gerwig began directing and filming “Lady Bird” with members of the group.

“I had originally planned to paint Greta, (U.S. representative) Doris Matsui and (civic leader) Carol Borden together to portray powerful female voices,” Conrad said. “I also wanted to reference our city flower, the Camellia, throughout the mural because they are both delicate and hardy.

“I think strong women share that softness but they also have durability that allows them to become who they are in the face of scrutiny and double standards.”

Conrad said that she has had multiple run-ins with unfair treatment in her career as an artist.

She said that she has had admirers of her work assume that one of her male counterparts was the creator of the work because it looked “too big” to have been done by a woman.

An art professor at CSU Chico even once made unwanted advances toward her, she said.

“It was really important for me to show the strength of the female character,” Conrad said. “She’s not looking into your eyes; she’s looking forward. She’s a forward-thinking girl who has big plans to get out of Sacramento and has this inner drive to always progress even though she may not even realize it.”

Conrad said that she believes creating positive images of women and setting an example are important in shifting the tide of conversation in the art community and help get women the recognition they deserve.

“I know artists who go by ‘Pat’ instead of Patricia just so that people see the work and judge of off the quality as opposed to the gender of the artist,” Conrad said.  “I would never do that though. I like the femininity of my art. I love that a girl did it, and I’m proud to be a female painter. I want to pave the way for all the kids able to see a woman in their community be taken seriously in the arts without pretending to be something I’m not.”

According to Marisol Himmel and Brad Morlock, her friends and fellow artists, inspiring others isn’t just some idea that Conrad boasts about but is something that she executes on a daily basis.

“It’s a little like having a personal cheerleader every time you need one,” said Himmel, a teacher who met Conrad when they taught together at the same private school. “She’ll find something that you think you’re somewhat good at, and just keep motivating you to practice at it. I know that Mari Puppets wouldn’t be what it is without her.”

Himmel said that Conrad encouraged her and helped her make puppets to get her company started three years ago. Himmel still teaches at a private school and often incorporates her puppets into her lessons for her students as well as some promotional videos for whoever requests them.

Morlock spoke highly of Conrad’s versatility as an artist.

“She has a vision of what she wants, but she’s able to pivot and change things as she deems them necessary, and manages to explain everything to everyone working with her,” Morlock said.

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