Maryanne Casasanta is a Toronto-based artist educator working in photography, video, and performance. Her work surrounds areas of research including process-based learning and art making, co-creation, and movement. For the launch of our January web exclusive, Maryanne created a series envisioning the Alma Top and Tulia Pant as both still lifes and as wearable pieces in motion. We catch up with her below about her work, the sensory details that inspire her, and the concept of memory as a guiding presence.
All images by Maryanne Casasanta
Model: Lauren Runions*
What shapes, textures, and palettes encompass the sensory details of your present self?
The shape of hands, and the very brief colours of a winter sunset cast on my apartment wall. Low lavender, muted grey and a soft burnt orange.
What is something you have loved for a long time?
I love experiencing warm nostalgia more than anything. Remembering small moments and holding them for a bit every once and awhile. For example, I had a boyfriend who owned a motorcycle and would lace up the strap of my helmet for me whenever we would go for a ride. Just that gesture. Or a memory of building a big beautiful fire by a river at dusk on a solo camp trip to an incredible symphony of crickets, bullfrogs and cicadas. Or randomly recalling a really funny story or a well timed punch line by someone and enjoying a memory of having big laugh. Or, awakening in the middle of the night at a Berlin hostel many years ago where I shared a room with 6 other travellers and our window, left open, was slightly swaying and creaking during a loud thunderstorm. Or being on a nearly empty subway car really early one morning while another rider, a Muslim man, was singing a beautiful call to prayer.
What is something you have recently rediscovered?
Optimism and a sense of possibility.
Please share the story behind a modern “talisman” you own — an object in your possession that you consider either a token of good luck or energy.
A keychain my late dad gave me with our old car keys on it that has a line drawing of a cat leaning casually, winking one eye and smirking confidently that says, "Damn I'm Good." I think my brother had originally bought it for him because my dad would always triumphantly ask us, "Why am I so good?" after fixing something using random or makeshift parts, say, around the house.
At what moments are you the truest version of yourself?
I travel for work and quite love long road trips, so I think when I'm driving I can get into this out of body state where I am totally relaxed but completely alert at once.
What landscapes or places in nature are most resonant? Where do you feel the deepest connection with the outdoors?
That changes from place to place and time to time depending on what I need and am present for. I could be equally moved by a light blue and pink desert landscape while on a road trip as I would be by the colours of a sunset being cast over trees and gardens in my neighbourhood in Toronto. One place that I have been consistently moved and affected by over the years is time spent on the Toronto Island. A small oasis just a short ferry ride from the city.
Can you share the story behind a meaningful garment you own — perhaps an heirloom, or something that feels weighted with a special significance?
For a long time I kept a skirt that a talented photographer friend of mine took a photo of me wearing one beautiful beautiful summer. I don't have it anymore though. So at this moment, nothing that I currently own is filling that space.
Can you share more details on one act of “wellness” that brings you joy in its ritual — maybe a special tea, or a favorite walk, or another ritual that you use to come back to yourself?
I have several and they're not consistent. My comfort rituals shift with the seasons a bit. Now that we're moving deeper into winter, it's really important that I stand and move on soft, warm things. My apartment a has wooden floor, so I've taken to changing into a pair of merino wool socks that were given to me by a girlfriend from a Canadian company called Icebreaker as soon as I get home.
Can you share a recipe or idea for a simple, healing meal that you make for yourself often?
A dark bread such as pumpernickel or maybe rye, with hummus, topped with fresh basil and figs.
What books are you reading right now (or have read recently)?
I am in graduate school for educational policy so my reading list has been influenced by my research. Right now I'm reading, "School: A Recent History of Self-Organized Art Education" by Sam Thorne and published by Sternberg Press. I recommend their catalogue for any art theory, philosophy or criticism literature.
What book(s) do you always recommend to friends?
Elena Ferrente's Neapolitan series. The books are wildly popular and the HBO show adaptation is certainly loyal to the writing but I tend to recommend them more to friends who are interested in socialist or marxist politics. They are an accessible resource into Italy's rich history of workers' rights along with the shifting politic of friendship between women under intense patriarchal conditions. So many layers to unpack!
* Lauren Runions is a contemporary dance artist, choreographer and educator based in Toronto, ON. She is the founder and artistic director of I/O Movement.