Finding Her Passion in Art

By Anna M.A. Stracey

It is easy to be mesmerized by Marcy Paini’s magnetism, creativity and intelligence. She is truly an artist, channeling her life experiences into her amazing multimedia works. Over the years, her style has transformed from minimalist paintings on canvas to photography to shadow puppets to collage and stop-motion films.

Originally from Vermont, Paini moved to New York City after high school. There she received art and teaching degrees from Parsons School of Design at the New School and Hunter College, as well as her Waldorf teaching certification (Waldorf, or Steiner education, is a progressive form of education that strives to develop a child’s academic and artistic abilities). After nearly two decades in the City, Paini needed a change.

“It’s hard to live in New York long-term,” she explained. “It’s tiring; you really need to have direction there, and I wasn’t passionate about anything that I needed New York for. Returning to my native state gave me time and access to doing what I really want to do. Vermont is very conducive to that. There are a lot of artists and musicians here, bluegrass and puppetry. So, coming home took everything I learned in art school and Waldorf and combined that all into what I was trying to make. Returning home is part of the reason I’m creating art today. I don’t think I would be, if I had continued working as a teacher. [Teaching is] so full-time.”

In creating new and interesting artwork, Paini emphasizes the need to follow what you know and dive deep into your influences. Looking for a new direction and surrounded by her childhood environment, she began examining her early childhood influences.

“I became very interested in how I became the person I am and how I reflect that in my artwork,” she said. “I think all art is a self-portrait of the artist. Fairytales and cautionary tales impacted me so deeply that they’ve always been something I’ve wanted to use, but I didn’t really make that connection until I came home and was looking through my children’s books and thinking about my life—and the movies that had influenced me, other artists that I really liked. I started to learn about different kinds of puppetry. That led to shadow puppets, toy theater and object theater and automatons and dolls.

“When you’re young, art is all macaroni and paper plates,” Paini joked, “but as you grow older you see more deeply into things.”

Immersed in her work, Paini uses cut paper to create short stop-motion animation films. Like free-form paper dolls, her paper cutouts cover tabletops and fill drawers in her studio space, ready to be arranged into characters and storylines.

“Sometimes you don’t know what you’re doing, but you’re bringing in the elements of all these influences together. Sometimes you just have to trust that you know what you’re doing. I sometimes see other people who are doing similar projects, and maybe I feel like they’re doing it better than me, but I have to stay passionate and keep going. I use it as motivation to push myself to do better.”

What has always struck me about Paini is her persistence in a field that many find impossible to persist in. She’s fashioned her life around creating art and consistently prioritized art in her life.

“If you don’t like doing something—if you’re not passionate about it—why torture yourself?” she asked. “I might torture myself over a little detail of how something looks or moves in a movie I’ve made, but it’s out of a desire to have something be just right. I’m always reworking projects. It’s because I love it, and it brings me joy to see something that I’ve created take form and become better. “The key to being passionate about your work,” she emphasized, “is remembering to find what drives you to do it. Inspiration may wane at times, but getting back to the roots of your passion, the why of what you do will set you back on course.”

Anna Stracey is an educator, grant writer and compassionate human being. Born in Toronto, Canada, she received her Master’s degree in Global Sustainability from the University of South Florida and now lives in Florida, where she dedicates her time to caring for her daughter and trying to make the world a better place for all people.

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