Xander Marro is an iconic figure on the Providence art scene; with humble beginnings as a self-described “pain-in-the-ass punk kid,” she went on to co-create The Dirt Palace and later served as managing director of the AS220 empire. This month, she exhibits new works of prints, puppets and paper mâché in Foot Apple Parade at Craftland.
You heard right: prints, puppets and paper mâché. There’s no genre too big and no media too small for this whirlwind of creative energy. “I work in printmaking, puppetry, installation, quilt-making, costume and set design, performance, video, film, animation, diorama and at the bottom of it all, drawing, writing and collage,” Marro explains. “I used to do more with sound, but I’m sort of retired from that.”
It’s only been about a year since she’s been freelancing, and the majority of that work involves installation–making figures and props to create spaces that evoke a certain feeling. “I aspire to make work that is an antidote to the myriad forces that quietly urge us to dehumanize each other, and I think the only way that I can do this is with some level of comedy.”
It’s that light-hearted spirit of cultivating individuality that seems to govern The Dirt Palace, a feminist art space in Olneyville, which she co-founded in 2000. “The Dirt Palace is a place that most people hunker down at for a couple of years, but Pippi [Zornoza] and I as co-owners have taken it on as a bit of a life project. It’s been around for so long,” it’s seen as a bit of an institution.”
Marro says that by design, The Dirt Palace is driven by the collective efforts of the people who are there at any given time. “While there is a like-mindedness around art and feminism– and the need to maintain and develop the space physically– the point is really to create conditions where we can continue developing as artists and engage as sanely as possible in the never ending project of growing as human beings.”
The artist’s own personal evolution found her running an arts organization she’s been involved with since the ‘90s. “I first went to AS220 to see a hardcore show in 1995... I applied to live there [as an artist in residence] at some point around 1997 but got rejected. I kept hanging around, going to shows, volunteering, getting drunk and pissing off donors at the Fools Ball,” she says with a laugh. “I eventually grew into an adult with job skills that could serve the organization.”
In 2007, Marro applied for the managing director position. “I think they took a big risk in hiring me,” she says, “but Bert [Crenca] knows what he’s doing. At the time, they were growing like crazy, and having someone in leadership who deeply understood the roots, had a long history with many of the programs and players and had a certain amount of underground cred was actually less risky than hiring a career not-for-profit type.”
Morro resigned from the position in May of 2011, yearning the freedom to delve into her studio practice in the way that she’d always aspired to do. “I’ve been fantasizing since I was a kid about making entertainment for children, so I’ve been stockpiling ideas for characters, sets, stuff like that... [At the Craftland show] there will be a bunch of prints for sale and probably some puppets and puppet theaters too. I’m going to let loose.”
Foot Apple Parade runs through July 20. Visit Craftland's website for more information.