Meet Marina! | Chicago Moms Network

Marina and her son Rafi, lounging at home

It’s Meet a Mom Monday! Today we’re introducing Marina Ross, Lincoln Park mom, local artist, and art professor! Keep reading our interview below to learn more about the inspiration for Marina’s artwork, her favorite things to do around the city with her family, and what is on the horizon for her art! I am feeling especially inspired after learning how motherhood has influenced her recent work. Be sure to visit her website to check out more of her artwork here.

Hi Marina! Thank you for speaking with us today. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I am an artist and art professor. I was born in the former Soviet Union (present day Moldova) but I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. I went to school at the University of Illinois, then I travelled to New York for three years to pursue my art and I met my husband there. Then, we moved to Iowa where I did my Master’s and he finished his degree in Education. We moved back to Chicago a couple years ago. 

Marina working in her home studio, with new paintings. Her husband helped her shoot this photo.

How many kids do you have and how old are they?  

We have one child—Raphael aka Rafi and he is 15 months old. 

Where are you from originally, and what brought you to Chicago?

I grew up here and my husband is from the suburbs of New York. We wanted to be back in a city after living in Iowa but chose Chicago over New York for how family-centered it is.

A commissioned mural for a home in Bucktown completed Summer 2020.

What do you love most about living in Lincoln Park? 

We enjoy getting out to Lincoln Park, the Conservatory and Oz Park. I also love all the cafes and restaurants in the neighborhood such as Floriole and Las Fuentes. I also did some sign painting for Mugsy Jeans last summer when they opened and I love to stop by and see how they are doing.

Sign painting for Mugsy Jeans in Lincoln Park completed Summer 2020.

What are your favorite things to do in the city with your family?

We enjoy seeing new neighborhoods and trying new restaurants, as well as the Art Institute and Museum of Contemporary Art. 

Tell us more about your career as an artist! 

I studied painting in my undergraduate and graduate program. I focused on painting but I also experimented with sculpture, ceramics, installation and performance. After Covid, I lost my job so I took the opportunity to focus further on my art, murals/commissions and selling my personal work. I originally went into the art field because I always saw myself as an entrepreneur and wanted to build my own business. With the shutdown, it was the perfect opportunity for me to have the extra time to really focus on how to make a living from art. 

Painting a mural in downtown Iowa City for Filmscene Theater in 2018.

How would you describe the “style” of your artwork?

I typically work from photographs so all my work has an element of representation, but I try to do more than just copy a photo. I used to focus exclusively on the female portrait and figure, but I recently became interested in landscape. I work wet-into-wet and make most of my paintings within one day or a week, so there is an immediacy and a sense of urgency. I definitely air on the side of under-finished than overworked. Recently, I started using gradients in the background and drawing an image on top of the gradient. As for commissions and murals, I do all different types of work, from line drawings to realism. I like the challenge of trying to bring the client’s vision to life. 

Completed mural “Screendance” for Filmscene Theater in Downtown Iowa City. The design was based of Eadweard Muybridge’s photographs from the late 1800s but featured current dancers from the University of Iowa.

Where do you typically paint? How do you find the space to work without the distraction of your children?

I work in my home, which is perfect for taking care of my son. He goes to daycare twice a week, so that helps to have longer streams of thought. When he is home, I work for hour-long stretches while he naps or when he goes to bed at night. I had to adjust the way I work to fit his schedule, but it works really well for us, for now.

A recent painting in her new body of work—you against the world, 2021 Oil on panel, 10 x 7 inches.

A recent painting in her new body of work—Both Sides of the Aisle, 2021, Oil on Panel, 12 x 9 inches.

A recent painting in her new body of work—Soviet-Era Apartment Building, 2021, Oil on Panel, 10 x 7 inches.

How have you found inspiration for your art over the past year? 

Being a mother is a huge inspiration, but not in the way I expected. My work was always about my identity as a woman and what it means to be feminine, but since he was born, I began thinking about masculinity in a new way. I consider how I could raise him to be masculine, but in a different way than stereotypes portray. This doesn’t appear in all my works, but spending so much time with him has changed some of the subject matter that I typically gravitate toward. He was born in the Winter, so that season became more sentimental to me and I began a whole series of paintings about the Winter and snow. I am outside all the time with him, so I began looking more at nature and that made its way into my work, as well. I find it beautiful that having a child changes your life, your thoughts, and your routines and that has changed my work.  

Who are your biggest influences or mentors that have helped get you to where you are today? 

My son and husband are big influences. My husband helps push me and stay focused. I have always wanted children to share my creativity with and teach them that there are different life paths and different ideas of success. My past professors, peers from school, and other artists are constantly motivating me even by liking one of my posts on Instagram. It’s a little thing but it creates a sense of community, especially when we are far apart. 

What’s on the horizon for your art?

I will be doing a mural at the Palmer Arena in Danville this summer. I want to work with local businesses and complete an outdoor mural in Chicago that would also serve as a community gathering place. Small businesses, especially the hospitality industry, have been hit hard by the pandemic so I would love to partner up with them and create a mural that helps their business and gives back to the community. 

A landscape mural she completed Summer 2020 for a private residence in Chicago on the wall of their patio.

What is something that people would be surprised to know about you? 

I was born in the former Soviet Union and I speak Russian. My husband’s family is from Mexico and Peru and we are teaching Rafi Russian and Spanish. 

What is the best way for people to connect with you or commission a painting?

You can see my paintings, murals and other commissions on my Instagram and feel free to reach out! @marinaross_studio 

A commissioned landscape oil painting of Butchart Gardens in British Columbia that she custom-made for a client in Chicago to cover a wall in her bathroom.

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