Introducing our brand new Q&A series, At Home. This new project was born out of an effort to feel more connected and learn up-to-date information artists and curators across the country. Every week, creators from across different disciplines share their new projects, quarantine hobbies and what gives them hope about art today.
Mario Ybarra Jr. is currently working and living in Los Angeles, California.
Have you picked up any new hobbies?
I have not necessarily picked up any new hobbies, but I have tried to take my existing hobbies to the next level. My wife and I love to visit La Pulga Flea Market every weekend on Sundays. That is our Sunday Funday! I tend to pick up vintage toys and cositas, while my wife Karla digs deep into all the clothes and housewares. We have been doing this for years, so we have gathered a lot of cool things that end up in cardboard boxes in the studio or garage. I even took a test in a book one time called Cut the Clutter that graded what level collector you are and I scored in the “accumulator” category. Ugh! That title was a real punch in the gut. This being said, I have tried to up my collection game during this Covid-19 quarantine by finding places in the house to display these awesome treasures and claim my status as a “collector” who prizes and places their finds in prominent areas where they can see and enjoy them. According to that book’s test, an “accumulator” doesn’t do that, they just let things build up and hide in boxes. So, I am trying to place my objects and build up my SHELFIE game!
Is there a particular project for work, either new or ongoing, that is capturing your attention? What is it, and why are you drawn to work on it at this moment?
The particular project that has captured my attention is my ongoing research and creation of what I am calling the “YBARRCHIVES”. At the moment, I am focusing on collecting inspirational and reference materials in my Instagram Stories. I am drawn to this project because it reminds me of the first job I got during art school. I was a “Cool Hunter” for the Mattel Toy Company, which is based here in Southern California. My job, along with other students from the fashion and design programs from our school, was to collect images, articles, music and trends we thought were amazing and make physical binders full of these materials. We would have meetings every other week with the design groups at Mattel and within a year we would see our ideas being implemented in toy lines like Barbie and Hot Wheels. It was so much fun and incredible to see how a big business like Mattel valued our ideas! For now, the “YBARRCHIVES” exists as a private virtual binder on Instagram and I am working with a curator in Europe to turn it into a book! I am excited to see how the ideas in this thing I am building on my phone, while stuck at home, inspire folks creatively around the world. I really do enjoy inspiring people as an artist – that’s my favorite part.
What is the best meal you have made during this time?
Oh, this is good question because as my wife and I split up the household duties, I somehow ended up being the chef. I have been planning our meals and grocery shopping lists. Thank god for all those years as a latch key kid growing up, when I had to prepare and cook a lot of my own meals. My nana Carmen also owned a deli in our local mall, so my cousins and I worked there a lot as teenagers and learned how to make all types of sandwiches. My favorite dish that I have made so far is Japanese chicken curry and white rice! It is a little bit like cooking mole and I saw my mother cooking mole enough to understand the basic concept. You get these chunky concentrated bits of curry and you’ve got to keep watering them down with the chicken broth until they get to be the right consistency. I feel like I finally did it right the other day. There were no big chunks in the curry and it tasted like it does when we eat curry out somewhere. I was so proud of myself.
What are you most looking forward to after being at home?
I am looking forward to all sorts of stuff after this quarantine lifts. I really, really, really want to get back to my normal schedule of getting over to my studio to make art. I miss getting there and going through my studio rituals. When I am there working, I really feel grounded. Secondly, I really would like to see all of my extended family members. I have been in touch through texts, phone calls, FaceTime and social media, but y’all know none of that is the same as big hugs and real time laughs. I guess lastly, I really would like to go visit La Pulga with Karla coffee in hand to find new pieces to add to our collection before eating Goulash at the local German cafe.
What gives you hope (if anything) about Art today?
The thing that gives me hope about Art today is seeing its deep understanding of collective community. When my students ask me "what is the best about art?" I always reply "the people!" and that is holding true in this unprecedented moment we are experiencing. “There are no people like art people…” is my quote. They are the most passionate, risk takers, visionary dare-devils to ever walk the face of the earth and they inspire and spark hope in me like no one else.