Student Spotlight: UI artist creates music and paintings from themes of liberation of the self

From painting to music, Mary Bozaan keeps themes of societal restraints clear. She recently performed an unreleased EP on a pornographic website, and now works from her at-home art studio due to COVID-19.

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Madison Lotenschtein, Arts Editor


On March 6, University of Iowa BFA painter and musician, Mary Bozaan, decided to do the unthinkable: host a live stream performance of her unreleased EP, Young Grub, on a pornographic website. Wearing a wig to protect her identity — and performing as her alter-ego, Ariella Nice —  she projected the live stream where people were able to participate and chat while the artist performed.

She also performed her unreleased single, “Teacher,” and  improvised over looped beats and layered vocals between songs. Bozaan described the feedback as generally positive, though people were more interested in watching than talking in the chat room.

The artist’s decision to perform online came from her experiences from meeting people on the internet while playing video games, and to take control of two spaces she considers to be challenging for herself as a woman: her bedroom, where she streamed from — and pornographic websites.

Bozaan said the purpose was to bring happiness and connection not typically associated with both spaces into them.

“We want to be liberated from the ultimate barrier, which is ourselves,” she said. “We don’t want to be in these arbitrary boxes anymore and we’re realizing that we’re more than just our bodies, that we’re fluid things that change in time.” ”

— Mary Bozaan

Bozaan likes to layer her voice to harmonies she records earlier, and sings over them while performing. Backing up her singing lies her style that consists of slow hip hop beats and synthesizers. The lyrics the artist sings examines what freedom means while living in America and her generation questioning society’s restraints on people.

“We want to be liberated from the ultimate barrier, which is ourselves,” she said. “We don’t want to be in these arbitrary boxes anymore, and we’re realizing that we’re more than just our bodies, that we’re fluid things that change in time. And we’re not just one thing. I think a lot of it is about feeling trapped in this box that I know is there, but can’t totally escape yet.”

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These themes are demonstrated in Bozaan’s paintings, many of which are self-portraits. She also enjoys taking self-portrait photos while playing with the idea of how identities shift in the spaces people are in.

But more recently, Bozaan has taken to drawing houses and using markers to color them in. She said that it does seem somewhat related to quarantine and COVID-19. With her music studio situated in her bedroom, Bozaan had already been accustomed to working from home. The artist decided to shove all her furniture to the side to fashion a home studio, now that she is unable to access the Visual Arts Building.

COVID-19 has caused many artists to go virtual, and while she doesn’t know if it would help the average person, Bozaan says that seeing other artists work and post their work on Instagram has helped her amid the pandemic.

“I feel like seeing people make work pushes you along to continue making work,” she said. “I think feeling communal and knowing that we’re all coping and making things together has really helped me.”

Fast Facts:

Hometown: Durant, IA

Year in School: Senior

Age: 25

Top artist she listens to: Saba

Dream place to live: Austin, TX

Dream place to work: Teach college level art or painting

Favorite place for a late-night bite: Goosetown

Favorite movie: Swiss Army Man

Last song stuck inside her head: “Yummy,” by Justin Bieber

Instagram: mary_bozaan

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