Nobody Likes you when you’re 23…

the following text was written by Marco M. Muller, on his 23rd birthday:


Nobody Likes you when you’re 23…

I must have been in grade 1 or 2 when I was pulled aside from the rest of the class, they sat me in front of one of those 90s translucent bubble like Macintosh desktops, you know the ones that usually came in green or blue. I remember the teachers asking me to work on drawings showing me multiple different works of art by a professional Indigenous artist. Judging by the style I have envisioned in my head I’m guessing the artist was Cree, but I’m Cree so maybe I’m just biased. The artist had a very Woodlands style, a very minimal style yet so intricate with gestural swooping lines and soft shapes within the outlines of different animals. I remember being intimidated by some so I chose the less detailed photo, which was of penguins I believe. I quickly then spent the next half hour or so recreating this image, receiving such praise afterwards from the teachers. Too young to comprehend it at the time, I grew to learn this was the first time I can remember that I was being recognized as an artist.

I moved around a lot, attending a total of 12 elementary schools and 1 high school within 12 years. So I guess you can say I had many art teachers or just teachers for that matter. Though I cannot say I learned something that stuck with me from every one of my teachers I do remember many. For example my grade 2-art teacher showed me how to channel my anger into scribble drawings rather than my tantrum outbursts where chairs sometimes ended up on the opposite side of the room. She showed me how art can be used as a tool, a tool that would eventually lead to the healing of lost loved-ones, a tool to express social and political commentary, and a tool to voice those who have no voice.

Amidst the many teachers I had over the years my biggest influence was my Dad, a man who had no formal or professional training of any sort but he had talent and a lot of time we shall say. He spent most of his time creating beautiful pieces of artwork ranging from jewelry, carvings to realistic portraits of traditional warriors hunting buffalo. He taught me the tips and tricks of how to properly portion out the eyes and nose of a portrait, blending techniques and where to cast the shadows due to the “light source” of the image. I spent much time using his work as reference while creating my own artwork, some that I would ask for his assistance in touching them up a bit. My dad has always been the man I look forward to showing my work too the most, always asking for his input and what I can do to improve.

When I was 15, my life took a turn for the worst. I was in a single vehicle rollover along with my best friend and partner “Ladybug”. The vehicle rolled a total of 2 full and 1 half times leaving the tires facing the clouds and the front end facing almost 180 degrees opposite of the direction we were travelling. I can recall the way the driver side window framed the image of her body laid face down just to the left of the middle of the road. I became lost… suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from the events that occurred when she left this world. I fell into a downward spiral, failing grades, lack of motivation, and self-medicating to fill the empty void that was stowed upon me. As would anybody, I took the loss hard and had troubles coping. I had troubles sleeping at night, and when I did sleep I had troubles waking up to get to class on time. Eventually reaching a point where I didn’t care for my classes, all but one that is. Art would be the only class I would attend and continue to receive fair grades while the rest one by one were dropped.

After dropping out of high school in 2012 I was faced with the reality of needing a job. I started out as a cashier making minimum wage at Canadian Tire in Regina. My heart goes out to everyone in the retail industry, you guys are the real MVP’s. I remember writing rain checks and apologizing to the customer screaming at me because the person before them got the last bag of sidewalk salt. I lasted a total of 8 months before moving on to something that paid better once I got my license. With the lack of a high school diploma or any other formal training, I was limited to unskilled labor jobs if I wanted something that paid decent. I began working long hours in the blistering July sun or battling the whipping ice winds during the frigid Saskatchewan winters. This taught me the value of hard work and its rewards. I was making fairly good money bringing in anywhere between 2-4 thousand dollars a month, though the money wasn’t enough. I was still unhappy and continued to make poor choices. I didn’t feel that I was living up to my own expectations. With lack of inspiration, and the physically draining hours of work I was faced with “Artist’s Block”. The fact that I wasn’t producing art began to eat away at my self-esteem. Detrimental on my physical and mental well-being I knew that the Trades life wasn’t for me. I had to return to school and obtain the education that I not only knew I could get but deserved.

After spending over a decade growing up in Saskatchewan, I moved back to my hometown of Winnipeg in the summer 2015. This was also the summer I had started my 4-year Sundance Ceremonial commitment. This chapter of my life has been what I believe is the filling of what was once an empty void. Since being back home my life has greatly improved, I was admitted to the University of Manitoba as a special acceptance as a Mature Student in September 2016. Having no prior college or university experience I successfully completed 27 credit hours of first year Fine Art Courses earning an official GPA score of 3.50 while in the University 1 Faculty. This year I was accepted into the Bachelor of Fine Arts Program for the upcoming term (September 2017). I am now gearing towards the second year of my degree.

Spending half my life in Saskatchewan has left with limited knowledge of my hometown. For example, I knew nothing more about Artspace other than it was the iconic building with the large cage and steel letter sign on the rooftop in The Exchange. No knowledge about what organizations were within the building, or what the building really did for the city. I just figured it was studio space for artists, studio space that I dreamed about owning one day. Despite the little knowledge I had about the building I always admired it over the years of visiting Winnipeg and even more in the last 2 years since I’ve moved back home. After completed my first year of classes in April I began to look for a summer job. Now being a student I revised my resume to be more students friendly rather than labor orientated. I looked for student positions that I would enjoy rather than what paid the most. I applied for 4 different positions where I landed an interview with each one, and was offered 3 of them. Faced with the choice between working at the University Of Manitoba’s School of Art Gallery, a screen printer position and Winnipeg’s iconic Artspace, the choice was easy.

Today is my 23rd birthday as well as the beginning of my 6th week working for Artspace and I must say that in these short few weeks I have learned so much. From the history of the building, its tenants and organizations, to the key factors of event planning. Information that I know as an artist will be beneficial to my career path. As Artspace’s Assistant Coordinator Of special Projects I cant explain how enlightening it is to be a part of such an iconic organization. I leave work everyday feeling like a complete badass as I strut through The Exchange with my headphones bumping some funky bass riffs by Rick James or Prince. I’m not sure how to express how happy I am with how my life has fallen into place since moving back home to Winnipeg. All I know is I’m exactly where I want to be in life and wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s good to be home.


Marco M. Muller