Winston-Salem artist Marianne DiNapoli-Mylet transitions from wall-size murals to life-size sculptures | Arts & Theatre
Marianne DiNapoli-Mylet is known for her murals in and around the Winston-Salem area.
She was about 13 when she painted her first large-scale mural — a giant foot that covered the entire ceiling of her bedroom at her home in Westmont, N.J.
“My parents had five kids, and we didn’t have a lot of money, so they didn’t have a lot of money to fix up my room, and they let me paint on the walls and the ceiling,” DiNapoli-Mylet said.
Now, she has turned her attention to large sculptural feminine forms called Sojourn STICKITs.
MuralsArt was always a part of DiNapoli-Mylet’s life.
“I painted and drew,” she said.
After marrying Tom Mylet in 1975, she and her husband moved from Westmont to the mountains of Virginia a year later.
“I started painting the musicians there and getting involved in the music,” DiNapoli-Mylet said. “That’s the first places I did my first mural that wasn’t in my bedroom. I did a mural in the library there in Grayson County, Va.”
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Five years later, the couple moved to Camden, N.J., where DiNapoli-Mylet was in an art show, then was invited to join an anti-graffiti mural group.
“We worked with graffiti artists, and I taught them traditional painting techniques,” she said. “But I also learned a lot from them about different nozzles and different spray paint techniques. It was a mutual agreement between the artists.”
Her big, outdoor murals in Camden included a RCA mural and a breakdance mural that attracted the attention of neighborhood children.
“They were so excited that they came out one day with their boombox and their cardboard and they danced for us while we painted the mural,” she said. “It was like a real event. I felt like, ‘I want to do this forever. I really got bit at that point, I think, by the murals.”
By 1989, the couple had a daughter and moved to Winston-Salem.
DiNapoli-Mylet did her first mural in the city in the early 1990s at the preschool of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church as a memorial to a child in her daughter’s class who was killed in an accident. Her first mural downtown was “The Tobacco Market” on the former Mother and Daughter building at the corner of Fourth and Trade streets.
“At last count, I had done about 40 murals,” she said of her lifetime work as a muralist.
Three of her murals are still available for viewing in downtown Winston-Salem. They are on The Chronicle building on Fifth Street, her former studio building in the 600 block of Trade Street near Sweet Potatoes and the CVS building on Fourth Street.
STICKITsWhen the pandemic hit, DiNapoli-Mylet started making little stick sculptures called STICKITs in March 2020.
“They were about 21 inches tall,” she said. “I was really just trying to keep myself occupied.”
She found inspiration in the growing pile of sticks that had fallen from trees over her backyard studio porch.
“I started picking up these sticks, and I said, ‘This looks like a leg, and this looks like an arm,’ so they turned into these STICKITs,” DiNapoli-Mylet said. “And I felt like, at the time, with the pandemic and the everything going on politically, there’s a lot to stick it to.”
After posting them on Facebook, people started asking if they could buy them. To date, she has sold more than 30.
People also started telling her that she needed to make them bigger, so, eventually, she did go bigger with her creations.
In March 2021, DiNapoli-Mylet began working at Mixxer Makerspace in Winston-Salem to learn to weld the armatures for her nearly 7-foot Sojourn STICKITs that were exhibited on the grounds of Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) in Winston-Salem in October 2021.
“Lots of people came and took pictures with them, like dancing with them,” she said.
DiNapoli-Mylet uses the word “Sojourn” because they travel.
The second iteration of her Sojourn STICKITs is on exhibit through Nov. 12 at Minglewood Farm and Nature Preserve, a nonprofit focused on teaching sustainable food production and environmental stewardship to people of all ages in Westfield. These pieces are crafted from sticks, dress pattern paper and lace, which DiNapoli-Mylet says is the “work of women and nature,” on a welded metal armature.
Looking like magical feminine beings, three Sojourn STICKITS — Aziza, Ceyla and Brielle — stand at the entrance to one of several trails at Minglewood.
The fact that there are three of them has symbolic meaning.
“I’m one of three sisters,” DiNapoli-Mylet said. “I’m one of three women in my nuclear family. I have two daughters and myself and my husband.”
“And the three most important women in my life that really influenced me were my mother, my grandmother and my aunt,” she added.
Margie Imus said she and her husband, Bill Imus, co-owners and co-founders of Minglewood, are excited to have DiNapoli-Mylet’s STICKIT figures on the farm.
“I, in my previous life was an artist, so I greatly appreciate these STICKITs,” Imus said. “Marianne has done a fabulous job of creating their motion and creating their dance here on the edge of the forest at Minglewood.
“They look super nice in the morning to wake up to, and we had kids here just yesterday dancing around them. They just couldn’t believe that these figures were made out of sticks.
“And they have such great movement. Like the wind is pushing their skirts, and the wind is pushing their hair. I love bringing art out of nature, so it’s wonderful to have these life-size sculptures made by Marianne here at the farm.”
DiNapoli-Mylet describes a STICKIT as a sculptural form in static motion.
She said the sticks that are “woven, entwined and adhered to a welded metal armature become languid, living archetypes, celebrating powerful feminine expression.”
She added that her STICKITs “honor the magic of nature, trees and the matriarchal, immigrant influence” of her youth.
“These women taking a stand highlights the power of women’s movement,” she said.
She also called the Sojourn STICKITs a forest of STICKITs that “celebrates the importance of women’s relationships and demonstrates formidable rhythm, strong feminine heritage, and the cathartic healing vitality of lyrical movement.”