We came across Mica’s art during a game of ‘I’m stoned and on the internet at 3 am’. Her art shot out from the screen, a style which pushes free sexual expression with animals prancing around in pools of colour. There may be some deeper messages within her work, but the tongue in cheek element makes way for the viewer make up their own mind. A nice balance really.
Originally from the U.S.A, she is currently living in Windy Wellington, New Zealand. The concept of an American living in New Zealand is an intriguing one. Serj Tankin (lead singer of System of a Down) lives there, Anthony Kiedis (Red Hot Chili Peppers) once lived there, but then sold his property because it was too far a commute from his mansion in L.A. Is it to escape the big smoke? or does N.Z provide a more wholesome community vibe that most of us tend to crave these days, because we’re all living in concrete boxes without backyards? It’s definitely alot greener and cleaner than most places on earth.
So by pure coincidence it turns out that Mica is heading to Australia for her debut exhibition which takes place at Oh Really Gallery from Thursday 29 August – Sunday 5 September. So make sure you get down to Newtown and check her out her art.
We caught up with Mica while she was packing her art works before they make their collective journey to visit their distant cousy bros here in Oz. Here’s what she had to say.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Astoria Oregon, the Pacific Northwest, USA, A small coastal town smelling of fish for the canneries. It is the oldest town west of the Rockies filled with Scandinavians.
Did you come from an artist family or did you pick it up somewhere?
My family was very encouraging of my dream to be an artist from an early age. My great-grandmother painted farm scape’s in oil while my grandmother was the first to teach me how to paint. Most of the men in my family were handy with wood, creating functional masterpieces. I was relentless about being an artist as a child, I don’t think I gave my family any choice but to support me.
Can you recall one of your favourite early childhood memories?
The day I got my brand new Blue Schwinn 10 speed. It took me a year to save up for at age 9! Freedom was in the air. I loved that bike.
What was the first thing that drew you to making art?
I remember painting a chick and an egg in oils with my grandmother at age 8. I spent ages trying to paint the straw! I still have it and it gives me a warm fuzzy feeling remembering my grandma’s instructions.
Do you think your childhood had alot to do with how you turned out artistically as an adult?
I was extremely shy and insecure as a child, so my family encouraged my love of art. My childhood life was not the norm by any standard. My identity was really shaped into being an artist from a young age and this seemed to be what built up my self-esteem as well as give me a way to participate in school.
You currently reside in Wellington, New Zealand. How is it living there?
I love Wellington, just my size of a city. The weather could be better but it is a step up from where I grew up. It has everything I want: the sea, the hills and great coffee.
What’s the art scene like?
The art scene over all is good, small and there’s a bit of who you know crap going on. There seems to be a bit of an academic art snobbery going on also, but it is fun to mess around with a bit. It has taken me a while to find my feet and place here in NZ. As I grow in my career, it is feeling smaller and smaller.
You are originally from the USA. Distance from your home for a long time must make you feel a certain way. Do you feel a slight disconnection from your roots? or a deeper connection?
I spent many years when I first arrived in 1998 trying to figure out who and where I fitted in. I was newly married, I just finished my BFA and found my self as an immigrant. I also became aware that I was ‘American’ and the implication that seemed to have for other people. September 11/the Bush-era caused a huge identity crisis as I was unsure how to react to the negativity thrown upon my home country and people using me as a sounding board for their open bigotry. I used my art practice at that time to investigate all the questions I was having as an American living in another country. This helped me feel more grounded to my country and sense of self. It also made me realise that I was much more influenced by my immediate surrounds together alongside the culture which surrounded my childhood town. I am recently a NZ citizen and this has helped me feel more attached to living here.
Does this relationship with your past show up in your art?
Always – Even when I try to escape it ….it shows up in one way or another.
Tell us a few things you like to do in your spare time.
At the present time I have no spare time as I work as an Art tutor for artist with mental health. So sleep is a favorite at the moment. Winter is my most productive time for my work. In the summer I love to swim in the ocean, body board, and attempt to skateboard at the ripe old age of 35. I also go to my favourite cafe, read and pretend I am on vacation.
Is there anything unique about New Zealand that you notice on a daily basis?
They are the worst drivers – I am almost killed on a daily basis!
What inspires you to remain creative?
Who are your favourite artists?
This may sound Corny, but anyone who has passion, my students whom I mentor and children.
Describe your art style.
At the moment it’s cheeky and playful, lustful and a bit naughty. My work is a bit of a tease. If I can laugh out loud when I make it, then I am happy and satisfied.
What’s your favourite medium?
Pen, spit and a white posca pen. I find the white chalky effect so yummy!
There are alot of women and animals in your work. Is there a message in there?
The women are new for me and the animals have just appeared in the last few years. I started using the animals as a conscious effort to change the way I work, it’s less depressing. I was going through a divorce from a marriage which brought me to New Zealand. I wanted to make myself laugh rather than rehash my past. While on an artist residency I spent time observing the animals on the estate. Often I was surprised by their behaviour and interactions they had with each other. They were often quite funny and bordering on the ridiculous. I had also have had many recurring dreams of bears and lions since I was a child. So I tried to be more conscious of what these dreams were saying to me. This became the beginning of the shift in my work.
“Life is too short to be serious” it’s my motto at the moment.
You are exhibiting in Sydney at Oh Really Gallery soon, how did this come about?
My artist friend DRYPNZ had a show there last year. He encouraged me to contact Oh Really and thought my work would be a good fit. My goal for 2010 was to get my work off shore – NZ is only so big.
Have you visited Australia before?
I only spent time in Gold Coast and Melbourne being a tourist.
What are the preconceived images of Sydney in your head?
Preconceived vision of Sydney, ummm corporate?…yikes! but the more I look into the scene, the more I really like what is happening. I am very excited to come and be a part of it.
What kind of music do you listen to?
I am huge disco fan! I am so out of the closet now, my friends say I shouldn’t tell anyone. Music is a big influence in my art, I never go without it while I am painting. My taste is so ecliptic that I can’t describe it – anything that makes me happy really. I just got a record player, so I am rediscovering anything that costs 5 bucks.
Do you have any advice to give to anyone out there starting out as an artist?
RUN! na… be flexible, don’t take yourself too serious, be humble, get a mentor, don’t burn bridges and take a business course.
Are there any new projects in the pipeline?
I am heading back to your shores in late 2010 for a touring show and a solo show on the Gold Coast.
This Summer I am planning to up skill on my spray painting skills and run with the boys. I am the only Wellington girl artist spray painter… DRPNZ has been encouraging me to get my work on the streets. I have made about 5 attempts, I love working large and learning new ways of creating art. I found it frustrating and scary that I don’t have the control of the medium as of yet as well, I know I am not putting my best work out there just yet. I think I am a better teacher than I am a student! Oh well give me time!
Are you a movie buff or a book head?
Movie Buff – it is my drug.
Any recent life changing moments?
MANY! but a divorce! the freedom was daintily and amazing at the same time – fueled the drastic change in my art.
Cremation or Burial?
Burn me and ship me out to sea!
Any last words of wisdom?
Enjoy the Ride.