Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
By Eric Dyer
I met with Mia Christopher on Monday, June 8th, at her studio near Franklin Square. I hadn’t sat down and talked to her since last summer when we had taken a New York Studio class with Linda Geary. Since then she’s been up to a lot — awesome work, a solo show opens Saturday October 12th , titled “Maybe Forever” coming up at Littlebigspace in Albany, CA that, has had a line of clothes in Anthropologie, making bomb temporary tattoos and selling stuff on Etsy.
What I found in her studio was a dense and incredible collection of materials organized in their own unique chaos by Mia. The studio is rife with experimentation; through this exploration, Christopher is attempting to understand her own decision making process as well as see where her ideas wander. She finds many of her materials on daily walks around the city (her apartment is close by and it’s nice to have the air.) One of my favorite items she allowed me to see was a jar of dust and remnants from late projects and floor-scraps she keeps. It reminds me of sedimentary layers; layers of the past; an insight to what goes on when no one is watching.
Reading previous interviews with Mia, I became aware of her fascination in keeping numbered notebooks, similar to my own. I had the opportunity to meander about a few and they were such a treat! The books are ordered and organized but littered with found tape, glitter, colorful objects of the streets. They seem to serve as a catalog of immediate experiences and thoughts. One of her sketchbooks contains a dirty old piece of colored tape she found outside on a walk. In an interview with Make-Space, Christopher states her sketchbooks are an important and significant part of her practice, which allow accidents to happen, exploration to take place, and different methods of recording to be used. Sketchbooks allow her to think quickly and become inspired by forgotten scribbles and color relationships.
Currently Christopher is prepping for her upcoming show which will consists mostly of paintings with sculptural elements, mini photo-zines of collected images that she has taken over the past year (Things on the sidewalk, things on the grass, funny face things found in outlets and street signs. The enjoyment of strange text things and ice cream cones.)
After talking for a while Mia gave me a manicure with her unending collection of nail polish, along with one of her sick temporary tattoos. I brought Mia stickers, because I know she’s been forming a huge collection. I don’t know if the one’s I brought were as fabulous as hers, but they reminded me of my childhood putting school supply orange dot stickers on paper while waiting for my parents to finish work. You should check out one of her sticker iPhone case designs! A wild box appears. Mia pulls it out of her stacked organizer and this one contains scraps of old dried paint chips all different colors and sizes. I asked Mia how she went from her more figurative work to what she is doing now, and she told me it has been a natural progression. The ideas of her more figurative work are still there, they’re just shown in a different way. There is less of an emphasis on narrative and more of focus on color relations, orientation of shapes, and openness to new ideas, which can be seen in works such as The Misfortune Of Knowing How Your Brain Works (2013), Brief Nudity (2013), and Maybe He Can Read My Mind After All (2012). In her studio space, Mia is making work that feels intuitive and focused, operating on both a conscious and unconscious level.
During an interview with mintdesignblog Christopher notes a couple artists that have influenced her work, Monique Prieto and Leah Rosenberg. Prieto’s big shape paintings tell a story that is not revealed to the viewer. Prieto is interested in how the shapes represent themselves and interact with one another. While this hidden narrative isn’t what Mia is necessarily aiming at, the time she spends collecting and gathering materials I feel inserts her own stories within the work that many viewers may not notice. In the article Mia also mentioned Leah Rosenberg’s “gorgeous paint confetti and stacks of acrylic paint peels” and I can see how she is drawn to these paintings with their similar choices and pairings of color.
Christopher’s process also shares similarities with Tony Feher. Her work reveals a certain attention to perception and its role in our daily lives.
You do have to pay attention, calm down, and look. You have to be willing to find that sparkle of color. An early piece I made of different-size jars with different fluids I called Look See. And the point is, I think people are looking all the time, but I don’t think they’re seeing anything. And I think that’s true not just with a piece of art that’s in front of them, but in a larger cultural sense. Our lives are shrouded in myths and superstition and prejudice. If you can accept a soda bottle with condensation on the inside as a work of art, then maybe that’s a way of seeing a broader picture, or of seeing the world from a different point of view (1).
— Tony Feher
Mia Christopher also has a wonderful Instagram documenting interesting, sometimes perplexing objects and happenings around San Francisco; I couldn’t help but think of this David Foster Wallace quote from The Pale King after viewing it.
It had something to do with paying attention and the ability to choose what I paid attention to, and to be aware of that choice, the fact that it’s a choice … I think that deep down I knew that there was more to my life and to myself than just the ordinary psychological impulses for pleasure and vanity that I let drive me. That there were depths to me that were not bullshit or childish but profound, and were not abstract but actually much realer than my clothes or self-image, and that blazed in an almost sacred way—I’m being serious; I’m not just trying to make it sound more dramatic than it was—and that these realest, most profound parts of me involved not drives or appetites but simple attention, awareness.
Interestingly enough in her interview with Make Space, Christopher said something very similar.
For me, work and life are not separate. Everything informs everything else. Constantly working brings me the most pleasure; I would rather be working in the studio than doing almost anything else. Making is the most exciting experience for me.
Christopher’s work is the minute to the whole — which is why the many aspects of her practice seem unseparated. It seems as if she is attempting to see the world for the first time every morning and she enjoys being busy. I asked her what strategies she uses, or maybe what approach other people could use, to help slow things down and to pay closer attention to their day-to-day surroundings. Her response reflects the practice of meditation, and Jon Kabat-Zinn said, “The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little.” Feel like you’re stuck in a technology loop (2)? Christopher would take a moment to find something beautiful or funny around her, directly in her sight of vision. It’s not a surprise to find she also practices yoga, which reminds her to focus on her breathing. She told me, “Ever since I was a very small child I have been very observant. Finding beautiful or ugly or funny things as you go through your daily routine makes life more interesting and stimulates your brain to make connections. I stare at the sidewalk a lot when I walk so sometimes I have to tell myself to actively look up. I like to look for cats in windows (I consider them to be good luck), and what kinds of shadows the sun is leaving on buildings. There is so much to see, everywhere, all of the time.”
Glitter and neon, pools of paint glisten; nail polish flashes and life sits and listens. People promenade and follow internet memes. These are a few of my favorite things.
(1) Arning, Bill, Amada Cruz , John Lindell, and Adam Weinberg. Tony Feher. New York: Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, pp 49-50. 2001.
(2) Armisen, Fred, “Portlandia,” Mind-FI, Web, http://vimeo.com/39784948.