Studio Visit with Elyse-Krista Mische @CASP

Elyse-Krista Mische was part of the CASP Artist-in-Residence program (A.I.R.) from September through December 2016, living and working in CASP Studio #4 in Lubbock, Texas. This interview has been lightly edited for length and/or clarity. Photos are courtesy of Ryan Shelburne.

CASP A.I.R. is on hiatus for the year of 2017 and is scheduled to resume in 2018.

Hannah Dean (HD): So, when did you know art was for you?

Elyse-Krista Mische (EM): I always knew that I had to make art, even as a little girl. I saw my brother making art and I really enjoyed copying him. It took me a little while to really realize what I needed to do. I went to a two-year high school that was focused in arts, so it was kinda like college. I spent my junior and senior year focusing on visual art. I actually went to college for pre-med, thinking I was going to be a neurosurgeon…and then realized half-way in, “what am I doing?”

HD: So, you’re from “the north?”

EM: Saint Paul, Minnesota. I went to school in Appleton, Wisconsin.

HD: This is your first time living in the Southwest? How has that been?

EM: Is Colorado the Southwest?

HD: Kind of. I guess I mean Texas.

EM: This is the most south I’ve lived. I grew up where it was so green and lush, so the landscape here has been most shocking in some ways, but also really been really inspiring in unexpected ways—like I’ve found a lot of beauty in the urban sprawl. Down here, there are so many buildings that are abandoned, and this history that has been just cut off.

HD: Let’s talk about some of the “flat work”. There are a lot of images repeated in your 2D and 3D work- want to talk about how you inhabit both spaces?

EM: I guess I think in 2D, so I start there, using a lot of symbolism like flowers, especially the marigold. It symbolizes wealth, like, peasants actually used to plant marigolds around their homes because it would make them feel wealthier. So, I like that idea of not monetary wealth but wealth that comes from nature and simplicity. And birds—birds for me are my reality and my unreality. They are this beautiful and powerful animal that can go up to the heavens but also be down on our level. I’m really preoccupied with time; I’m only here temporarily, so I look for ways in my work to preserve myself, my memory, my history. After that, is there somewhere else I go, or is this all that I have? I think a lot about that. I like hearing from other people about what they think about life and death and incorporating that into my work.

I also am celebrating our lives— I really enjoy going into this daydream world when I’m creating and trying to bridge my imaginary world and my reality. In a lot of my work you’ll see this birdman. That’s the identity I assume when I’m trying to bring this all to life. He’s literally my spirit animal. For me it’s not fulfilling enough to have the imagery on paper, I need to have it here, with me, where I can hold and touch it. I want to let other people interacted with it, too- that’s why I have these masks for other people to wear and become- I call them “live drawings.” It’s living and breathing.

HD: I felt giddy to see that water jug repeated in the drawing—you’re engaging people in ways with 2D work that they might not otherwise be involved.

EM: Sometimes you have this flat piece on the wall, and it’s something to look at, but finding little elements where you say “oh, that object is in that drawing” can be pretty exciting.

HD: With ideas of life, death, and preserving your memory- what is most important to preserve?

EM: I guess a sense of my childhood, that’s why I do this playful 3D work, like building a daydream den, or creating a giant birdman stuffed animal. I think preserving my younger self, where maybe I was freer to imagine and create in an unhindered way…that’s important to me. Certain things in my memory- it could be personal histories, maybe you don’t know the full story to it, but I do, and I feel that I am living on in my work.

HD: You said this urban sprawl and landscape has affected you- are there any pieces where that really comes into play?

EM: I think the starkness of the contrast of natural elements and the blankness of space. This piece “Keynotes” – it’s affected me with scale, and black spaces- uninhabited spaces, then natural elements that are almost shocking put in there. I’m in this old industrial area, even this studio building, while modern, reverberates that – so being surrounded by that has made my work grow.

I’ve had so much time by myself in this space to work. You can see I’ve really gotten stuck on some concepts, some imagery, and my work has gone into a different direction, it’s become more like a folk tale: both stylized and more developed.

HD: Where are you going from here?

EM: Right after I leave, I’ve got a solo show in Minnesota at the Macrostie Art Center. So I’m driving to Wisconsin to pick up work, then driving further north. I’m waiting to hear back from a few residency programs, but I’m hoping to continue traveling, immersing myself in new communities. I’m still up in the air— I’m living sort of nomadically. I’m an artist gypsy.

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