Kit Mizeres has not long graduated from art school, but from viewing her work and being in the presence of the sheer power, sophistication and maturity of her artistic voice, one could be forgiven for thinking she has already benefited from a lifetime of creative expression. Having adopted a liberating lifestyle of nomadic freedom, Mizeres is constantly on the road, continually collecting a wealth of stories and experiences which help to inform her life choices and also her artistic explorations. Being close to nature all her life, and possessing both a boundless curiosity and a caring heart, it is only natural that at the core of her images lie messages of concern about how humanity asserts its dominance over the rest of the animal kingdom. Mizeres skilfully integrates these sentiments into her striking surrealism, along with her interest in personal folklore and the ironing out of her own internal struggles. The results are not only a rare treat for the eyes, but deliver an abundance of metaphorical stimulation and raise important topical questions about our species, which should not be overlooked.
Kit Mizeres is an American artist and illustrator with no current fixed abode. She earned her BFA in Illustration from the Columbus College of Art and Design. Since graduating, Kit has been making serious waves within the New Contemporary Art scene and has exhibited her work in prominent galleries, such as Corey Helford Gallery in LA and Arch Enemy Arts in Philadelphia.
WOW x WOW is utterly thrilled to have a brand-new Kit Mizeres original in our current group exhibition of square works: WOW². ‘Kitsune’ is a stunning example of Kit’s talent and thematically explores ideas about deception and the trickster archetype and how they relate to our interactions with nature. We hope that you enjoy the following in-depth interview with the wonderful Kit Mizeres!
Hi Kit, thanks very much for making the time to have a chat, we really appreciate it. To get us started, can you give us some background on what has lead you to this point in your professional life, be it your formal training, serendipity, etc.?
Thanks for having me! I think the beginnings of my artistic pursuits fall in line with most other artists where it all started at a very young age. I began to take it more seriously in high school, and after that I was dragged kicking and screaming into art school. I always thought the whole going to college for art thing was ridiculous and unnecessary, and I figured I could still pursue an art career without a secondary education, or even become a tattoo artist. But alas, my parents and teachers forced me to apply anyway, and I was fortunate enough to land scholarships allowing me to go to the Columbus College of Art and Design and graduate debt free. I majored in illustration, and though I can certainly say I gained a lot of useful knowledge such as learning various marketing approaches and digital art skills, I honestly feel that I’ve learned more this past year being out of school than I did all four years spent in college. I just think you learn more by doing and learning from your mistakes above all else. This past year I’ve just been experimenting with different commission and gallery opportunities that have popped up, and it’s been an interesting ride so far to say the least.
Talk to us about growing up. In what ways did your childhood and upbringing affect your relationship with the arts?
I grew up in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio where we lived on a little lake. I definitely spent a lot of time making art as a kid, but honestly, the majority of my childhood consisted of exploring outdoors. I was outside rain or shine, usually making up new stories for my adventures or capturing poor and helpless animals to take back home with me. I just loved them so much, and they were so fascinating to me. Of course, the critters never lasted long with me because either my parents would find out and evict them or they would just die from the stress of being a captive of mine after a day. Looking back, I’ve realized that I must have accidentally killed a couple dozen little creatures in my attempts of keeping them for my own and building them new lives in my own world. I swear that I knew how to handle them with care, and am still incredibly gentle to this day, but for example when I was 7 years old I learned that you shouldn’t keep a toad in a bucket of water without it having at least something to sit on. Any scarring of my childhood was of my own doing. Our pet/animal graveyard was really starting to expand over the years, and my dad would joke that we should just start lighting mini Viking funeral pyres for them out on our lake. After further contemplation, I think my endless collecting of all things living (and dead) as a kid are probably what heavily inspired my constant flora and fauna themes in my work today. I’m sure it’s also why my work can have a pretty gruesome flare to it after I’ve dealt with so many of their fatal demises that were, again, very unintentional.
We’d love for you to share some thoughts about the current themes you’ve been enjoying exploring through your art.
My themes for every individual work of art usually vary dramatically. The only consistent theme I know for certain is that every work is usually some visual metaphor for a current internal struggle of mine that is often too cheesy and embarrassing to further explain to the public. Even with my last show with Arch Enemy Arts that I titled ‘Holy Water’, all the paintings varied greatly in content. I did try to tie in a visual theme that could bind them all together, and I kept coming back to my glass animals filled with water imagery. All artists will usually have their own personal symbolism in their work (or so I’d assume), and for me, these glass animals typically represent the fragility and purity that is within all creatures as a whole, excluding humans, of course.
Some of my recent works are directly related to the discomfort I feel about how often and easily we as humans take advantage of and exploit all other living creatures. We humans will never amount to the beauty and innocence of our natural world and the creatures inhabiting it. Most of the people I illustrate in my work are typically very lavishly decorated, and this is my attempt to show that, though we may try as hard as we can to appear to be as pure and beautiful as can be, we will never be able to hide the fact that we as a collective are the cruel and deceiving monsters sitting at the top of this distorted food chain. And sure, animals can appear to have cruel intentions as well, but only as a means of survival. We as a human race will still continue to exploit our natural world for generations to come, no matter how advanced, and only as a means of convenience and profit, not survival.
A few months back you were gracious enough to write a fantastic guest blog post for us and in it you mentioned the recently simplified and nomadic lifestyle you have adopted and the impact that this is having on your creative output. We’d love to hear about some key experiences that have played a vital role in shaping ideas and concepts for your art.
Of course! I’m still living on the road as of now, and plan on hopefully doing so for the years to come. When I’m not camping in a new and beautiful place, I’m usually under some stranger’s roof exchanging some kind of help or chore for room and board. So, I’m not entirely homeless, yet. I’m a very anxious person, and when I’m stuck in one location for too long, I start to feel very trapped and depressed. Plus, being stuck in the same mundane routine is in no way beneficial to my creativity and growth, and I can get so lost in my art that I can forget to step outside for days, and this sort of lifestyle helps to keep me moving and interacting with new people and places.
These past couple of months have been pretty inspiring for my recent work since I’ve been coming across many new experiences and trades, as well as working with a lot of animals and plants with each location. Going back to my concern with animal exploitation, all I can say is that I’ve been able to witness a lot of contrasting values and ways of life from all of these strangers I’ve been living with briefly, and the varying ways of how they treat and use their animals has been eye opening. I’ve also been living in different homes and communities that heavily practice self-sustainability and conservation, which has been very impressionable on my way of thinking, too. Right at this moment I’m living at a place where my primary role is to be a bee keeper, as well as checking in on an onsite aquaponics system where the pond waste made by the fish living in it directly fertilizes all the plants on that site. Both roles are very new to me, and it’s all so interesting and different that it has certainly begun to spin some wheels in this head of mine.
In your blog post you also discussed your first experiences painting murals, having been on the ‘Dripped on the Road’ artist residency. In what ways have your collaborative experiences painting outdoors affected the time you spend alone in your studio?
I’ve been so overwhelmed with pending gallery deadlines lately that I haven’t had the chance to reach out for mural work, but man do I miss it. I love how physical and labor intensive mural painting can be, and that it allows for a lot of social interaction with other artists and the community surrounding it. And with all this studio work lately, it’s easy to become a hermit behind closed doors, and it can get pretty lonely. Luckily this traveling has balanced that out for me and I get to explore new places on a regular basis and meet new people. I would totally like to find a balance to where I can paint more murals in the future, though. I’m trying to free up my schedule a little more for these upcoming months so that I can fit in some more exploring time, and hopefully allow room for more mural opportunities.
Can you tell us about some of the greatest breakthroughs you’ve experienced within your learning as an artist? Those moments that have opened up whole new creative avenues or that have led to you taking large leaps forward in your development?
There is one thing that I’ve learned for certain so far, and that is that for every single door opened and pursued, two or three more open. It’s kind of like a downhill snowball where the progression of available opportunities out there begins to exponentially increase the more you put your neck out there. But I’ve also learned that you can’t just sit around and wait for opportunities to fall into your lap. I’m sure the more notoriety an artist has down the road, the easier it gets. But it has helped me immensely to step out of my comfort zone and be aggressive with putting myself out there. I don’t think there are many successful artists out there who are too shy to reach out to people and chase after any available opportunities that present themselves.
What would be the greatest compliment you could ever receive about your work?
I think it was was when someone compared one of my works to a Sonic Youth album? I still don’t know if I can see it, but it made me smile.
Nature and animals form one of your biggest sources of inspiration. What are some of the earliest memories you have, which contributed to forming the foundation of your lifelong passion for, and interest in wildlife? In what ways do you think about nature in the context of your art?
This goes back to my early childhood influences where I was constantly surrounded by animals and nature. I’m a major empath, so any kind of suffering or death I witness of another living creature affects me greatly. And yes, especially by the ones I’ve accidentally killed. That alone has certainly inspired my work since the beginning. I don’t want to be too detailed with some of the earliest memories of mine that influenced me today, but then again it’s always the gruesome memories that we can never seem to shake. I think there were a few incidents as a kid where I’d come across an animal that had died a violent death, and to see it’s insides seep out both terrified and physically pained me, and yet at the same time it fascinated me. Almost like a little kid’s obsession with watching horror movies over and over again, even when they know it would give them nightmares later on that night (or was that just me?). Anyway, it sort of triggered this fascination within me to see how floral-like and almost beautiful the innards of that living creature was. It was as if new life was sprouting out of it, rapidly growing in all different directions to begin anew. It was this sort of organic and floral-like visual element that eventually took on a life of its own in my art, and has remained there ever since. I guess it was also the realization that there are so many patterns and similarities within the natural world, and I never stop coming across them.
What is the most dominant source of motivation for you to make art?
I would say it’s generally a four-way tie between nature, folklore, specific individuals or strangers that ignite a unique tune in my head, and though it’s been months since I’ve pulled this one out of the bag, above all else it has always been anger. I’ve been known for having a short temper and a sharp tongue, and can get pretty riled up rather frequently. I’ve always looked to art as a way of transmuting any feelings of hate, anger, sadness, rejection and so on into a visual metaphor that I can reform into something beautiful and delicate. I also think that’s where all the intensive detail came from in the first place. It all started out as a form of therapy and means of meditating on the subject, and hours would turn into days on some pieces.
In order to get a better understanding of the personality of an artist, it can help to get a peek behind the curtain. Would you be willing to share a story from your own life, possibly one whose memory you find yourself returning to for inspiration, or maybe just a tale about a hardship you’ve overcome which has helped define the person and therefore artist that you are now?
I just wrote this long, horrifying story about the witnessing and partial involvement (for the first and last time) of the slaughtering of a chicken with a machete, but I decided it best not to include that. So…
Hmm, well I can probably go on and on about all the times I was put down by my art. You know, the typical teachers or co-workers who scoffed at you when you said you were going to pursue art as a career, the dad who told you “you sure that boy didn’t just tell you your art was the best of your class simply because he was trying to hit on you?” kind of stories. Don’t get me wrong, those still fuel me today and I still aspire to prove everyone wrong, but I think the biggest fire under my ass has been lit by the fear of a life of stagnancy. To suddenly fall into a cookie cutter lifestyle with a 9 to 5 job where you only work for the weekend and happily sit upon some terrifyingly massive mortgage in the same town year after year would be my literal nightmare, and yet that is often seen as someone else’s definition of normal, or one might even use the word successful.
And don’t get me wrong, I could totally see why that comfortable lifestyle is appealing to the majority of the population! But I just can’t seem to picture myself there, at least not anytime soon. I’ve been so fortunate to have a dad like mine who purposefully became a home inspector years ago just so that he can become self-employed. He was sick of working for the man, and wanted to control his own income, hours and location. Best of all, his success was solely dependent on the kind of input he put in to his business. Seeing that first-hand, I realized there was nothing more fulfilling than being completely in charge of your life and career, and that ideology has brought me to where I am today. And lastly, I owe him a big thanks for inspiring me to raise my standards of the kind of person I want to be and especially surround myself by, and for providing the perfect example of what kind of personal relationships I should NOT pursue, or even worse yet, relapse to.
If you could own one piece of art from any of the world’s collections what would it be and why?
My god, what an impossible question to ask. How dare you! Though I have dozens of works in mind, I definitely know that I would kill to have any of Femke Hiemstra’s work, especially ‘La Mort En Cadence’ and ‘The Sand Castle Battle’. Charlie Immer’s work never fails to slay me either, like his ‘Bleeding Lean’ or ‘Fetch’. If I think too much more about this question, my head might explode so I’ll leave it at that. Oh, and also anything by Stacey Rozich! Of course, there are so many more, but those where the first that came to mind. I’ve been in such a colorful and pop surrealist mood lately, and these artists have always really spoken to me.
What’s next for Kit Mizeres?
Texas! Should be great weather for the winter, followed up by New Mexico. I miss the desert, and it’s been calling me back for quite some time. I’m really trying to clear up my schedule so that I have more time for exploring, but I will still be making art every day no matter what. I just want to cut down on the stressful deadlines for now and focus on making work for myself again. Perhaps I’ll drop off the face of the earth for a little while, but I promise to always be in touch!