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Interview: Christina Mesiti

Seeing Christina Mesiti’s painting (below) at the Contemporary Forum art auction (at the Phoenix Art Museum) a month ago, instantly made me want to know more about her. This was the stand out piece (below) that I wanted to bid on, although my budget did not allow that to happen. It is a visually luminous stunner with nods to Cezanne, architectural renderings, and David Hockney. She currently is showing a piece at the Eye Lounge Gallery in Phoenix at the show Fresh: New Work by Eye Lounge Members, so you can get a little taste of her work. And, I am sure you will be seeing a lot her work in the near future.

So, I am glad that we could talk with Christina and tell you a little more about her. Below is our interview.

Map Drawing 11
paper on canvas
2012
42 x 62

Culture Seen: Could you tell me a little about your work, and especially your relationship with landscapes?
Christina Mesiti: I’ve always been drawn to landscapes as a painter. There’s something inherently magic to me about creating the illusion of depth in a 2D plane, and I’ve always liked artists who play with that illusion, like Diebenkorn, Matisse, and really all modernist painting.

Apart from my formal interest in space and depth, I’m also interested in how I relate to different places as a person. I’m a place addict. The landscape genre allows me the freedom to explore both the formal questions of paintings and issues around the psychology of place. It does so without the direct narrative I feel viewers try to construct when a painting includes people. I think landscape is a more open ended story. I’d like the viewer to feel like they are the main figure in the setting of the painting. That person completes the experience.

It does seem like you are leaving things out in your work.
The work I do now is about how the mind tries to organize itself around a place, how time and memory changes those mental associations, images and connections. That isn’t something I could spell out explicitly in a painting, like, this is the sense of place I feel in Seattle. My mind doesn’t remember things that way; it’s always making new associations between the same thoughts. It’’s important to leave space for the viewer to build her own connections within the painting.

Map Drawing 13
Paper on panel
2012
21” x 28

These paintings also reflect the complicated act of seeing. The mind selects certain things to notice and record. That’s probably why I only include hints of buildings. As I draw, I find myself using a visual shorthand that has just developed after spending so much time drawing on the street. Certain gestures represent a street lamp or a building corner. And I often wonder why my mind makes the decisions to be aware of certain things.

What inspires you?
Travel, being alone in new places. I think I subconsciously chose landscape and place as the focus of my work just to justify my desire to keep traveling.

Are their any particular influences or inspiration for your work? Any books, artists, music specifically inspire you?
A few years ago a friend lent me “Invisible Cities” by Italo Calvino, and I’ve been trapped under its influence ever since. I hope that someday I can make something that comes half as close to the dreamy meditation on places that Calvino wrote. I’ve been looking at and reading Robert Irwin recently, too. I make the best paintings when I’m listening to Funkadelic’s One Nation Under a Groove or anything by the Cardigans. Don’t ask me why.

I know you are looking into graduate programs. What are hoping to find there?
I’ve been ambivalent about this for a while, but I finally decided I just want the time to focus on my work in an environment meant for you to focus in a group of people also focusing. I would love to teach at a university, too, so I need that little MFA paper.

Have you always know that you wanted to make art?
I was always into music and art as a kid. By the end of high school I was focusing on graphic design as a career and toured the design school at ASU. I also toured the printmaking program just for fun, but when I got in the art building, I really loved the vibe. I also had an inkling that I had picked graphic design partly out of fear. I thought I needed projects assigned to me to keep my creativity going, someone applying the limitations for each problem. Fine art seemed more difficult, since you have to design your own parameters within which to work. It was that classic fear of the blank canvas. But to not do something out of fear seemed cowardly, so I chose art.

Map Drawing 10
Paper on canvas
2012
42” x 62”

What’s next for you?
Installation! I’m working on shaking up the format of my work. Right now I’m directing all my energy towards my In Flux storefront installation in Tempe. It’s a public art project where both Tempe and Scottsdale invite artists to install pieces in vacant store windows. I’m very excited. Making something site specific and public is a natural continuation of my ideas and something I was thinking about anyway when this opportunity fell in my lap.

Website:
www.christinamesiti.com



  1. Jimmy Guy (Reply) on Thursday 22, 2012

    She is bright beautiful, intelligent artiistic cccapabilities beyond belief “obviously” and she is my neice a wonderful person and chip off the old block her mom my big sis.