Leslie Walfish: What was your road to becoming an artist?
Mirella Hix: I have been making art for as long as I can remember. Growing up, my mom did many arts and crafts with us and always supported my love for the arts. As well as making art with my mom, I would draw and paint with my cousin and aunt. I took art classes throughout high school, which is where I developed an interest in ceramics. After high school, I decided to pursue an education in Anthropology at Marquette University. After my first year, I transferred to UW Oshkosh which is where I took a drawing course and realized that an art career would make me most happy. I switched my major from Anthropology to a BFA in studio art. Since then I have been devolving my artistic practice with the guidance of my professors.
LW: Was there a particular individual, artist, or teacher that has helped or inspired you in your journey as an artist? How has this person inspired you or helped you?
MH: Frida Kahlo has always been an inspiration for me. Growing up, it was helpful to see the amazing work she created as a Mexican artist. Seeing her works made me feel like I could also make portraits about my experiences as a Latina in the United States.
LW: Can you describe one artwork or series from your oeuvre that you feel is pivotal to understanding your artistic practice?
MH: My installation titled Hanging on by a Thread is vital to understanding my artistic practice. The subject matter depicts the main focus of my life, my son, and the literal fragility of the installation emphasizes what I’m trying to say about my experience with motherhood. Relative to some of my other works hanging on by a thread is more symbolic, and not as literal.
LW: You don’t stick to one medium, you create intimately beautiful drawings, create 3D large- scale sculptural ceramic installations, and integrate the two in your wall ceramic tiles. How do you decide the medium for the particular work you will create? What is it about these mediums that attracts you? How do these mediums help you tell the narrative in your work?
MH: When I get an idea for new work, I think about how I want the viewer to engage with my art. How I want the art to be viewed affects the medium I use. I also like to contradict the ways that a medium is typically used, like putting ceramics on the wall or hanging it from the ceiling. I like the organic nature of clay and the transformation that occurs during the process of becoming ceramic. When I make ceramic tiles, the process is similar to drawing on paper. I like that both mediums can achieve what I want to depict in multiple ways. There are some drawings that I have created on both paper and ceramic because the subject matter is portrayed differently on a 2D surface rather than 3D. This difference ultimately affects the viewer’s relationship with the art.
LW: Your work appears very autobiographical, what drives you to share your story in your art?
MH: My art has always tried to tackle the question of my identity. I like to make art that I want to see in the world and art that can be a representation of many different populations. Since becoming a mother, I have tried to show the many facets of parenthood, and my own struggles and triumphs with my family because I am not the only person with these experiences. Even if only one other person connects with one of my works, that is one person who can feel seen or heard.
LW: Motherhood has been a theme in your recent work. Has being a mother changed your artistic practice? If so, how?
MH: Being a mother has changed my artistic practice. We all have 24 hours in a day, the difference is how we spend those hours. Since becoming a mother, I find myself spending less time making art than I had previously. I am still working on developing a good balance between the time I spend with my family and the time I spend making work. A large part of my journey through motherhood is trying to rediscover who I am outside of Santiago; creating my art helps me remember who I was before and who I am becoming now.
LW: Some of your work has been about your body and the changes to your body during and after pregnancy. What do you hope people will gain from your pieces that explore these issues?
MH: I hope that people will gain an insight into my experience with pregnancy. I think that pregnancy is usually depicted as a glowing, lovely experience, but that is not always the case. There are times when I don’t recognize my body anymore. Logically I know that all the changes that occurred to my body were so I could give birth to my son, but that doesn’t help me deal with my anxiety about my appearance. I have found that other mothers share the same difficulties that I face with the changes that occurred to my body. Social media and TV make it seem easy for your body to bounce back, but that is not every woman’s experience.
LW: Family is a theme in a number of your works. What does family mean to you?
MH: Family is very important to me. Now that I have started my own family, my main concern is the happiness and well being of my son. I love the experiences we share together and how my son makes me want to better myself. I cherish the time spent with family and their interactions with Santiago.
LW: What is the most exciting thing about being an artist?
MH: I think that the most exciting part of being an artist is collaborative discovery. With social media and the internet I can see what artists are doing across the world. And I can connect to their work and learn from their processes. I have found that most artists are interested in sharing their knowledge, and it’s exciting to learn from so many different people.
LW: What do you have planned for the future?
MH: I am going to focus on make more work and applying to exhibitions. I am thinking of starting another body of work that deals more with my cultural identity. Down the road I may attend grad school to get my MFA, but for now I’m enjoying my time with my son and husband.