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In Conversation: Laura Mitsu

Updated: Mar 18



Hi Laura! It's always a pleasure to speak with you. We always come up with crazy ideas whenever we get together. I'm glad we both signed with 2358MRKT at the same time. I've gotten to know you through our conversations and seeing your art. I still need to do an actual studio visit! Your studio buzzes with creative activity, even more so with your solo show fast approaching this year. You've been preparing for months now. I'm excited to see "Poetic Abstraction" come to fruition this Spring.


How has your approach to art-making changed in the lead-up to your exhibition?


Laura: I was hitting a creative block last year in my art practice and it felt like I was dragging myself to the studio. My paintings were taking me so long to finishthat it felt like I was moving through cement. At somepoint, I remember feeling so sick of it, that I justwanted to smear some paint on a canvas. So I put ona glove, put some magenta paint into my palm, andsmeared it all over a canvas I was stuck on. It feltfreeing… felt like my mind, brain, body, and creativityall let out a gigantic sigh. Since then I’ve been creatinglike crazy, practically non-stop. The energy coming through me is raw, visceral, and intimate…. that energy comes through in the paintings I’ve made for this show. 



Your solo show is called “Poetic Abstraction.” I’m going to accept credit for naming it. I remember our conversation about the concept of your exhibition, but I don’t recall coming up with the exact wording. Could you remind me what the title signifies and how we came up with it?


Laura: Yes! You gave me the idea for the name. I very clearly remember that conversation and I’m so grateful we spoke when we did. Sometimes we’re too close to the situation so we can’t see thingsas they are. I was telling you about that creative block I wasexperiencing, and you said something like “I love your work and I loveyour poetry… why don’t you do something around that? Your abstractpoetry or… Poetic abstraction?”


I remember gasping, which is something that happens when I have an intuitive realization that catches me by surprise. I remember thinkingTHAT’S IT, THAT’S THE NAME! and then you cracked a joke, “If you don’t use that for your show I’m going to use it for a series or something” and we both had a laugh.


Poetic Abstraction has a literal meaning of poetry and abstract art, but it is also a brilliant way to describe what my creative process is like and what my work feels like to me.



I imagine you've always been creative—poetry, painting, and culinary arts. How else has your creativity manifested, and how do all these different outlets relate?


Laura: I’ve always been creative. I have always been drawn to creating with my hands. Poetry, painting, cooking, drawing, making jewelry… all of these things include creating something with my hands that wasn’t there before. Taking different pieces and putting them together… whether it’s pen to paper, different ingredients in the kitchen, or creating something with paint and a canvas… looking back, it’s obvious that the act of creation has driven me my whole life. 


Are there artists and poets who influence your paintings and poetry?


Laura: For poetry, I would say Rupi Kaur, Yung Pueblo, Cleo Wade, and my friend, Amber Vittoria to name a few. These are all living poets. Of course, the great and classic poets are great for a reason, but I resonate with modern poets, their style, and the themes in their work.


For art, I think Joan Mitchell influences my work by reminding me to be bold and fearless when painting. I’m inspired by the Abstract Expressionists during WW2 and their determination to create and show their art, despite all of the societal pressures not to and catastrophes going on around them. They remind me that art is important, especially during difficult times, because it reminds us of the hope and beauty in our humanity.



We both left careers to pursue art professionally. What have you kept with you that helps your art practice?


Laura: Working in kitchens is not for the faint-hearted. It’s working for long hours on your feet, dealing with burns, cuts, not to mention heavy levels of stress… putting your blood, sweat, and tears into your craft. The grit that I developed working in kitchens I think helps me take on

challenges now… I already know I can do those things, and I know that I can handle whatever difficult situations come my way.


People ask me pretty often if I miss cooking or working in restaurants, and to be honest, no, not really. I still cook for myself and my fiancee every day… and I love to eat! It’s still nourishing to me to feed the ones I love and to create something delicious. It helps fuel me, my creativity, and

my practice. 


Do you think you would ever do a series that combines your two different fields—art and cooking?


Laura: I would. It could even be a collaboration because I know a handful of artists who are ex-culinary or current food industry folks. I think if it’s meant to, it’ll happen when the time is right.



I get the feeling that you are a consummate planner. Everything in your art practice comes off as highly researched and refined. I find it very interesting that your recent body of work has become even more spontaneous in execution, like how you started painting with your hands and employed spray paint that you found serendipitously. How do you balance those different sides?


Laura: I love having these two dualities present in my work – refined and spontaneous. I think they complement each other well because if a painting looks “too planned” or “too refined,” I get bored with it. Iif a painting starts feeling like that for me during the process, the best thing for me to introduce is something intuitive or spontaneous. As you said, that’s how I started painting with my hands, and the same thing with that can of gold spray paint I found on my way into the studio, which ended up adding an unexpected element to a painting that was missing something. Introducing new elements can break the whole thing open, and get the creativity flowing again when you feel stuck.


This newest body of work very much leans towards spontaneity, rawness, and a visceral quality. I think I was so frustrated with worrying about whether the work was going to be “beautiful” or not. I felt stuck in that worry, so allowing myself to be experimental with the Poetic Abstraction collection got me out of that stuckness and allowed me to make authentic work with a lot of feeling.


Talking about feelings—I hope you don’t mind if we veer into more personal territory. I love the story about your mom asking how you feel after you cry because you are known to cry now and then. Your paintings come out of reflex and instinct. The poems you write afterward and the subsequent titles you give to the paintings are emotionally charged. Is there catharsis when you paint or finish pieces?


Laura: Oh absolutely, on multiple points. I am definitely a crier, it’s how I’ve always been. It’s how emotions have always moved through me – happiness, sadness, anger, stress… These all can (and do) lead to tears for me. I was teased and always told I was too sensitive throughout my life, but I’ve grown to love that part of myself because it’s the part of me that feels deeply.


My work is absolutely cathartic to make, and I’m so grateful for that. As I’m creating, I often don’t know why I’m making what I’m making. The messages around each piece come to me after the fact, during reflection. So many things lie underneath our surfaces, you know? The titles of my work and the poems that come out are almost like my higher self giving my current self advice and reminders about life.



I’ve read some of your poetry on Instagram. Is it all free verse? …and why don’t you have them collected on your website?!!!!


Laura: All of my poetry is free verse. Poetry is just something I’ve done as a hobby since I was young to express myself and my thoughts. It found its way into my art practice when I noticed that the work I was making inspired me to write poetry during or after its creation. It felt so organic, but also vulnerable to share. I started giving these handwritten poems as a small, additional gift to collectors when they purchased paintings, and so far it seems they’ve enjoyed that.


I am working on compiling my poems to make them available to read on my website. Truthfully, they’re all just crammed into a folder on the Notes app on my phone, which is where I write down anything and everything interesting that comes to mind. Eventually, I want to publish a book of my poems and art… just putting that out into the universe.


I’m looking forward to this show highlighting the poetry I write as well as the art. It’s like inviting you into my mind… or into my journal/notes app.



I’m so excited to walk through your mind and sneak a peek into your “journal” during your show. What are you most excited about in your upcoming solo show? Is there anything else you want readers to know about your work before seeing the exhibition?

 

Laura: Yes! I just want to say that the poetry I include in the show is not meant to dictate what the work is about. It’s only to accompany it, to add to the conversation, and to give you insight into my creative process. My work is abstract, so everyone sees something different. That’s what I love about abstraction – it usually means something different to everyone, and really, it’s a reflection of ourselves and our life experiences.


Also, I’m not going to judge you if you cry. I’ll probably cry with you.




 

  

 



 

 



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