How would you describe your work?
I never know how to answer this question! I’d say I’m a process based artist who works on a large scale and is very obsessed with the human emotional experience. Even when I’m painting a seascape, I’m really just painting how it feels to be small in the presence of something massive. I don’t paint what something looks like; I paint what it feels like. When it feels right then it’s finished.
I’m getting used to this idea that the process is the art -- that my work isn’t this thing that only happens in the studio. It’s the whole dynamic expression of being Mikaela. My life’s work is figuring out how to meaningfully communicate and engage with people. Making art objects is just one way I’m doing that.
How does being on the autistic spectrum affect your process/your work?
It’s more intuitive for me to think about it in reverse. How does being an artist affect my experience as a person with Asperger’s syndrome? It’s everything! When I am working in the studio I feel calm and strong. I still struggle with basic adult tasks. Sensory overload, social anxiety, executive functioning still slow me down, but it’s manageable. With a constant studio practice, I have fewer meltdowns, anxiety attacks, and my brain doesn’t shut down as frequently.
Being an artist has also opened up a world of communication and connection that I didn’t know about. Sharing my work is a natural and intuitive conversation instead of formulaic and hyper intentional. I can be an artist without thinking. As a person on the spectrum that is a rare and invaluable feeling.
My studio is a safe space -- a quiet oasis in a very noisy, chaotic, over-stimulating, fast-paced world. When I invite people into my process, I build micro-relationships that connect me to a world outside of myself. Before sharing my art, I didn’t understand feeling connected to people. I did my best to mimic, but it felt fake-- like a game I wasn’t very good at. People were mainly obstacles I had to navigate which made me feel really uncomfortable.
Now I am part of the dynamic exchange of a community. That is the best feeling -- being a connected and contributing member of something larger than myself.
How did you become an artist?
I still feel pretty new to this whole being an artist thing. I didn’t think being an artist was something worth being for most of my life. It wasn’t until I started reading feminist art theory as an undergraduate that I started to feel all right about becoming an artist.
My parents definitely get the credit for facilitating and encouraging my interest in art. During senior year of high school, my mom bought me art supplies and took me to a local artist’s studio to draw from a model. I wouldn’t take art at school because I was too busy with physics classes. But one day I came home and started painting on my bedroom walls. I think I was 17 or something. It just seemed like a good idea and I went with it.