The Proximity of Conversation, mixed media on unstretched raw linen, bamboo, paracord, carabiners,2015, 65 x 60 inches
How did you get into debt?
I slowly accumulated debt as an undergraduate working full time for four years. It was incredibly difficult but I finished my BFA with $40,000 in debt in 2011. Unable to find a full time job, I worked a few part time jobs and did side gigs constantly. With the understanding that an MFA was the route to steady work as a professor and exhausted from working so many jobs I moved to California to attend CalArts. My savings was depleted from the move and I lived in my van at first. Although I was loosely promised good scholarships for grad school, they never materialized. After my first year I nearly dropped out. I was unable to find a paid job over the summer and nearly became homeless. Begging the school to institute a transparent scholarship process and needs based scholarships was ridiculed by administrators. CalArts added $100,000 to my debt.
Pathological Optimism, animated projection, acrylic on unstretched raw canvas, grommets, bamboo, paracord, carabiners 2015 56 x 146 inches
How does your economic reality effect your art?
My current and seemingly endless economic reality profoundly affects not only my ability to make art but the kind of art I create. Some days I am barely able to function due to exhaustion from working so much and stress from worrying about looming homelessness and debt. I dream about being able to slather on thick layers of paint and buy expensive canvases and supports. Most of my brushes are very ragged. I often make work on with garbage. When putting paint on a palette mixing a color that turns out wrong or accidentally having paint dry causes panic. It’s too expensive to waste. I dream of a time when I can work for days without interruption. Instead I sneak in an hour here or there in-between gigs and applying for more work. My notebooks are filled with ideas that I will never be able to make. I have stayed in abusive relationships before so I had the stability of a place to live. One man I was with destroyed a number of my works and pawned most of my best tools. He took a number of my works with him and I never saw them again.
Medusa Tells Her Own Story, mixed media on unstretched primed canvas, aluminum, carabiners, stainless steel bolts, 2016, 38 x 40.5 inches
Would your work look different if you weren't in debt?:
The chaos of poverty, debt and constantly struggling to survive is an ever-present distraction from making artwork. It takes a toll and manifests in severe depression, destruction of relationships, chronic illnesses, inefficiency and eventually job losses. Unable to find consistent work, many millennials work gig work and that takes DAILY hustling for jobs. I can only dream about the art I could make if I didn’t have debt and poverty hanging over my head. I took a temporary job working 60+ hours a week but the payments on my government only loans took 20% of my pay and housing was 60%. There was nothing left and I quit when my health started to fail. I would be able to paint every day. Maybe I would have a studio. Maybe I would feel as if I could think clearly.
Mickey Leaks- Crashing the Board Meeting- (Documentation, a campaign protesting high tuition and lack of transparency at Cal Arts) 2013-2015