Interview Written & Conducted by: Chris Kelly
Montreal based Street Artist & ‘Artful Vadal’, MissMe, uses her skills as an artist to bring often neglected discussions to the foreground of society by sharing her inner dialogue with the world through her huge murals. Voted number three in Complex’s list of ‘Women in Street Art at the moment’, MissMe is a much beloved and highly respected member of the international graffiti community. We were due to speak to MissMe in advance of her gallery opening at the Amsterdam based OD GALLERY, but unfortunately this was yet another highly anticipated event to be lost to the annals of corona history. Luckily, we still got the chance to hear all about the incredible work she has created both in past, present and future, as well as getting her thoughts on how we can help bring more women into street art. We look forward to welcoming MissMe to Amsterdam once this bullshit year has ended.
Quick 3: How long have you been an artist for? How and when did you first pick up a spray can ? what was it like to see your first design out in public?
“I’ve been an artist all my life to be honest, that’s not something that started on a particular day. I started ‘working the streets’ in January 2012. My main material is actually paper, i draw and then use China Ink, pencils or paint but rarely do i use actual spray cans. The first time i ever saw my work in the streets it was an incredible feeling, it felt like a little part of me was in the world. Until then, i felt the world didn’t really reflect anything that was inside myself: Non of my values, non of the things that mattered to me were being represented. I felt like a complete alien, so when i started putting my work in the streets it was like a part of me existed in the world outside of me”.
What does your creative process look like? Do you have a clear vision of the end result or is it more experimental?
“My creative process usually begins with an emotion, event, somebody or something that happens, from that moment on i draw how that emotion would best be expressed to me. It enables me to make those feelings towards the catalyst clearer once its outside of my head. Once i draw it and scan them, i print them and either color them before heading to the streets or i will edit them in Photoshop to add a bunch of different layers to it. I sometime superimpose a load of drawings or collage a bunch of different images that i will either cut out or paint directly onto my piece”.
Female empowerment and the celebration of iconic powerful women is at the center of almost every work of art you create. Why was it so important to you to utilize your skills as an artist to tackle societal issues and to what extent do you think street artists have a responsibility to continue the tradition of using graffiti as a way to challenge society?
“I cannot speak for other artists as its not my place to decide what other artists should and shouldn’t do. Artists are artists for various different reasons, some art is very personal so by nature, it isn’t linked to the public space or public events. I am definitely a little bit of both, my very personal experiences are very much related to the public & contemporary reality, therefor i often tackle both. Through making my art about my own personal experiences i will tackle societies experiences, i have realized a lot of the ‘personal’ is often universal. Often my most personal works turned out to be the ones that resonate with the most amount of people”.
Your latest series “Vandals 2′ contrasts militant-like imagery with the female body. How important is is to change how society views the female body by reframing the contexts that we see it in?
“I definitely believe it is very important to change the way that society has decided how women should be, how they should be valued and what they should be appreciated for. I think women should decide themselves how they wish to be represented. It has become very complicated because it has been ingrained in us. That is, the ways that we were tough consciously or subconsciously by society as to what we should do to be appreciated and valued. It is instilled in us by others, the reasons to be happy about ourselves. It is always through a male gaze or through a weird male appreciation”.
“I think the logical evolution of our liberation is this: taking control of how we decide to value ourselves & what makes us a women. What actually makes us women are non of the things that others have decided for us, rather it is just everything that we are. Womanhood should be defined by women”.
“All the sexualisation, all the deciding what’s good for us and whats not needs to change. We should be granted the dignity of choosing when to be sexualised and not the shape of our bodies or what we wear should not decide for us. We dont ever say a man decided to be sexual and is asking for attention because hes wearing jeans that show the shape of his butt. Everyone just agrees that he might just like to dress like that or feels good in it, he will only be deemed sexual if he approaches someone in a sexual way.”
Who are some of your key Graffiti influences & How did these artists influence you and is there anyone else whose work you draw inspiration from?
“In terms of my Graffiti influences there are many, they go from Basquiat to Hassan Hajjaj, Shepard Fairey , Matisse , Picasso’s drawing work which i adore are all influence. There are many more but i draw elements from all these artists”.
When creating a large piece of street art, do you like to portray a clear message or do you prefer to leave the interpretation of the viewer?
“When it comes to work I’m doing in the streets, i have a very clear idea of what i want to say. In a lot of cases it is understood that way, but often people bring there own interpretations and see it through there own lens. I think that’s a beautiful thing so i try not to control that”.
Sadly, Graffiti here in the Netherlands is largely a male dominated industry, how do you think we can encourage more women to pick up a spray can and take to the streets?
“Its very male dominated everywhere to be totally honest. However, the more and more that you see women, hear the voice of women and watch women working in the street that create things that aren’t stereotypical pink and super ‘girly’, the more i think it will encourage women in all our variety and complexity to take to the streets and create”.
Who are you yet to immortalise in paint that you wish too & if you could meet and have a conversation with any of the iconic women you have painted, who would it be?
“There is a bunch of brilliant women i am yet to draw. Harriet Tubman has always been a personal hero of mine, i haven’t drawn her yet but i very well may do so at some point in the future. I was recently working on a new project to honor some incredible female scientist’s, mathematicians & astrophysicists that contributed greatly to developments over the last few decades. Particularly those who have either not been honored enough or those who have had there discoveries stolen by men. As for who would i love to talk to out of the women i have painted, i would have to say Ellen Keller! She absolutely fascinates me!”
Finally, we were extremely sad that your exhibit at the O.D Gallery here in Amsterdam was postponed due to Corona, do you still intend to come to Amsterdam and if so is there any chance of a Miss Me mural appearing in our streets while you are here ?
“Look this whole Covid thing has just messed everything up for everybody. I had everything ready to ship and i was so so excited to come to Amsterdam, you have no idea! So that didn’t happen but hopefully that will happen sometime extremely soon.”