Miss Me’s instagram bio reads “ Artful Vandalism.” Admittedly, it’s difficult to describe her and her work in just two words. But, if you happen to be one of her devout followers, you know that her unapologetic presence is nothing short from real and loud. Her insight on societal norms and how she challenges them are what some would call a real inspiration to women of all ages and backgrounds. From our conversation with MissMe, we learned about her creativity, narrative and much more — including what art means in her life, and the importance of only doing what moves you.
Did you always know that you were going to become an artist?
Yes and no. I always knew I was going to become an artist in general because I never did anything else. I did a lot of different types of arts but I didn’t know it would be this. I could've never been anything. I was an art director before becoming my own artist. I always had to pursue a creative job, let's just put it that way. With anything else, I have no focus, no patience, and I physically can't do it. It's the weirdest thing and my body just shuts down. I never studied art per say but my background is in graphic design.
[caption id="attachment_6549" align="alignnone" width="1000"] A mural by Montreal artist MissMe featuring images of Leonard Cohen and Marie-Joseph Angélique on the laneway wall of Lloydie's on Saint-Viateur Street West in Montreal on Monday November 26, 2018. Dave Sidaway / Montreal Gazette ORG XMIT: 61783[/caption]
What's one message you are trying to convey in your art?
Power and worth.
Does your upbringing play a part in where and who you are today?
My mom was amazing. Growing up I would paint, dance, music, and sang in a choir. I even did music theory. But my mom always took us to the theater, opera, museums, and art shows. She always exposed us to various types of arts and culture. I've been going to the opera since I was a child because she loved it. I feel it's not adapted to our times, attention, spam, and it's not really our language anymore. So I actually don't really like classical opera. The only operas that I actually enjoy is what was classically called “Opera Bouffe.” It’s the comic kind of opera; the kind that was not as fancy because they're actually funny and the music is good. So you're entertained by both the music and the storyline. It has a certain identity as opposed to the classical tragedy ones.
Is there something that impacted or resonates with you, that you try to portray in your art?
I think that everything I see, wherever I go, impacts me whether it does so consciously or subconsciously. I'm a museum kind of geek and every time I travel, I go to the museum as opposed to my friends because they go eat and have cocktails. I'm going to visit them and take my time. History museums are my favorite to see for all the old art because it blows my mind. I look for imperfections or errors, like a slip in the brush or what tells a story, for example, Egyptian Art. My favorite is the MoMa in New York. Everytime I’m there, I have to go and I now know it by heart. Museums truly bring me alive and make me feel like I belong again. Bookstores and drag shows too make me feel really safe. Drag Queen show’s performances , and the people, are magical. There's not a single time where I was not deeply depressed and actually went because they bring me back to life. It seems so superficial and glittery, but it's so deep though, the reality of this whole history and the idea of their performance is uplifting. I take it super seriously even though you’re not supposed to. It's amazing. Drag queens are true queens. The LGBTQ plus community and their history is a very hard and sad one. It has so much oppression and, throughout the world really, there's not that many exceptions where different people and queer people were just accepted. And through that, the beauty, the happiness, the smiles and the fabulousness that comes out of it is inspiring. They’re themselves and it's their truth. For them, they have to survive and be like, this is who I am. This is me and I have the exact same rights as everybody else to live my truth and be here. It's only right.
How did you shut the naysayers and those who doubted you when you were first starting?
I never listened to any of it. I couldn't because this was never about them. I'm doing MY thing for myself, no one else, and I know WHY. I was lucky enough that from the very beginning. I had a bunch of people that really just sent me words of support and shared how I really helped them and gave them strength, just like it gave me strength. That alone was reassurance that this is worth it. If I have 10 haters for one person that is really feeling good about it, then it's worth it. My family and friends were like “ I guess she needs to do this”. It’s also not easy to tell me what to do because that is my personality. My parents and family know that the best way to have me do something is to tell me not to do it. So strategy wise, there's really no way around it, you know?
What inspired you when you started? Did you have any mentors?
My own emotions and opinions that I didn't see outside of myself are what inspired me. I didn’t have any mentors, however it would have most probably made my experience less fearful. I would have done less technical mistakes. I would've probably thought bigger, technically. I still think that I can learn a lot and if I had some kind of mentor, that would really help me.I am full of fear. I'm just trying to deal with it and not let it affect my life. I face it because there's no way I'm going to let this keep me from having the life I want to have. So it’s more of a motivation than fear. But it's a struggle. I fear a lot of things, but I just decided to try to fight it all the time. So it's like a motivation to want to be the best that I can be and live the life that I have. With every year that's passing by, I know that I'm not going to get back. This life is now. I was thinking about that this morning and I was like, I think the enemy of freedom is fear for sure. And then the second one is ignorance.
I tried to fight my fear and I try to learn as much as I can. It's easier to navigate what you don’t know because you have less options and your thinking is limited. Humans are masters of adaptation. Even in small, confined environments, you know, mental possibilities still adapt. They're there. They're the ladder of emotions, happiness and pain. The smaller the cage, the easier it is to find yourself, the king of it. Right? The bigger it is, the harder it is for you to be like, I got this. Humility is a hard feeling.
What’s one of the challenges that you surmounted in the beginning of your career?
The biggest obstacle, it's still going on. It's my own fear. The fear of letting people in to help me to grow. I've been doing all of this completely alone. It's been really hard letting people in to my life or my work because it was so close to me, and it's still a big challenge to grow this as big as I want it. It’s my own struggles but I feel that if I was a man, I wouldn’t suffer from the doubts. I look around me and I see how male artists are. They've always thought bigger. They've always wanted to do things that are bigger or had no problems selling things that I honestly would have never done if it was not at a certain level of art that I thought it should be, before I could even sell or put it somewhere. And they were like, “no this is good I'll put it up, no problem”. And I always was judging myself saying “It's not good enough. No, you don't deserve to be in those places. You have to work harder at it”. Then, when people approach me saying we should do this project and it's going to be big, I'm like “ oh, I don't know. Do I really think it's worth it?”. Which makes me think that if I was a guy, I'm so sure I would have never even questioned that.
All these doubts could really hinder you from growing as much as you could.
It will never be necessarily at the level that I want. So yes, it constantly pushes me too, to perfect myself. It's not a good way of thinking. And I feel it's a very feminine way of thinking but it says that I'm working on myself through my art. I mention that it's a feminie way of thinking because as women, we doubt ourselves so much. Men are more inclined to be like “I'll do it. I'll go get it”. And it's amazing. It's not a bad thing that they're like that, it’s just we need to have that attitude as well. We have so much more to work through because men are not going to say they're privileged, but I'm going to say that they’re taught it from a young age, to be more entitled than women. They are privileged in certain ways. They totally are and you can totally say it.
What do you think you would credit to your success?
Probably the fact that I kept my work very authentic in a way that I just really kept it very close to my emotions and feelings the whole time. And I'm still very close to my work, which is why it's hard for me to just produce new stuff. So I think that's probably why people understand what I do.
What's one thing you know now that you wish you knew when you first began?
That I am good enough. My own demons and upbringing stopped me. But no, I'm good enough and I deserve this space. Those are two things that I'm still working on and that's something that I've learned through this process.
How do you manage your international presence now?
It's a nice reminder that I'm okay. I can continue doing what I'm doing because it's not just me talking to myself and no one paying attention. The fact that people recognize it gives me perspective because I see how my work in society is, in a certain way. And so I know that I can continue doing this. I'm not just crazy doing my art alone in my studio.
How would you define your practice and what makes it different from other artists?
I can't really speak for others. It's hard for me to do that, but I know that everything that I do is an opinion and a deep emotion and not necessarily just as an abstract sense of aesthetic There's something I think in my work that's, that's very blunt and maybe easy to understand, which is why some people will criticize what I do because you get it easily, like it's not, it's not that complicated to understand. And so some people will think that it's first level but it's okay and I don’t mind it.
What advice would you give to young artists that are just starting out or someone that's trying to break free from what they are doing to pursue their dream?
Don't do anything to please others. Don't do things that you think others want you to do. You will never do something good and you will never be satisfied with yourself. It’s very hard but it’s the right way to do things.
When people look back at like where you are right now, what do you hope they'll say about you?
I hope they say that my work was honest, my work was relevant and spoke about a part of reality that we all lived.You can understand a part of my reality and a lot of other people's reality through my art and that it translates more than some kind of aesthetic. It translate a part of our reality that is relevant in that way.
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