Taken from the exhibition catalogue Megan Solis: Christina is a Coward (Hello Studio, 2016)
As I walk into Hello Studio to meet Megan Solis for the first time, I am met with piles of costumes and fabrics, while brightly colored mixed-media collages are being assembled on tables nearby. The scene resembles a backstage setting rather than a gallery. Here, I discover an artist whose work is fueled by anxiety and various vices, and whose performances seem a compulsive attempt at recreating a lost innocence.
There is a bit of a “sweet and sour” element to your performance work. Would you agree?
It does have this attractiveness to it but also revulsion to it as well. There’s tension. I like the idea of people seeing these things that are kind of comforting and recognizable, but also seeing it out of context and in this different light which sort of breeds fear and discomfort. I think there are a lot of juxtaposing elements, the sweetness and the sourness, or the comfortable and the not so comfortable; I like that.
It reminds me a bit of a Johnny Depp film, which always have these child-like characters yet there is something kind of menacing about them.
You mean, like Edward Scissorhands? Yes, I can see that. I think they are characters that want to be complete or they want to be this idea of perfection, and there is the sense that they are trying to obtain that, but they are always failing. There is this sense of sympathy or empathy people have for them because I guess these are traits that they see in themselves, and things that they are also insecure about.
Does film inspire your work in any way?
My favorite types of films are totally unrealistic and the type that get me out of my own head. The majority of the times I like to watch films like Disney that will make me feel not so horrible – things that will make me feel neutral or just make me feel good.
What about children’s stories?
I like the idea of innocence in childhood stories, and I kind of feel like I’m trying to do that with my work – like there is this sense of naïve appeal. As far as being inspired by specific children’s books, I don’t consciously do that. But I can see how a child would be attracted to the type of work I do because of the dolls or bright colors, but it’s not for children.
It seems masks and dolls are recurring themes in your work. Do you find it difficult to make yourself vulnerable in front of audiences?
I just started making dolls for this residency. I usually like performing in things that are covering me or things that change me and transform me into something other. I think that a whole lot of what I’m trying to do is just other myself from the general people. I think using the costumes in performances makes it easier because it’s not me; it becomes like this out of body experience in a way because I’m hiding my face and I’m putting on wigs…
You recently graduated from college. How has your work evolved in the years since you started?
It’s gotten way more vulnerable, honest, and self-deprecating. I had a professor who told me ‘don’t make art that’s just cool because that doesn’t last, make art that people – whether now, or in the future – will feel.’ That’s something that you should aspire to do as an artist rather than just doing things that are in the “now” or “cool” because that doesn’t last. I’d like to think my art has evolved from being something that was merely aesthetically pleasing to something I want people to relate to – whomever that may be.
Where do you see your artistic practice heading?
I’m always wanting my art to still be “raw,” but, at the same time, more conceptually driven and more performance driven as well. If I had money, I would like to do larger projects and more public works that a mass audience could enjoy. I would like to take it outside of the gallery walls into something that can be seen more by different audiences. I’d like to see it get out of the ‘white cube’ scenario.
What would you say is the biggest lesson you learned in art school?
Although art school is great, you don’t need it to make anything happen. I think that the majority of things that I’ve done have been using the resources that I’ve gained on my own. If you don’t push yourself to get out of it a bit, you’re going to make work that’s too safe and that can mean just doing shows outside of school or doing a residency outside of the country. You don’t need school to be a good artist, but it’s great if you want people who know better than you do to call you out when you’re being lazy or when you’re bullshiting.
What did you find the most challenging during your time in school?
I felt like I was stuck in a certain city. I grew up in San Antonio and I went to UTSA so the hardest part was just being here and having to stay in San Antonio when I wanted to leave and not be here. There is something to be said about the artists who are making this city better – as far as art goes – but for me, just being here would not make me grow or be a better artist. As a person who grew up in San Antonio, who’s safe with their family, I feel like I need to push myself and really go for it. I don’t think I would be happy to just show in San Antonio or Texas forever.
Can you elaborate on some of the ideas behind this show?
With this show there are a lot of high school-themed pieces. I was thinking about how much that has carried into my adulthood and how much I haven’t changed, or have changed; how that kind of relates to making art for me. I’ve never been a person that has felt I was a part of anything. Even in high school I didn’t have any friends. I spent my lunches in the bathroom, or in the library and read. It wasn’t like it was horrifying for me because I wasn’t bullied, I just didn’t have anybody to talk to. I think that carries on into my adult life; I have a hard time making relationships with other people and there is a struggle for me to keep connections with other people. I think art for me is the only thing I’ve ever had that does that in some way, but also, it kind of pushes people away…
Christina is a Coward was held at Hello Studio in San Antonio,TX June 30 – August 5, 2016.