I don’t remember a time before I was interested in art.
Where were you born and where do you live now?
I am a born and bred New Yorker, resident of Fort Greene, Brooklyn and a die-hard Mets fan.
Tell us about your education.
I realized I was an artist at age 12 when I had to choose where I wanted to go to high school. It was clear to me that the one constant interest in my life had always been drawing (while wanting to be a ballerina, scientist, etc) and that it probably would be forever. Luckily, I got into LaGuardia High School (otherwise known as the “Fame” school) where I majored in studio art, after an interview, 3-hour drawing test and portfolio review. After that I went to Cornell University where I nominally majored in Painting but made a series of interactive sculptures for my BFA thesis. Both were incredible experiences, as much for the exposure to my peers as the education they offered.
What is the one book you will regret never having read?
If I had to choose one book I guess I would say the Old Testament, but I don’t believe in regrets because there’s always an upside to every choice, even the stupid ones. Truthfully, I’ve always sort of wished I’d had a British public school education where I would have read all the classics in Greek and Latin. But realistically I would never have survived a week: I’ve never been good with rules or uniforms or authority figures and am completely incapable of doing basic “maths.”
What is your favorite ingredient?
Favorite ingredient… fresh thyme.
How did you get interested in art?
I don’t remember a time before I was interested in art. I grew up surrounded by art and creative people, and started going to museums as a young child. In retrospect I now realize that not every child is so obsessed with colors, the precise wallpaper pattern in each room, the exact placement of throw pillows on the bed, the specific texture of a leaf, etc. A few years ago I figured out that not everyone sees every letter and number as being a different color. I guess I assigned those early on and to this day see all words as having very specific colors based on the colors of their individual letters. Do other people have that, and if so, is 3 green and 9 purple? Because they are to me.
How has your practice evolved over the course of time?
It is almost laughably the same except that now I have much more confidence in my gut instincts and don’t think about how my process “should” go, look, how other people work, etc. My work is very intuitive, inspired by nature, life experience and my imagination.
My “practice” is as follows: I walk to my studio, which takes about 12 minutes. I unlock the door, say hello to my plants (I am obsessed with succulents), put my stuff down, and turn on WFAN during baseball season or music or NPR if its not too depressing. Then I work. Sometimes I dance around to salsa music or take a walk if I get stuck. When I’m done, I go home or out for Thai food with my husband.
Since college I’ve had the same piece of cardboard on my wall, with a James Baldwin quote in Sharpie: “The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions which have been hidden by the answers.” I hope that if I have a practice this is it.
What do you consider to be your greatest success?
Making work that I’m really excited about and keeps me up at night mulling over ideas. Even though I’m tired and should probably sleep.
If you could ask yourself one question, what would it be and how would you answer?
When are you going to get health insurance already?
For more from the artist, including a video in which she discusses many of the themes related to her work, visit her at http://miapearlman.com
::Image of Mia Pearlman by Catrina Genovese::