In the lead-up to her upcoming, much-anticipated art exhibition ‘Do More Than Exist’, we sat down with MIKARLA TEAGUE (she/her) to chat about all things art, demolishing the patriarchy and crushing the status quo.
Have you always lived in Meanjin?
No, I’m still very new to Meanjin - I’ve always been quite transient upon reflection. I was born and grew up on the beautiful Sunshine Coast Kabi Kabi (Gabi Gabi) and Jinibara land. However, I’ve lived all over most notably Heron Island, a tiny island on the beautiful Great Barrier Reef, and Uluru on gorgeous Anangu land and New York. These special places and many others have been tremendous in sculpting who I am today.
How did you find yourself a part of the Queerhood?
*laughs* I knew from a very young age I was different. I remember having a crush on girls watching Sesame Street. I came out quite early in Grade 8 or 9 and was tremendously bullied for a long while. Other students would yell out across school assembly “Mikarla is a lesbian!”, and I remember just thinking “well, yeah I am?”, it was really very bizarre. I was extremely confused and conscious from a young age why sexuality was so scandalous, and anyone’s business for that matter. It still stumps me. In saying that though, as much as I feel my sexuality is the least interesting aspect about me - I’m immensely proud of my Queerhood, and standing strong in that truly helps others find the courage within themselves to come to terms with whatever they are grappling with.
Do you call yourself an Artist? Is that what you do for a job?
Yes - I guess I call myself an artist and have the tremendous fortune of making money from my creative abilities and work. I believe we are all innately artists, human beings were born to create. I primarily work as an Art Therapist, however - That’s my bread and butter, and my great passion. As douchey as it may sound, however, I resonate with the word “healer''.
Do you find the ‘art world’ supportive of woman?
This is such a complex question. The short answer is no. Interestingly 51 percent of visual artists today are women. But when it comes to exhibitions and gallery representation, the numbers tell a less optimistic story. The truth is that women have never been treated equally in the art world. As recently as 2018, 87% of all artists in museum collections were white men. And this isn’t because women aren’t putting in the work. They are creating as much art as men, but are only getting one-third as many opportunities to display their art in museums and galleries. It’s not hard to grasp the origins of this inequality, given that women were largely banned from artistic professions and training until the 1870s. Untangling the reasons that this inequality persists today is more difficult. The cultural biases of art interpretation, the cliché of the art world “bad boy”, the sexism of aging, the imbalanced weight of parenthood, the proportion of curators, collectors, and gallery representatives who are female; and the lack of assertiveness among female artists could all be proposed as hypothetical causes. And don’t even get me started on our beautiful black female cis and trans sister artists who are totally underrepresented.
What would your ideal world look like for female artists?
We need to enforce quotas ie. 50/ 50 across all representation. We need more institutions and role models nurturing women artists from a young age. And in a way I believe we need to look back and address the women forgotten by art history. There is a tremendous amount of healing and rewriting that needs to be done to move forward. Frances Morris, the Director of Tate Modern put it well recently, she said “My advice to women in the arts today is that it is a changed world. But it really is still a case of pushing and pushing and making opportunities and never being complacent”.
Are you excited for your upcoming exhibition? Is this your first one?
I’m honestly so nervous. The bittersweet thing about being an artist is that there is a deep yearning for your art to be seen and understood - However I loathe the spotlight. I feel Introverts are more inclined to artistic expression. And introverts and big shows don’t really go hand in hand. I think we tend to internalize experiences and issues, thus we are likely to use art as an outlet. I often find difficulty putting an experience into words when it comes to conversations. I’d prefer to “show” rather than tell, thus I find art the perfect way to do this. But in doing this requires putting yourself out there and a huge “vulnerability hangover” afterward *laughs*. This will be my 4th solo show. I’ve done 17 exhibitions in total all around the globe.
Based on your extensive experience working with LGBTIQ+ young people, what do you think we need to do to create a safer place for young queer folks?
Great question. One of the most important is access to safe spaces LGBTIQAP+ young people can feel free to express their sexual orientation, their gender identity, and all of the other dimensions of their being without fear - Which is obviously also critical to ensuring their human rights. Using inclusive language, normalize using and checking in with people's pronouns, unisex bathrooms, Rainbow ally flags, or lanyards clearly visible in your schools and workplaces. It’s truly not rocket science, just treat one another with basic human kindness, empathy, and radical acceptance.
What are your exhibition details?
It's on Friday the 18th of June from 6:30 - 9:30 pm at 477 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley.
The amazingly talented Seamus Kirkpatrick will be performing at 7:30 pm, and my cousin Timmy Teague will also be exhibiting some of his photographs and art too - which I'm so excited for, it's his first exhibition.
We hope you enjoyed this inspiring interview with this creative soul. Please leave a comment and tell us what you're favorite part was. We'd love to hear from you.