Spirit and Sex: A word with Mia Calderone.
In some way or another, we all have forces within ourselves that are screaming to get out and eventually they find their own ways of escaping; sometimes intentionally, but often without our knowledge. This is the beauty of cultivating and exploring our unconscious through means of creation. No matter which form it takes, art and the process of creating are our means of communication with ourselves and thus the world around us. While interviewing illustrator Mia Calderone, she expressed to me that answering some of the questions was very therapeutic and “strangely, I understand my own work better now!”. Some see this as salvation, and salvation itself takes on a myriad of forms all its own.
Of course, it should come as no surprise that Mia’s representation of the infamous dark and carnal Hebrew character Lilith is what initially drew me in, as I find salvation in evoking and embracing both spiritual and carnal aspects of my life. Thriving off of the energies of sexual expression and religious culture, I found Mia and her work to be quite intriguing.
CN: First off, what attracts you to creating dark imagery?
MC: I have never considered my drawings dark exactly, but I am attracted to the fragility of the human form. What I am most interested in is exploring the mortality of our form and the dueling thus caused within it.
CN: When and why did you start creating?
MC: This is a difficult concept. We all strive to achieve mastery as soon as our consciousness allows for the awareness of it. We crave it as means to implant ourselves in the minds of our society and its generations to come. Because of our need to imprint on each other, we create constantly without awareness. I started creating illustrative work with the awareness of its intent sometime in my early teens as a means to communicate spiritual and sexual frustration that could not have been properly addressed otherwise, considering my catholic background and location.
CN: Who are the women in your drawings?
The women are personifications of single emotions or reactions. When I was in grade school, while still in Brazil, I created a character named Mia Medalha. Mia being my first name, and Medalha meaning medal or trophy. In my mind, she was the perfect sponge of conflict and discontent, absorbing the problems of my 10 year old life while smiling vacantly into the distance. I no longer use Mia Medalha specifically, but I would assume that she is probably the origin of my figures.
CN: Why the female form?
MC: A woman is a very powerful image. I find the female form more engaging and more meaningful due to cultural and social associations attached to the concept of a woman.
MC: The women themselves are not goddesses or spiritual figures; the figures are products of a spiritual conversation. My line use and the created image are an act of worship: a sort of internal communion. I believe this is why these female figures, these women, radiate a contained spirituality.
CN: Often, sexuality can be seen as a religious or spiritual act. What are your thoughts on this?
MC: I believe sexuality is directly related to spirituality. I have been raised Catholic, which is very restrictive on the topic of sex, but in the environment and culture that Catholicism built where I developed, sexuality was expressed with ease among friends and family, while denied in church. But providing this special law it becomes impossible to separate the two. While you feel shame for expressing your sexuality, you became aware of you spirituality. In this way, I believe they are merged as an expression of faith through sin.
CN: You have stated that several of your influences come from the Catholic Church. In what ways do you draw inspiration and how does your artwork reflect this?
MC: Many of my compositions are similar to traditional etchings, woodcuts and illustrations that permeate the catholic religion and its history. I derive much of my inspiration from Illustrated manuscripts and Catholic architecture. The pieces themselves are inspired by the culture of Catholicism more than the religion itself. Most of my work involves a conflict between the religious context of my upbringing, and the secular nature of my current lifestyle.
CN: Are you influenced by any other religion?
MC: I am more attracted to the cultures associated with other religions than with specifically any religious structure or belief system. Those cultures include Hindu, Native American, Celtic, and Guarani. However, I also explore the mentality of atheism, and pagan beliefs in contrast to my own.
CN: I noticed that you collaborated with filmmaker Sridhar Reddy, creating an art piece for an the upcoming film, Lilith. What do you feel your piece represents?
MC: Well, my first intent was of coarse to properly illustrate the film so much so the symbolism is based on passages from the script. I did take some liberties and from separate conclusions, which can be found in the sea of hands holding Lilith into the air, and the barrier or mountain range, that disconnects her from her sister. These are representations of abuse, and alienation. I don’t want to give too much away since Lilith is a spectacular script!
CN: What is it about human anatomy that you find so intriguing?
MC: I am attracted to its fragility. We find ourselves to be invincible, but we are very weak creatures. I like to emphasize this through signs of mortality.
CN: Coming from two cultures, how has your heritage affected your artistic views, if at all?
MC: Being from two very different cultures alienates you. You are never entirely sure of your belonging in either setting. My art has always been a direct response to that cultural and ethnic mid ground.
CN: What other mediums do you work with, if any?
MC: I feel a bit embarrassed to admit but I work exclusively with Pen and Ink. I am colorblind so color frustrates me. I do like to work in graphite and charcoal when doing figure studies.
CN: Have you been working on any new projects lately?
MC: I have been working on a million things at once. I always start five or six new drawing at the same time. Currently I’m doing my best to finish a drawing exploring homosexuality and tentacles. It sounds very silly when said without having the drawing to show!
CN: Thank you so much for letting us interview you!
MC: You’re welcome!