AN INTERVIEW WITH PHILADELPHIA BASED ARTIST MIA ROSENTHAL
Where were you born?
I was born in Cranston, Rhode Island, and later moved to New York to attend Parsons School of Design, where I earned a BFA in illustration.
Where do you currently live, and what’s the art scene like there?
In 2006 I moved to Philadelphia to attend Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), where I earned my MFA in 2008. I think Philadelphia is a great place for artists in general. There are lots of artists here, lots of creativity it doesn’t feel like there’s pressure to do one thing or another. Artistically Philadelphia is probably best known for all the artist collectives, the DIY spirit and the availability of large studio spaces that allow artists to take on big projects. I don’t really fit into this narrative as I’m fortunate to show with a contemporary works on paper gallery in Philadelphia, Gallery Joe, and a lot of my work is pretty small! That said the artist community here to me feels open and collaborative in a way that’s very accepting about doing what you want as an artist.
What are your career highlights?
I was so honored to receive a Leonore Annenberg Fellowship Fund Grant for the Performing and Visual Arts in 2014. Thanks to their support I was able to, among other things, focus on generating a lot of new work, and travel to CERN to see the Large Hadron Collider on the border of France and Switzerland. In 2015 I had my first solo museum show at PAFA, titled Paper Lens. As part of the exhibition I created my first wall drawing, Expanding Universe, which evolved over the run of the show, growing over time. My first big career highlight was an acquisition of a drawing by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2009, which was exciting and validating!
How does drawing relate to your artistic practice?
My current practice consists entirely of drawing. Drawing is its own kind of translation, and it is a tool I use to explore, learn, select, organize, and build through thought and marks. People have been drawing for at least 30,000 years – there is something fundamental about observing, processing that information, and then picking up a tool to draw it in ones own hand, with one’s own voice. In the process of making each drawing I understand my source material in a new physical way, through the process of constructing it, and I consider my work to be part of the rich tradition of observational drawing.
What is your current project and your next goal?
In my current series, I have been drawing significant inventions, such as a Hand Axe, a brick, the Zero and Morse code. Each invention is juxtaposed with an image of the cosmos. The age of the invention is the same as the distance in light years from Earth as a celestial object in the drawing. The drawings are a kind of meditation on history, time, space, evolution, speed and connectivity. As a mom of an eight year old and a 19 month old, my current goal is to draw consistently, try to still see as much art as possible and make it to openings and events whenever I can.
What inspires you?
Well, I like to learn and try to understand new things, and one of the joys of being an artist is the freedom to approach any topic without feeling the need to be somehow an expert. The process of observation, learning, and grappling with how to turn an idea into something visual is central to my practice. I remember seeing the Hubble Telescope image Pillars of Creation probably 20 years ago, and it capturing my imagination. The image has the quality of being both inarguably real and existing in the universe, yet the name, and the way the colors in the image have been manipulated make it an artistic interpretation, romantic and dreamy.
I like to challenge myself and have started making studies outdoors from direct observation, and have been looking at my Dürer book, in particular the engraving Melencolia I, which has pretty much has it all: gorgeous linework, beautiful hidden details and intellectual content.
What are your thoughts about THE LINE DRAWING PROJECT?
This is a great project and I had fun participating! I especially liked seeing what Michelle Weinberg made in response to my drawing, and how she incorporated certain elements but in a totally fresh way. It’s also quite interesting how the abstract artists respond to the representational pieces, and vice versa.
It was a pleasure. Thank you very much, Mia.
‘Hand Axe + Magellanic Clouds’, 2017
Ink on paper
9" x 9"
‘Gravitational Lens’, 2016
Ink on paper mounted to panel
24" diameter circle
‘Rosetta Deep Field #1’, 2017
Ink and graphite on paper
7" x 5"