Colorado Springs artist Wendy Mike is well known for her three-dimensional, energetic expressions of the human body. Her current installation with De Lane Bredvik at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College, Ragnarӧk Anthropocene, explores the Norse myth of war between gods and giants, using it to shed light on our responsibility in shaping our environment. And her upcoming exhibition at the Kreuser Gallery explores identity and solidarity as women. Our Holiday 2017 features an interview with Wendy Mike. Here’s more of the conversation.
Springs: What is your artistic sensibility?
Wendy Mike: I have a strong classical figurative background. I’m such a kinesthetic person myself, and that’s how I experience the world. So it’s nice to be working with figure again. I love the human form; I’m going with that for as long as it lasts. I also tend toward low-tech materials, for financial reasons and what I call a more female sensibility. Things don’t have to be bronze, or you don’t need big muscles in order to create formal art. I knew I should be a different kind of artist.
Describe some of your experience connecting the Colorado Springs community with art?
I started FutureSelf, which was a nonprofit organization that worked with youth at risk. Out of my own life experience, art had been the place I could come home to. It didn’t surprise me at all that art would benefit kids having a hard time. It came in on a wave in 2000, with programs spontaneously springing up across the country, and using art as a tool for transformation with youth at risk. Now the value of creativity is mainstream, but back then it was pretty radical. We influenced not just the kids, but also the whole community. We used local artists as teachers. That broadened their perspective about their own value. [Editor’s note: The nonprofit FutureSelf existed for 10 years before decreased funding led to its dissolution in 2011.]
For Ragnarӧk Anthropocene, you interviewed people who experienced the Waldo Canyon Fire. What were some of the responses?
The interviews became a much less overt part of the exhibition, but I wanted to involve people. I felt like we hadn’t addressed it as a community, and I wanted to do that. What I came away with was a sense that when your life literally burns up, what you’re left with is what really matters: your relationships. Everyone talked about the pain of losing the things they held dear, but how by losing them, they also became present to what’s important. Even though [the interviews] didn’t wind up in the installation, it informed the installation. I think that’s important too; a lot of the work you do isn’t necessarily seen, but it’s there. I think that’s part of our homework as artists.
What inspires you in your work?
In the case of this [upcoming] show in December, it’s my response to the politics of our world, my identify as a woman and my sense of solidarity with other women. Something is being exposed that I did not think was as extensive and intractable as it is. And I have to respond to that. The work will be still using figure. I’ll still be using packing tape, thread, wire, paper, plaster and wood. I’m using all of that to draw attention to conditions current in my own life and in the world.
Wendy Mike’s free solo show, Solid-HER-ity: The Goddess Among Us, explores solidarity with women and opens at the Kreuser Gallery on Dec. 1.
Mike’s “progressive artist talk” exploring the connections between Ragnarӧk Anthropocene and Solid-HER-ity takes place Dec. 14, beginning at the Fine Arts Center at 5:30 p.m and moves the Kreuser Gallery.