Born in Reading, Pennsylvania, I obtained my BFA in Studio Art at New York University. There, I co-founded White Toy Box, an arts organization dedicated to transforming accessible spaces into creative meeting places. During my time at NYU Abu Dhabi, I was a Fellow and then a Technical Specialist in Visual Arts with a specialization in Sculpture. Upon returning to the States, I have dedicated myself to nurturing the arts in my hometown by becoming the Exhibitions Coordinator at GoggleWorks Center for the Arts.
Over the last six years, I have exhibited on four continents: North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. My first solo show, Night Light, took place in NYUAD's Project Space, as did my second solo show, people are birds with wings ingrown, whose title was inspired by Nichita Stănescu’s poem In Praise of People. I attended a residency at De Liceiras 18 in Porto, Portugal where I executed a three-week long performance creating an installation engulfing my bedroom, Tender Indifference, referencing Joseph Beuys’ I Like America and America Likes Me. The following spring my third solo show, Floral Furnace, inspired by Nayyirah Waheed’s Flower work, took place in Ostrava, Czech Republic at Kalerie s čupr uměním Saigon. I have traveled to Sofia, Bulgaria, where I took part in the Water Tower Art Festival, creating an iteration of my safe space series in an abandoned train station, Nest, influenced by Susan Sontag’s A Place for Fantasy, Tracey Emin’s Everyone I Have Ever Slept With, and Louise Bourgeois' Lair.
Bourgeois said, ‘Art is a guaranty of sanity.’ Being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2016, I admit, derailed my life and my denial of it elongated this experience. Now that I am healthy, I strive to become a positive voice within the mental health community as an artist, curator, and culture producer. I hope for my work to make conversations about mental health less taboo, and as a vehicle for this discourse, I created Sofia Mish.
Sofia is my other half, literally. I like to think of us as a Lady with a Fault Line: as powerful as an earthquake and divided by the lines in the earth of my body. Sofia crawls along the floorboards of my human flesh home and makes herself comfortable in the folds of my skin. Many people try to define her as a pseudonym, but that is much too easy to swallow for a woman so rough around the edges. It is more truthful to define her as a performance, a living personification of a mental illness.
The goal of my current practice, more specifically with my recent collaborations with Sofia, is to form an understanding of the presence of mental illness within my body. I strive to demonstrate the transformation that can take place by developing healthy habits, taking medication, and pursuing creative endeavors. Visual representations of my relationship with Sofia are expressed through evolving articulations of ‘safe space,’ e.g. Birdhouse, Nest, Blanket Fort. The Lady with a Fault Line series is a variation on the concept of ‘safe space’ as it refers to this ‘space’ as being created by the fabric with which we clothe our bodies; these works are inspired by both Louise Bourgeois’ cast Echo series and Senga Nengudi’s stretched stocking sculptural performances. The personal is political and writings on mental health by both Kay Redfield Jamison and Bessel A. van der Kolk ground my conceptual investigation of Sofia, as well as help argue her relevance within our greater society.
julie & sofie