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Yah Kakabutra (right) with Maysha Mohamedi (left)
In the Studio

Q&A with guest artist Maysha Mohamedi

Posted on April 15, 2015

In Super Contemporary, on view April 30 through June 17, 2015, guest curator and artist Jenny Sharaf paired five Creativity Explored artists with five local artists to create works that respond to each other’s studio practice.

The impetus for the exhibition was to use the language of color to start a dialogue between both sets of artists to learn and challenge one another, pushing the work in new directions.  

For the exhibition, San Francisco-based artist Maysha Mohamedi is paired with Kaocrew "Yah" Kakabutra. After working with Yah for a couple of months, we caught up with Maysha to talk about the collaboration. 

1. Can you talk a little bit about our own art practice?

I make abstract paintings using a playfully associative process in which the experiences of my everyday life inspire my mark-making. I use my fingers, palms, wrists, and found objects (instead of brushes) to make marks on the canvas. My previous career as a scientist has instilled in me a relentless spirit of experimentation along with a core fascination with how the visual system in the human brain works. Specifically, I consider my marks as points of light reflected off the back of the retina, ultimately causing some psychological shift in the viewer.

2. Is collaboration typically part of your process?

I have done a few collaborations in the past but they have always been separate from my regular studio work.

3. How did you get involved with Super Contemporary?

I first met Jenny at the opening of my show at Park Life Gallery last year and then we got to know each other. She invited me to participate in this exhibition. 

4. What intrigued you about participating in the show?

The concept of pairing Creativity Explored artists with artists from the community is an unusual idea. It brings up complex questions about talent, work ethic, and each individual's artistic ability. For example: how can I engage in a respectful collaboration with someone who might not be able to verbally discuss her ideas and preferences? What are the implications of making aesthetically-similar artwork to an artist who has been categorized as an "outsider" artist? It is an edgy concept and I hope viewers dare to tackle these questions either publicly or privately.

5. Previous to this exhibition, had you visited Creativity Explored before?

Yes, I visited Creativity Explored with a graduate class when I was getting my MFA at California College of the Arts.

6. What has the collaboration been like with Yah?

It has worked out very well. Initially, I was worried that my lack of exposure to this population of people would somehow hinder the potential of our collaboration, so I tried very hard to be open and suspend my expectations.

Creativity Explored Visual Arts Instructor Danielle Wright was extremely helpful and gave continuous valuable input. She would tell me what to do and what not to do. Yah and I would move through projects at a quick pace while working side by side at the same table. I think we communicated well with each other. We also laughed a lot!

The environment at Creativity Explored is very serene: there is always good music playing, the teachers and studio manager and are all very accessible and kind, and I made friends with the other artists. I was given the nickname "Little M&M Candy" by artist Christina Marie Fong. When I brought my 2 year old son last week, he was given a handful of chocolate candy and a small cup of milk. Yah was excited that I brought him with me and the three of us worked on different projects at the same table.

7. What is the process of your working together?

Yah likes pressing very hard onto her paintings. I tend to bring the same force to my own surfaces so I understood, on an intuitive level, the type of material she might enjoy working with. We determined that we'd pursue a snake theme after Danielle provided us with a lovely animal book for inspiration. I created long "tubes" made out of newspaper and chicken wire which Yah could crush into forms. We then fit those forms together into a spiral shape that resulted in our first snake sculpture! I also made snakes out of foam and plaster that Yah painted using her technique of drawing with paint pens.

8.  How has this collaboration impacted your own practice (if it has)?

It has inspired me to work on multiple things at once. Usually, I focus on one piece at a time but I want to try Yah's method of having several paintings going at once. I also like the way she holds her paint pens. I'd like to experiment more with drawing and using different grips.

9. Can you describe a few of the works you have done together?

We made a set of snakes: some out of paper mache and some out of foam and plaster.

10. What have you/hope to get out of this collaboration?

My main focus in my art practice is to singularly pursue my painting; I continuously aim to build my skills and push myself within the very narrow track of painting. The work accomplished and spirit harnessed within this collaboration existed far outside what I utilize in my painting efforts. I occasionally delve into non-painting side projects which inevitably bring a renewed energy to my main practice. I expect and hope that this project with Yah will positively affect my end goal of being a highly skilled painter. Also, I love meeting new people and I am grateful for the opportunity to have Danielle and Yah (and others) as new friends.  

Yah Kakabutra creating work for Super Contemporary
Yah Kakabutra in the CE2 studio
Yah Kakabutra working on a snake for Super Contemporary
Yah Kakabutra (left) working collaboratively with Maysha Mohamedi (right)

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