12 Questions: Elyse-Krista Mische

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1. What are 1-3 books that have influenced your life? What are you reading or watching right now?

The first book that influenced my life was actually a magazine, a National Geographic for Kids magazine about the extinction of dinosaurs. It was 1994 or 1995, I was six or seven years old and this was the first time I realized the permanence and seriousness of death. The second book was Sarah Plain and Tall, I was eight years old and I realized that one day my parents would die…the reality of death was reconfirmed. And finally, laugh if you must but the Harry Potter series has been incredibly influential in its ability to show me the power of embracing unreality and reminding me of the potential for life after death.

Right now I am reading a couple of books by Elizabeth Kubler Ross who was renowned for her research into near death experiences and who pioneered the Hospice Movement. I am currently watching The Wire, I am a sucker for crime and murder mystery shows.

2. What are you currently working on? Are you able to create during the pandemic?

Unfortunately many of my art projects, most of which are community based, have been put on hold due to the pandemic and social distancing rules. I am a Certified Nursing Assistant with ThedaCare working with the elderly and have been putting in a lot of hours. My artistic energy is being focused to find ways to creatively engage my residents and other elderly communities during this time of extreme isolation; I have a few little projects in the works that I hope to unveil soon.

Other than that I am making a Papier-mâché model of Jacob’s Meat Market in Appleton, adorned with a small version of the real life mural I painted there last year. This piece is for an instructor’s exhibit at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg TN, I am teaching a large scale drawing and mural workshop there this Fall (sign up for it!). I am also working on a mural design for Arrowmont to be painted by volunteers during their 75th Jubilee Celebration. And for my personal artwork, I am soaking in my experiences working with the elderly and have a few projects proofing in my brain.

3. How has failure set you up for later success? What was your favorite failure?

I fail just a little bit every day. I am a perfectionist, I have overly high standards, and I still get super bothered by failure. However; I make a conscious effort to TRY not to get bogged down by my mess-ups, I take them to heart and I work incredibly hard to learn from them and do better the next time.

My dad loves to remind me of the time I was nine years old and I attended my friend’s piano recital. I had been taking lessons for a few months and the recital leader invited me to play a song. I hadn’t memorized any songs so instead I pretended as though I was a professional pianist and played an incredibly long made-up composition consisting of a lot of key rolling and pedal pushing. At the end, the audience was stunned (probably in complete shock) and when asked what song I had played, I replied with extreme confidence “Oh just a little something I made up”. Nine year old me rocked that failure and stepped away overflowing with confidence. Confidence is key.

4. What is your most unusual habit?

I read books about death. When I was a little girl I enjoyed picking the lint out from in-between peoples’ toes… I grew out of that. I enjoy dipping those little round Tostitos tortilla chips in applesauce. This isn’t really a habit but I have been told that I have an unusual thirst for justice.

5. If you could have any painter, living or dead paint your portrait who would it be and why?

Marcel Duchamp. I’ve had an artist crush on him, and the Dada and Surrealist movements in general, since high school. Duchamp was a weirdo and I LOVE weirdos. Besides making countless artworks that broke away from tradition, challenged the norm, and defied reality; Duchamp had an alter ego Rrose Sélavy who was in her own way revolutionary. I deeply relate to Duchamp in many ways, I too have an alter ego (Birdman) and I enjoy crossing the line between reality and unreality. I have no doubt that Duchamp would accurately capture all of my beauties and absurdities in the most magical manner.

Marcel Duchamp as his alter ego Rrose Sélavy

6. What is the most indispensable item