Mia Risberg is a visual artist based in Ann Arbor, MI. She was born in Sweden but her family moved often and as a child she lived in various countries, before emigrating to the U.S as a young adult. She attended Pratt Institute and Hunter College in NYC, graduating from the latter with a BA in Fine Arts. She worked for many years as a book designer, while raising her two children, before returning to a full time art practice.
Mia has exhibited at various U.S. venues and participated in several art collaborations. She has contributed work to the 2021 Art on a Postcard Summer Auction, and to the Ukraine Art Sale, both fundraisers based in the UK. She has curated contemporary art exhibits for the Rasa Festival, and was a fellow at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts residency. In August of 2022 she founded 813 Microgallery, a freestanding space for sharing art with her local community and showcasing, on a small scale, the work of diverse artists. Mia’s solo exhibition, Breathing Spaces, featuring her drawings, opened at Soft Projects in Ypsilanti, MI in October 2022.
“My work depicts people and places, culled from observations, memories, and photographs. I cultivate some ambiguity in my images to capture both my personal narrative and the imagination of the viewer. I’ve been working on this series of drawings, depicting external and internal landscapes since 2020. Through simplified compositions and colors, the personal spaces, scenes, and environments are distilled to moments of apparent stillness or quiet. These depictions, from observations or from imagination, invite the viewer to enter a quieter, sometimes dreamy place, one that invites pause and offers a respite from our more chaotic external world.“
When did your interest in art begin vs. when you began thinking of it as a career/life choice?
I've enjoyed making art since I was little. I was the kind of child who was interested in creating environments, or cutting up things to make doll clothes, more so than in playing with the dolls themselves. I remember drawing, collaging, and painting. The feelings of wonder I experienced making things, and the encouragement from my mother, who is also an artist, sparked my interest in art. Growing up, my brother and I did not have a conventional upbringing, and our family lived in four different countries by the time I was twelve. These frequent moves made it difficult to maintain friendships (this was before cell phones and the internet!). Perhaps due to this, and because I was sort of shy and quiet, I developed my imagination and found comfort in nature, animals, reading, and drawing. I went to university to study art but also worked full time during the day as a book designer. After graduation I continued in that job as a freelancer while raising my children. 2015 was a pivotal year as I finally decided to stop freelancing and give myself the chance to pursue art full time.
What draws you to your particular subject matter?
I'm pretty curious by nature so there are many things that interest me. It’s frequently a moment that feels meaningful, or a person or place that intrigues me. My interest is often sparked by a particular shadow, a flicker of light, or an interesting color of which I’ll take reference photos. At other times, my depictions are driven by my imagination. During the pandemic I began working on a series of colored pencils drawings. I enjoy how humble and simple this medium is and how meditative it feels to draw. The subject matter for these drawings is often places around me that hold what I see as stillness. Some of the drawings are of people, but they are usually not fully revealed. I will often try to capture a feeling of quiet, mystery, or ambiguity.
What interest of yours (outside of art) ends up influencing your practice the most?
My relationship with nature has an important influence on my practice. I take long morning walks with my dog every day. This is a time for me to not only observe nature and its changing seasons but also to reflect on ideas, tasks, and plans, both in and out of the studio. On these daily walks, I take a lot of photographs and sometimes make voice recordings of my thoughts on my phone so I can recall them later.
What is one piece of advice you wish you could give your younger self?
We all do the best we can with our circumstances when we are younger and we all learn from the mistakes we make. So, in retrospect, it’s difficult to narrow all of it down to just one piece of advice! However, if I had to choose one it would be to stand up for yourself and be your best supporter.
What would you say is your biggest goal for this year?
I have several goals that I’ll be working on in 2023, but I would love to participate in an artist residency next winter.