Featured Artist, Mezza9 Beecomb’s art offers a glimpse of a phantasmagorical world where the usual rules just don’t apply. The curious characters that populate her paintings can morph into sea creatures, float in midair and ride tandem bicycles underwater.
Based in oil and acrylic paints and mixed-media, Beecomb’s work is a synthesis of visionary and impressionistic art that she has dubbed “visionist.” Her stated artistic goal is to bring “the fantastical elements of nature and myth” into everyday life.
In her effort to convey a sense of awe and wonder, Mezza9 frequently depicts circus performers such as acrobats, dancers, clowns and flow artists in her paintings. “I think [acts] like Cirque du Soleil have really honed their craft and are at the point where they’re magical in their work,” says the artist, who is herself a stilt dancer, hoop dancer, fire spinner, unicyclist and aerialist. “I try to bring that out so more people can see what they do.”Beecomb, who grew up on a tiny farm outside of a Connecticut factory town, got her start in the arts as a poet and writer before venturing into the world of visual art in the early 2000s. She admits that her work in that area “was pretty bad at first. I was hanging found-object stuff like smashed teapots, railroad ties and kind of metaphorical things. Looking back, they were pretty funny-looking.”
From there, she learned to draw with some help from her then-husband, a comic book artist. She took up painting soon after, her style informed by the works of impressionist and post-impressionist artists like Monet and Toulouse-Lautrec. When she merged that aesthetic with the Renaissance painting technique of sfumato (the softening of outlines to create imperceptible transitions between different areas of a painting), her work took on a hazy, otherworldly quality that lent itself well to depictions of ocean and sky scenes. She has given the name of Nebulon to the blissful realm that her works in this vein seem to depict. She describes Nebulon as “just a really happy place. Maybe when people are dancing in love—that kind of magical place where you can’t say what’s going on, but it’s definitely happening. It’s a reality that I like to be in as much as possible.”
Another dominant theme of Mezza9’s work is that of the Wilderness. Along with being a literal reference to the world of nature, which the painter says is important to both her wellbeing and her artistic inspiration, the Wilderness represents the outer limits of the imagination. “It’s kind of when I’m fully present and I just release into the work, and I try to let it paint itself,” Beecomb states. “It’s when the magic happens, when the things I didn’t think of occur, because they’re already in this big, vast imagination that I think everyone shares into. Whatever kind of art someone’s doing, everyone goes there a little bit.”
Other key influences on Mezza9’s work include the genre of magical realism (to which the painter was first exposed by way of a talk by writer Isabel Allende while majoring in writing in college) and the ideas of psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who has proposed that people are happiest while in a state of “flow”: complete absorption with a given activity. “I think some stability and routine actually enables flow,” Beecomb says. “So where you might think it’s a freedom and a wildness, it also comes from knowing that there’s going to be a routine.” She adds that her own routine includes doing yoga in front of a painting she’s about to work on in order to reduce mental chatter, as well as listening to increasingly energetic music while painting.
By fully immersing herself in the act of painting, Beecomb is better able to create work that can help viewers transcend the ordinary and the everyday. “I like to make art that is a reminder to let your mind expand and to drink in some other things that are going on, to pay attention to a flower or whatever it is,” she explains.
See more of Mezza9’s work at beecombfreedom.com.
You can visit Mezza9 Beecomb’s studio space at the upcoming Open Studios Art Tour.
5-9 p.m. Oct. 2 (First Friday)
11:00 to 5:00 Sat., Oct. 3
11:00 to 5:00 Sun., Oct. 4
2801 Mission St. Ext., Santa Cruz
Art Tour at the R. Blitzer Gallery
11:00 to 5:00 Sat., Oct. 17
11:00 to 5:00 Sun., Oct. 18
Where: 2801 Mission St. Ext., Santa Cruz
Whether or not you have been to an Open Studios event before, YOU are invited. Watch for open studios signs around town on event days.