Today, critically-acclaimed artist Mia Kaplan will paint over her sculpture entitled “Swamp Flower,” as an outdoor exhibition for the UM Museum on campus.
Kaplan said the reason for painting over the sculpture comes from the continuing changes in her life, something she said she hopes to express in the act of altering her already successful work.
“Last time I was in Oxford I stood up behind the podium and said I was going to paint [the sculpture], and all these people, I could feel the nervousness. Like, ‘Why would you change something that is already done, and has been attributed as a success?’” Kaplan said. “We are always developing, we are always transforming and we are always evolving. This is my piece, and it’s about me and I am transforming.”
Hailing from Southeastern Louisiana, Kaplan has demonstrated a wide variety of skills across multiple mediums over the course of her career, commonly creating works that cannot not be merely constrained to one genre or class.
“My work is tactile. It’s strong, in nature,” Kaplan said. “When I sculpt things, it’s not out of ‘Oh, I’m going to make a sculpture now.’ Usually it happens because I have this vision of what I want, and I use whatever means necessary to get there.”
As a product of this go-getter attitude, Kaplan said much of her work involves a healthy amount of trial-and-error as she searches for an end product she feels an obligation to achieve.
“I’m always figuring out my technique as I go, because I’m searching for something,” she said. “And, that something is usually something very textural, collage-based and it ends up being very formal – organically formal – in nature.”
The process is familiar to Kaplan, given her extensive experience in the arts. She made her first art sale at 14, which assured her that being an artist was the path she wanted to pursue in life.
“I made some paintings of what was around me, and at the time I was fascinated by my cat drinking out of the toilet,” Kaplan said. “My mom, she went to art school, but then she became a hairdresser, so she worked and brought some paintings I made from home. A couple months later she called me and said, ‘Mia! Bridget wants to buy your painting. Do you know how much you want to charge?’… So, I sold my first painting when I was 14, and ever since then I have just never doubted what I wanted to do.”
It is with this same confidence Kaplan travels to Oxford to alter the sculpture “Swamp Flower” and unveil what she now feels best expresses her current state, both personally and artistically.
“[Swamp Flower] was actually my first large, monumental sculpture,” she said. “At the time, when I was making it; the piece itself is like a self-portrait. I see myself as this flower, but it was at a time when I really needed to toughen up.”
This accounts for the structure’s delicate, flower-like shape in contrast with the strong metal material of which it is made. Kaplan used these two elements to express herself before, and now she feels it is time to add to the work again.
Kaplan will be working on the sculpture from 8 a.m. to noon today in front of the UM Museum. All are welcome to come and witness the transformation and ask any questions they have about the piece.