“This mural is a direct response to the world that the pandemic is showing us. We need to see what another way of living can look like," says Kill Joy, the 32-year-old Texan who is the latest Artist in Residency at Zygote Press, of the mural she created in the entryway of the gallery.
The image captures unity in a time of separation and division says Kill Joy, whose moniker is "a play off of my birth name. It also describes a philosophy I take towards life, that is, the interconnectedness of birth and death. For anything to be birthed, there also has to be death to make room for new life. We constantly die to the past to be in the present and to make way for the future.”
Her style perhaps flits along a Diego Rivera lineage in its storytelling. The mural’s figures are outlined in bold black, while embodied with rich ochre and enveloped in lush greens and blues of the sky and earth. The content is what appears to be a hearty tribe of people adorned in leaves and flowers, working together harmoniously to carry a thatched house up a hill to the awaiting members who are spreading what looks like seed. It seems to tell the story of a migrating people on a trajectory to plant roots in a new place. The mural is based on a Filipino concept of “Bayanihan,” which is a spirit of cooperation and communal unity.
Joy’s family is from the Philippines, but she was born in the desert lands of Texas. Her bio states, “…desert and jungle, sun and moon, fire and water are themes she explores in her print and mural work.” Joy has found harbor in Texas, Oregon and Mexico and her art has been exhibited nationally and internationally, both in galleries as well as on the street.
“My process involves a lot of diving in, then emerging in a frenzy until the idea is manifested, or at least attempted, then exhaustion, hopefully satisfaction, then rest, then diving back in again.”
Zygote’s Shop Manager, Juliette Thimmig says, “Kill Joy has brought a vibrancy at a time when the studio needed it the most. While in Cleveland, she has completed a mural, made four editions of healthy sized blocks, made time to develop work on the street and even collaborated with me on some land art in a public space. No matter the medium, storytelling is easily the center of her practice which makes her images full of energy, action, and purpose.”
Joy planted her feet in Cleveland on February 27th in the midst of a global crisis, and has been unfortunately unable to interact with the city in a conventional way and has been fairly isolated since she has been here.
“Cleveland has mostly served as the physical backdrop for my body to rest and quarantine in, while my mind has wandered. With establishments being closed and minimal people on the street…I notice all the warehouse spaces and I reflect a lot on the idea of a space housing things within it. A lot of brick buildings, a lot of things being kept inside and safe.”
I wondered if the mural was in any way a reaction to the need for unity in Cleveland in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“In another world, supporting each other, mutual aid, available healthcare, climate action, sustainable planning, and clean resources would not be debated in a political agenda, but available to everyone… I do view Cleveland as a port for my Kill Joy spaceship to dock and take flight and return and rest up…I have become deeper friends with myself and have also found family outside of blood...”
Kill Joy’s ‘space ship’ hopes to return her safely to the Lone Star State as she departs from Cleveland and her residency on May 27th.
Zygote offers a variety of residencies made possible by a host of arts organizations and foundations such as: The Ohio Arts Council, Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, The Cleveland Foundation, The George Gund Foundation, The Char and Chuck Fowler Family Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts, The Martha Holden Jennings Foundation and the Cyrus Eaton Foundation.
Zygote, located at 1410 East 30th Street, offers two open-call for two-week residencies each year for printmakers; Two AIR / Local Artists in Residencies for Established and Emerging local non-printmaker artists; the Zygote Press Residency in memory of Anthony Bartholomew to a Kent State University Graduate; Two International Artist Residencies, one as an exchange conducted in partnership with the Bamboo Curtain Studio in Taipei, Taiwan and, the other an International Artist Resident.
The next residency is a part of their Open Call Residency where they provided printmakers with a stipend, housing and full access for the shop for which they have chosen Marco Sánchez, a Mexican born artist based out in El Paso who is most recently exploring the notion of immigrant identity plays in society as a result of the current political climate in the United States. Sánchez also teaches printmaking classes and workshops at the El Paso Museum of Art.
Zygote Press is an artist workshop promoting contemporary fine-art printing. Currently Zygote is exploring the possibility of moving classes online.
Find out more about Kill Joy and Zygote Press in the links below.
Zygote Press Website
Kill Joy’s Instagram