miss me is a montreal street artist, feminist and jazz singer. born in geneva, miss me has become completely saturated in montreal’s art scene since her move to the city almost a decade ago. her wheatpastes can be found around the city, ranging in size but always consistent in their incredible, intricate detail, stark stylization and often overtly sexual imagery featuring the personas of female characters like jasmine, betty boop, the statue of liberty, or jazz icons nina simone, billie holiday, miles davis or sarah vaughn. with her work featured at fresh paint gallery and under pressure alike, miss me is one of the few female voices in montreal street art, reflected in her work for fringe project dessert for breakfast, of which miss me is a formative member; dfb is an online outlet for women, a place to talk openly about sex and sexuality.
her street art is at once provocative and thought-provoking – one of those astutely femme productions that stick in your mind just for the sheer badass-ness that resonates so powerfully. i was first introduced to miss me at this summer’s under pressure festival, and was lucky enough to have a quick chat with her. read on!
thanks so much for talking with me, i’m such a huge fan of your work. was art always a big part of your life?
yes. always. you never really put a label on it but ever since i was a kid and i could hold a pen to a piece of paper, i’ve been drawing. there’s tons of paintings in my family’s house – there’s canvases everywhere. drawings, paintings, everything. art and dance! and singing – i’m actually a jazz singer part time as well.
so art is something you’re clearly very passionate about! you mentioned painting on canvas, but what i’d really like to talk about is your street work. what was your first awareness of street art or graffiti?
i don’t know really – a few years, i guess…from seeing it on the street to seeing it on the internet as well. when you’re deep in the city and everything is so static, you walk past these pieces and it’s such a treat! it’s this surprise, like this little candy that someone gives you! and you have to stop and think to yourself “man, that is so awesome” – i wanted to make people feel that way, too.
when i went to miami for art basel for the first time – i’ve been wanting to go for years – that’s when i knew. in the art district in wynwood, there’s a part of the festival where all the best street artists from all over the world come together to paste for five days, day and night. it was incredible. it was one of the most beautiful weeks of my life, it was just beyond, almost overwhelming to a certain point because just when you think you’ve seen everything, you turn a corner and there’s more and more and more. at night, we’d take our bikes out and roam around, chilling with the artists and wow, it’s just so free. that’s freedom.
that sounds unreal!
it was, it really was. i left and i just knew – fuck it, i’m doing it. i got back to montreal and i went out for the first time, alone and it was minus twelve degrees. i was alone and it was three in the morning because i really had no idea what i was doing. my hands were freezing!!
and what was that first piece like?
the first stuff i put up was actually some dessert for breakfast stuff [above]! they’re different versions of the ones we use now though.
how do you think that discovering street art changed the way you produce and perceive art?
it’s much more free, even just in terms of the context of life – no more buying canvas or being limited by money or like “acrylic or this” or whatever else. now it’s about creating these pieces right here, right now, because i want to, because i can. it’s also more free in the sense that…even if you produce a certain piece three or four times, they’re different everywhere you put them. they become truly finished once they’re in an environment and once people see them in that environment. not when you paint it or when you sign it but when you put it up and it’s there. that’s the best part! making art a part of everyday life. everyone sees street art – no matter who you are, how much money you have, what you do for a living. street art is there for everyone to enjoy.
that’s a really interesting way of looking at it. would you say that’s your goal as a street artist?
i don’t know if i have a mission or a goal. if people see my work and they feel the way i do when i see something beautiful…then i’m happy. if i see my own pieces, finished on a wall and i step back and say “damn, that’s cool!” – then i’m happy. it’s a little piece of happiness born out of something that’s pure freedom, pure human emotion. that’s so raw and so real, especially in a society that’s so structured and analytical and organized and textbook…it’s a breath of fresh air to have street artists come in and turn that on its head.
you work primarily with wheatpaste for your street art – in the past couple years, i feel like that medium has blown up. it’s popping up everywhere, especially around montreal with guys like stikki peaches or what is adam or labrona hitting every alley in the city. how does it work exactly?
everybody has different ways of doing it. for instance, labrona paints originals every time he pastes. i’m different and i know stikki is different too. he does his work on his computer and recently has been painting, just like me. i draw my work, i scan it and then i reproduce it in big, then i put it on the wall. i work with encre de chine most of the time.
so when you reproduce it can be pretty much any size you want?
it starts off as 8×11” ish and when i reproduce it can grow to really, really big – but i only do that if i have enough time to climb a ladder and shit. generally, my limit is my height. environment is a big factor too, i can’t print something huge if i have to scale a building because how am i gonna get it up there by myself?
do you go out by yourself?
i try to always have a look out with me. at least one. cause you know, you need to have someone to watch your back, and we try to hit a bunch of spots in one night so i can’t carry all that shit by myself! you have to carry your glue around…and that’s a big fuckin’ bucket! [laughs]
and what about the painting? when does that come in?
it depends, for me, some of my prints i like in black and white but lately i’ve been painting my jazz saints and my statue of liberty – that happens before you go out.
would you say that working with wheatpaste is more or less difficult than other mediums that you’ve tried?
this is actually the only medium i’ve tried on the street. for me, i wouldn’t have time to draw out my pieces every single time i go out, they’re very intricate and very detailed – it would take way too long. plus…i feel like, once you’ve drawn something, you know, you drawn it. it’s done [laughs] …that and i don’t know how to spray paint!
i don’t! i’m not even gonna front. i don’t know how to do it. i want to learn though! especially because filling in the background of some of my work it’s like fuck this is a lot of work with a fucking paintbrush! it would be so much easier to spray paint.
what’s the importance of remaining anonymous?
i wish there was a more eloquent answer but it’s just legal reasons. i don’t want to be trying to go to the states or something and have them do a background check and they’re like what the fuck, you did this?! – they’d never let me in! honestly, that’s the only reason. my friends know it’s me. and i don’t mind them knowing what i do – it’s not like i’m a big celebrity or anything but it’s fun to have that mysterious aspect. my art is not about me, it’s about the art.
so would you consider miss me your alter ego? or is she just “you”?
she’s a part of me. it’s not like dr. jekyll and mr. hyde. she’s very much a part of me. i’m really a “good girl” – i’ve never sold drugs, you know or stolen a car or killed someone. this is pretty much the only illegal thing i do and i’m okay with that because i don’t think it’s a big deal. when i’m out on a regular day, i’m not walking around going yo i’m a street artist! i’m a normal person. i don’t talk about it but i know, i know who miss me is.
why did you choose miss me as your pseudonym?
well, like i said, the first stuff i put out was the dessert for breakfast pastes, and i really felt like it was important that people knew it was by a woman. it would throw a completely different point of view in there if a man was posting this really sexual, open imagery. it’s a weird double standard, but it’s true. plus i thought it was pretty fuckin’ cool to have everyone know that a girl was out there on the streets.
how do you think growing up in a city that’s so saturated with creativity, like montreal, helped you develop you as an artist?
montreal’s awesome. i’m a montreal girl at heart. i moved there when i was nineteen, and i’ve never looked back. montreal is a place that lets you grow and become who you want to be, however you want to be. it’s the water and the sun you need to grow! especially coming from somewhere like geneva, that is very structured and clean and rigid. montreal was really a breath of fresh air in that sense because no one here cares where you’re from or really, what you do. l’ambiance…it helps you grow creatively.
i know that you travel a lot – do you find that the mood or aesthetic of your work changes depending on what city you’re in?
whatever you do in life will influence you if you’re open enough to let it. of course it has an impact. the goal is to make your work evolve – because, like you said, i travel a lot, i don’t have as much time as i would like to draw new pieces or create new work so you have to work with what you’ve got. you have to make it evolve, so you paint it differently, you finish it differently, you make it bigger. it’s an interesting way of evolving, actually, you’re stuck so you have to find a new way out.
a lot of your work includes pop cultural references – you feature a lot of personas and characters; betty boop, jasmine, billie holiday, nina simone. what’s the significance of these personalities?
those are my GIRLS! [laughs] well, dessert for breakfast has a very specific manifesto [read it here] and the series of girls that i paint has a lot to do with this whole, let’s get sexuality and sex out there, in the open, let’s make it a real thing and let’s talk about it. for me – those girls are a part of my life. and if they were real – which i’m pretty sure they are – they would be grown up and they’d probably be doing their thing, you know? everybody has a sexual side. we don’t feel like growing up the way our parents did. we’re also not giving up our childhoods as quickly and i think that speaks to a lot of people. i’m very much a part of that generation, and so is my art.
i love the fact that music is such a big part of your work – you mentioned the jazz saints earlier, who i love. would you say there’s always a constant interaction between your art and music, even if it’s not necessarily literal?
music is a huge part of my life. it will always have some kind of influence, because i’m always listening to music. and i love jazz, it’s something very personal to me and the jazz saints are really a way of paying homage to those artist who influenced me so much. music is huge. there’s no me without music. i wouldn’t be who i am if i didn’t listen to music.
earlier we talked about feminism and femininity in your work. what’s it like to be a girl in this industry?
honestly. i don’t know. i work alone! [laughs] but actually, when i do work with people or meet other people in the industry, especially recently with my work at the fresh paint gallery….guys are generally really cool with it. there’s not many of us! but guys think it’s cool!
have you ever been caught?
yeah. it was so fucking annoying too! it was this winter and it was freezing out and they made me wait like half an hour. they took all my papers and all my stuff. they’re asking all these questions, like what are you doing and you’re like nothinnnng….so sheepish, you know. that was it – so silly.
so would you say that the “vandalism” or “bandit” aspect of street art is what makes it so intriguing?
i think so, yes. the concept is so interesting in that sense, taking on the legal aspect, sneaking around, doing something completely wild for this love of art. it’s crazy when you think about it! [laughs] it’s crazy, what we do! it costs a lot of money that you never really get back…and sometimes it doesn’t even stay up! that contrast is fascinating to people who care. sometimes they think we’re crazy – and maybe we are.
i know that a lot of street artists have been able to make the transition from the streets to the gallery. how do you thinking taking outdoor art and bringing it indoors changes the way that it’s perceived or understood?
i think it makes people realize that street art is real art. a lot of people in that industry are scared to believe in something that’s not what everyone else believes in. and now that a shepard fairey or a banksy can sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars, people are starting to understand street art a little more – it’s like hmm…so that stuff on my building, that’s not just graffiti?! it turns a lot of that thinking on its head. i think it’s a positive thing. i know some people that don’t agree with it – but i think the important thing is to keep it real. if all you do is gallery work and never actually go into the street…it’s different. street art is valuable because of where it comes from, and that’s the street.
how do you see street art fitting into the future?
i think we’ll have to be careful with this whole commercial aspect. like i said before, i think it’s positive but i also think if we’re not careful….well, you know how it is with hype like this.
i feel that way about music, definitely. very protective even though i want it to spread.
definitely. we have to protect the values and keep it real. it’s a possibility because everyone wants to be famous and you have to be in it for the love and the passion. it’s already become very popular in the past couple years, like you mentioned. i do it because i love it, not because i want to be part of the hype. it’s about spreading art and spreading love.