Mia Fonssagrives Solow is an American contemporary artist based in New York and Paris. She is internationally renowned for her refined and whimsical aesthetic in both figurative and abstract forms in a range of mediums, from polished bronze to gilded wood to sleek enamel over fiberglass.
Solow has been exhibited in New York, London, Palm Beach, Paris, and Shanghai. Her sculpture graces the pages of lauded publications such as Artnet, Artsy, FT’s How to Spend It, Vanity Fair, Whitewall, The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Vogue.
Solow’s uplifting abstract sculptures examine the world through a simplicity of form and color, exploring scale and movement as the curving surfaces of each piece draw the eye from one exquisite line to the next. Everyday subjects, such as a sail, a wave, or an apple, are refined to the clean, essential lines of their form, and what begins as a small lucite or wood maquette evolves into a monumental fiberglass sculpture towering up to 16ft-high.
For Solow, the negative space at the center of each work echoes back to her upbringing in front of and behind the lens of a camera. These hollow spaces not only define the sculptures themselves, but also serve as windows, re-framing the world beyond.
ARTIST SPOTLIGHT SERIES: Q & A
LHG: What initially inspired you to start sculpting, and what was the initial reaction of your community to your sculptures?
MFS: I have been sculpting in one way or another since 6th grade at Dalton. After my school years, I became a fashion designer in Paris. We designed the costumes for Woody Allen and James Bond films. Living there, every moment was inspirational. Everywhere you looked there was a sculpture or painting celebrating life. Weather you realize it or not it leaves an imprint on your mind. Every night I would go home and draw or paint. In my early work there was usually an abstract human form with another form around it, but in negative space. After 10 years building a very successful fashion label, I needed to change my medium.
I left for California and learned woodworking so I could pull the figures in my paintings out of the frame and into the 3-dimensional world. I started having exhibitions with my sculptures in LA, NYC, Paris and even Shanghai.
LHG: What about sculpture captivates you?
MFS: What I love about sculpture is having a tactile representation of my vision at the end of the day. The movement and perspective it captures resonates with me in a different way than paintings. It’s a very different medium, creating things that occupy a significant amount of space. In my Alien series the bronze and aluminum sculptures even have personas and backstories.
LHG: What advice would you give to the second generation of young artists?
MFS: Keep working. The art world is so hard to be a part of. If you have that gut feeling that this is what you have to do, don’t let anybody stop you. Find a way trust your inner voice; keep at it .
LHG: The difference in your two bodies of work—robots/aliens and your abstract forms—is very stark. When did you make the shift and what does each series mean to you?
MFS: A life time of work can’t be the same thing over and over. We are filled with ideas that come from a living experience and ever-evolving consciousness. I suppose my aliens came from my father who took me from age 8 to age 12 to every sci-fi film that was ever made in the early 50’s. It was terrifying, and I never realized where they came from until recently. It is art as catharsis.
My early works with one figure in wood and the other as negative space comes from loss and separation. I love the smooth simple lines in my early work, and for years I wanted to expand those forms and make them very large—5, 10, 15 ft tall, maybe even larger. Now those early forms I made in smaller sizes as maquettes are coming back. I’m making them larger and larger. The last piece I creates was over 12 ft high.
Animals have also been an enormous part of my life. Today in our current situation of quarantine, I am using this time to really create something new with a herd of goats who, n the end, will all be cast in aluminum.
LHG: How would you say your childhood and early life has shaped your art?
MFS: My childhood was hard but it made me very strong. We had a small farm in Huntington and my brother and I were responsible for many chores at an early age. There was no TV, so the only entertainment was chess, gin rummy, and what you fabricated in your imagination. The word “bored” was forbidden.
We would all have breakfast together on the weekend, then go to our separate spaces to work on our art. My mother was painting at the time, my stepfather was working with platinum and I was sewing my own clothes at age 11. My brother was still a baby, but when he got bigger, he worked in wax for casting in bronze.
My mother taught me everything: how to cook, clean, care for horses, shear sheep, raise chicks to chickens, plant trees, change a tire, drive a tractor. Her message was simple, “Be ready for the revolution.” If you did it wrong, she would ask, “Are your hands on inside out today?” She was wonderful.
LHG: The whole world is living in challenging times right now. What have you been doing to cope with this?
MFS: Everything my mother taught me is very precious to me. I am making a herd of goats to cast in aluminum when the foundries open up again. In the 90s I made 50 penguins. I’ll keep making goats as long as the exile lasts.
LHG: How do you think art can impact people in these difficult times?
MFS: Art can save you. Listen to music; read books; search for new paintings, sculpture, comedy, and films. So much of what people do is art, in one form or another. Everyone should open their hearts and minds to all of it.