Studio Visit: Falon Mihalic

Falon Mihalic is an artist living and working in Houston, Texas. Her work can be seen in PLEAT's December 2017 exhibition as well as falonmihalic.com

Please describe your work.
I work in several disciplines - painting, sculpture, installation, and land art - and all are driven by the core idea of what I call the landscape experience. I think of my practice and each piece I create as a kind of test or experiment in how we perceive the natural world. I make sculptures informed by rocky terrain and paintings reminiscent of leafy glades and barrier islands. The work is not representational. Instead, it's a process of building up layers of form and color that are landscape abstractions of ecosystems, cycles, growth, and light. I explore atmosphere, climate, decay, terrain, and the notions of time embedded in these landscape-based phenomena. 

What internal and external factors motivate your conceptual choices? 
I take every opportunity I can to be outside observing natural processes. Water and ground are constant inspirations. The rock sculptures were made after spending time immersed in the Texas Hill Country, a rocky landscape that occupies an ecological niche in the region. So they were informed by this idea of rock as time-keeper and as a massive form with mysterious parts. We will never know the interior of a rock. We only experience its exterior shell, so rocks represent a kind of unknowable abyss contained within. With that concept driving the sculptures, the task was then to make forms that felt right proportionally and materially. I wanted them to feel solid without actually casting immensely heavy objects. 

After a long trial and error phase with different materials and techniques, I figured out a way to mix concrete and textiles in a way that would absorb pigments and layer colors. This process is initiated by conceptual ideas about what rocks mean and how they look, but it's really driven by intuition and what feels right about an overall gesture in form, material, and color.

Who are your artistic influences and what have you learned from them?
Katharina Grosse and Julie Mehretu are some of my favorite contemporary artists. Grosse does a miraculous job of exploding color into space such that the color has its own power and agency that overwhelms its setting. I like thinking about how my work might punch you in the face with that type of color experience. When I was in grad schoolat RISD I got to see Mehretu speak and she described her process of working and the layered meanings behind her paintings. She is extremely articulate about the conceptual basis for her work. Just hearing her talk and later reading about her work has taught me to discuss my own work in more precise terms. 

I’m lucky to be surrounded by Dorothy Hood’s work in my city. She was a Houston-based painter who created large scale abstract expressionist color field paintings. Her work has careful attention to the edge of color forms, like the edge creates the character or indicates what that color means and how it behaves. I’ve learned that it’s the relationship between the things that tells us what the things mean. I've also learned about scale of color experience from looking at her work. I'm very interested in how the scale of a work creates a one-to-one relationship to the human body. 

How has social media affected your studio practice?
I like to share process photos on social media instead of finished work because I think the work I'm making is large and related to the body and the space where it resides in a specific way; it needs to be experienced IRL. Social media has helped me to be more lighthearted. Creating new work is no small task as I'm often experimenting with scale and combining new materials and things don't always work out. Sometimes I am just physically exhausted from working with my hands and stressed about making deadlines while working with gooey, dusty, sticky materials. Checking in with social media actually helps me have more fun with the work and take it a little less seriously.  Like, how can I be so upset about this failed sculpture when I'm posting a progress shot of it in a social media stream that includes baby elephants and hilarious memes about eating too much pizza? For that, I'm really grateful for social media because it makes me feel more connected to our big, messy, weird, and wonderful world.