Westside native selected for prestigious art program

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By Dedra Cordle
Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of T Christopher Ottinger
Musca is shown here tattooing a vintage GI Joe action figure that her friend has traveled the world with in the military and has put the figure into many scenarios.
This photo showcases work by Musca.

Last year, thousands of visual artists, writers, and musicians across more than 180 countries applied for a coveted artist-in-residence program at the Chateau Orquevaux in France.

Initially built as a hunting lodge in the 1700s, the historic landmark in the northeast region of the country has been partially transformed into a retreat and workshop for artists of “all mediums, backgrounds, and stages of their journeys” by current estate owner and filmmaker Ziggy Attias. According to its website, less than 10 percent of the applicants are awarded one of the two established grants which help offset the cost of the once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Among the artists who were selected to receive the Denis Diderot Artists-in-Residence Grant and the Emerging Artist Award Grant was a native to the westside of Columbus. In March, Musca, a professional tattoo artist who has more than 25 years of experience in the industry, will travel to the secluded lakeside estate for a two-week artist retreat and workshop. Although she did not wish to share her birth name in order to retain some anonymity in her profession and her other creative avenues, Musca wanted to share parts of her story and her accomplishments with the community in the hope that it would inspire other creatives to “reach beyond our borders.”

The Messenger recently conducted an interview with the Clintonville resident and owner of Spiritus Tattoo about her background, the art scene on the Hilltop, and her reaction to being accepted as an artist-in-residence at the Chateau Orquevaux.

Q – Were you born and raised in the Hilltop area?

A – I was born and raised on the Hilltop (on S. Terrace Avenue), the bottoms (near Central Point) and Westgate. Both sides of my family grew up in the region as well, most of them lived within a few miles of each other; and often on the same block.

Q – Did you attend a high school in the area and if so, where did you attend and when did you graduate?

A – After my parents split up when I was 10 years old, they moved all around central Ohio and I went back and forth erratically throughout the years. I went to several schools after leaving St. Agnes Notre Dame in the late 70s, sometimes multiple schools in a single year. I graduated from Hilliard Davidson in 1991, though I did not live in the district at the time. Instead, I drove across town from the westside every day to finish my secondary education there.

Q – What did you do after high school and how did you get into the body art industry?

A – I lost my memory due to an accident at 16 and I scrambled to get myself together and seemed to “get a pass” in ways that I probably should have received professional help instead. Due to the estrangement I felt then, I lost a lot of friends, didn’t feel connected to my family, but I still somehow graduated high school and was gifted an art scholarship to CCAD (Columbus College of Art and Design). I didn’t have the mental discipline or focus to commit to it then, so I quit after three months, condensed all my belongings into a big army duffle and left town. I hitchhiked, hopped trains, and found traveling caravans of punks to go on stints with to squat in abandoned buildings and the like. I did this for two years, on and off. Due to the kind of people I hung out with, I was exposed to all kinds of outward expression and I began to see body modification as an art form. It was only a matter of time before I wanted to try it. So I quit squatting after a very dangerous experience, returned home and pursued apprenticeships in both body piercings, which took me to Phoenix, Arizona, and tattooing, which began in Columbus.

Q – When did you first hear of the residency for artists program at Chateau Orquevaux and what were your immediate thoughts about the program?

A – I think someone made a social media post about the residency, as I’d not heard of it before. I checked it out and it seemed to encourage anyone and everyone in art to apply for it. So I did. I thought ‘what the hell,’ I have a huge bank of work no one has ever seen on my website to show that I am committed to the pursuit of making art, though no resume to impress anyone with academic prowess or otherwise – just life experience. I thought it couldn’t hurt so I applied and forgot about it.

Q – When did you learn you had been selected? What was your reaction?

A – I almost missed the boat on it because the only email I received in my inbox was to tell me that they are giving it away to someone else because they hadn’t heard from me. Turns out, all previous emails were showing up in my junk folder. My reaction? I was honored, of course! This is the first residency I’ve ever accepted that will host other artists. Up until now, I have been working on an island in Sweden completely out of my mind alone at a residency that is for much more personal creative pursuits.

Q – Throughout the last decade, the westside has made an effort to become more of an arts-centered community. They have a music and art festival in the summer (Summer Jam West), they have a non-profit that works to bring public art to the area (Hilltop Arts Collective), and they have multiple murals, public art installations and artists exhibitions held at area businesses now. What was the art scene like when you were growing up in the community? If it was non-existent, where would you go to see and experience art?

A – There was no art scene at all on the westside as I was growing up. In fact, I was not well received as a freely expressive person either, as I wore it on the outside as a punk rocker. I was met with a lot of aggression and insults there: It made me tough everywhere else but there. I took the COTA bus to the Short North for gallery hops and snuck into campus bars. I never could’ve imagined the westside would see its new renaissance as it is today.

 

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