When Mia Cross (@miaxart) graduated from Boston University in 2014, she thought she wanted to be a window display designer. She had the knowledge and she had the passion — all that was left was giving it a shot. Once the Framingham native snagged what she thought would be her dream job at a storefront in the Fenway, she realized it just wasn’t for her. Six months in, she made a bold choice and dropped everything to pursue her art. Now, she has her own studio in the city and is regularly working for a variety of clients, making art that she loves. The Globe chatted with Cross about her upcoming exhibit, love of portraiture, and palette knife skills.
Q. Your work explores various aspects of the human face. What draws you to the face as a subject?
A. I’ve been taking art classes my whole life, but it was in high school that I became interested in portraiture. Drawing a face, painting a portrait, it just feels so much more purposeful than painting a landscape. To me, the natural world is as beautiful as it can be. It will always be there, it will constantly change. That’s the beauty of a natural landscape. But with faces, portraits are an incredible way to experiment with your craft and draw from reality. I became fascinated with minute details of the face, like the structure and fragmentation of the skin and the kind of texture I can apply to make it change.
Q. That’s actually my next question. One of the most eye-catching aspects of your paintings involves color fragmentation, reminiscent of a collage. How does this fit into your artistic style?
A. In college, I started dissecting the human face. It was in one of my first painting classes that I really got to play around with that. I used a palette knife, and I learned to place the paint on the canvas and let it do its thing. It was fascinating and it was a very definitive method of painting. From there I just started using the knife much more. I also like to say it’s my lazy girl approach, because I don’t have to wash that many brushes. But I also have a sculptural side to my brain, so this method of application comes very naturally to me. Once I got into it I started looking to artists like Euan Uglow for inspiration, and I realized that the face is a perfect subject to apply this method to.
Q. One of your most recent posts involved some mixed media, and of course, the human face. Walk me through the creation of “Adore Me Adornment.”
A. So this piece is for an upcoming show at the Danforth Museum. It will be in a group invitational exhibit titled “Dressed,” and it runs from Aug. 31 until Dec. 30. Because a lot of my work deals with skin patterns and textures, I sat down to make a bit of a corny painting. I started off thinking about what makeup does to the skin. Specifically, what the simple act of a kiss does to somebody’s cheek or forehead. The mark of lipstick becomes an adornment on the flesh. So I got my fiancé to sit down for a while, I recorded myself kissing him repeatedly to get a raw emotion from his face, and then used that to make the painting. It was unusual because I usually don’t convey direct expressions, but in this one, he was smiling and that was what felt real, so I had to push myself into a new territory, but it turned out well.