In Living Color With Cross-Media Artist Elise Mesner

Author: Ali DiEmidio

If you asked us to define the word "cool," we would kindly direct you over to Elise Mesner. An incredibly creative, multi-talented artist on the rise, Mesner works across various mediums to create genuinely interesting content for some of your favorite brands, and seems to speak in poetry when describing her artwork (seriously, keep scrolling). We caught up with the recent LA transplant to chat about the inspiration behind her incredibly colorful art, her "super love" for horticulture, a few of her favorite local spots to frequent ("especially with a bucket of hot chicken on your car seat lap"), and the journey that has so far led to "lots of smiles." Check out our interview with Mesner below!

The first time we came across your photography on Instagram we literally gasped. It's so beautiful and interesting! Can you tell us a little bit about your photography and your journey so far into cross-media art?
Oh goodness, thank you so much! Heart melts! I have SO much fun working with people, capturing moments, emotions, and playing with color. Always playing. Noticing color. Falling in love with light. Staying in tune with my inner spirit. Breaking routine. Experimenting. Collectively, the journey has led me to lots of smiles.

From images of single hands holding cheeseburgers, to the side of a dreamy pastel building, to a bare arm through a loaf of bread - your various images always manage to maintain the same mood. What is your creative process like and how important is aesthetic consistency for you?
Consistency is recognizable as an important piece, but I think it’s up to the individual artist. Consistency dances subjectively in my eyes. It helps, personally, to not overthink or to put a concrete process to creativity, but sticking to the fundamentals that I personally enjoy draws an honesty to the art. Taking control of your camera/subject is a great tool for stamping a look. Much like, “You can do what you wanna do” - In Living Color.

Who/What are some of your creative influences when you're working on a new project? We've noticed that food is often prevalent in a lot of your work, do you have a particular penchant for working with edibles?
Lately, I’ve been all over Asha Bhosle’s love songs; lots of Indian sitar, which gets me pretty floaty with photo ideas. But oh yes, most definitely, foods inspire the informal gray matter. Growing baby avocados from seeds - wash em, use toothpicks to suspend them over a water-filled glass to swallow about an inch of the seed, put the glass in a warm place out of direct sunlight and replenish water when that little Petra gets thirsty. Green babes start to sprout in a few moons. I have a super love for horticulture and can’t help but to draw in the fruits and pizzas of life.

Not only are you setting up and photographing these amazing (and often intricate) photo shoots, but you're also working on music videos, shooting fashion editorials, and modeling as well. Do you have a preference for one of these mediums over the other?
I'm currently obsessed with video work. The mediums harmonize together for me but are also much like shifting brushes - going from a highlighter to oval washing. Painting is my true flame forever and ever.

You recently moved from Detroit to LA to pursue your passion.
I am back and forth between Detroit and Los Angeles - both really feel like home. The move seemed to be more about the sunshine typicalities in the beginning. Now, with hindsight setting in, I answer this question a bit differently than before.

What are your top three favorite spots in your new hood?
1. Baller True Value Hardware right in Silverlake. I've always had a thing for hardware stores. The nostalgic smell, chatty fellas, the regulars... "Don't use Drano, try the old volcano science project trick with vinegar and baking soda." Feels like a little thumpy heart centred in the community. I like how the shelves aren't overstocked and the important essentials are there with room to breathe.

2. The Spice Station! I stumbled into this place and it's a cinnamon-y slice of heaven. The aromatics, specialty teas, and all the lavender buds for lemonade are perfect. It's a lovely shop that makes you feel like you found a special secret.

3. Getting lost on Zoo Drive in the darkness and following the light of the moon around Griffith Park. Because the "only-car-on-the-road" feeling is supersonic, especially with a bucket of hot chicken on your car seat lap.

If you could work on your dream project for your dream brand and act as stylist, photographer, model (alongside 2 others), and creative director... What is the dream project & brand, what is being worn/who are the designers you're featuring, and who else would model with you?
My dream team would be comprised of friends and family together. I've always wanted to create with everyone I love, all together in one mystical place. The dream project: we take helicopter rides to the great marvel - Lake Hillier in Western Australia with a full collection of men and women's Christian Dior Spring/Summer 2030 from the future, a few Fennec Foxes and polka dot stingrays. The clouds are fluffed. Everything's pouffy, happy, steady blossoming. Sunset rings around the moon in vanilla and lavender paint, with a navy sky above the pink lake.

“It's terribly dangerous for an artist to play to the gallery... Authenticity is a required front seat driver with any project."

Tell us the story behind one of the most memorable photos you've taken.
This particular photo jumped in my brain today, but each one has its own tale. I photographed my sister and a friend on a small ladder that dipped slightly into the blue sky. The sky stretched endlessly around Belle Isle, Detroit. Clouds were puffy, the island was empty. I picked some leafy tree branches and had my sis and friend swirl them in the air, making small circles while firmly standing on the ladder. They became a human windmill and I stretched out on the grass and photographed the greatness from below while the sun beamed through the clouds. Everything slowed down and aligned, and that exact moment was captured and expressed infinitely.

You've also worked with brands like Pepsi, Bose, and the TV show Broad City. What are some of the things you consider when approached by brands to partner, and how do you create content for them that won't stray too far from your original, authentic look?
It’s terribly dangerous for an artist to play to the gallery… David Bowie says something to this nature and I strongly agree. Authenticity is a required front seat driver with any project, so I don’t put much up for consideration. Goods are delivered off the same truck. When creating content, it’s always nice to remind myself of the big intention, keeping the end goal in mind. Work gently and always be yourself.

If you weren't working as a cross-media artist, what would you want to be doing and with whom?
I’d want to get inside a kitchen alongside Chef Virgilio Martinez and make key lime pie. Or try out an Aqua Lung and hang out with ocean explorers on sea and sky missions. Water curiosities have been elemental to me, and I've always had a giant hunger for doing things in the kitchen.

Speaking of partners, you often collaborate with artist Jarina De Marco on things from dreamy photo shoots to her most recent music video. Can you tell us about your relationship and any upcoming collaborations in the works?
Yes! Jarina is such a lovely friend. We both moved out to LA around the same time and fan-girled over one another prior to meeting. I recently photographed her inside a giant pink parachute - we called it “The Parabloom." I've also been working with my friend DISCOS - whom Jarina introduced me to - on an ongoing styling/creative direction team project called “Honeybush Episodes." We have a grand girl group here in LA entirely due to Jarina’s wrangling of hearts and talents. She’s super with pulling good people together. We’ll be working on more videos and photos throughout the year. Mucho delights.

What can we look out for from you in 2017?
Lots of video work for 2017 with a dash of poetics! I’m not too keen on measuring time or keeping track of the year in units with goals. I like to magnify into the exact moment and really get inside it. I feel much more present with people and ideas by keeping to the moment, but video works are in the mix for the year. I also need to lay off the McD’s french fries and honey as a personal goal. Help!

What does MISSBISH mean to you and who's your MISSBISH?
MISSBISH is a honey dripping, big-hearted, sugar spirited babe-a-lish. My little MISSBISH is my sister Caroline. She’s wise beyond her years and full of fearlessness. I LOVE YOU FOREVER, SIS!

Photographer: Michael Delaney | Editing/Styling/Model: Elise Mesner | Hair: Traci Sakosits - Sassoon | Makeup: Milk, Tarte Cosmetics