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India x Maya3
Illustration India Salvor Menuez, photography Maya Fuhr, styled by Anastasia Patellis, assisted by Dafy Hagai

What came first, the artist or the muse?

For India Salvor Menuez, it doesn’t seem to matter– she blurs the lines and breaks down boundaries between the two

Somewhere between the lines of artist, maker and doer lies NYC’s ingenue India Salvor Menuez — and the city sure is lucky to have her. Not limited to one practice or medium, India is a true Renaissance woman in the most millennial sense of the term. Having mastered the art of Instagram as well as dabbling in various creative artforms — from directing to traditional art practice in performance art, sculpture and drawing — the fluidity of India’s work transcends any single platform.

While her digital presence may precede her, the doyenne focus on her work and constantly flowing stream of projects lends itself to the sentiment that the desire to “create” is one that is innate. A quote by Modern artist Sonia Delaunay seems to apply itself to India’s similarly avant­garde approach to life: “For me there is no gap between my painting and my so ­called 'decorative' work...it was an extension of my art.” India’s ability for fusing her life with her artistic practice and community solidifies her place in the city’s rising creative class. Her latest collaboration, with Toronto ­based photographer Maya Fuhr, finds her refreshingly devoid of self ­consciousness, double­ dutching on and off the canvas in a self­ referential play on “draw or be drawn?”

How have the themes and tropes present in your art developed into a style that is characteristically yours?

Even if the content of your work is not personal, the practice of making art in a way is inherently so. Wherever one’s practice sits between indulgence and essential making, to decide to make art, to diverge from a clearer usefulness, speaks about a person. As much as I find my work to be very personal, I don’t know if I can claim all “my style” as my own. The internet can make it hard to feel original, but instead of worrying too much about the cross pollination leaving my work un­original I appreciate and feel I can learn from other artists with an overlap of interests or approaches. I believe in morphic resonance, and find the idea of a sub­shared ­conscious delightful. It’s hard for me to know what “my style” is, and I think I am also a bit afraid of how “style” translates into the branding of an artist... but I know what I like when I see it.

Why are you drawn to certain subjects and what is your perspective on this?

The attack on reproductive rights in this country is getting really insane, and I feel very aware of this regression as a prime indicator of how we are undervalued alongside our male counterparts. I feel really strongly about this, and am still figuring out how to raise my voice on pro­choice in a directly political way; but in the meantime, through the language of my art I feel I can more comfortably express my feelings on issues like this. It’s a more abstract expression, and through the more stagnant mediums of picture and sculpture it is hard to impress your feelings on the viewer; but I have found especially with performance that I really can communicate my convictions. Equality and ecology are always on my mind, these are the issues that will bring this world to an end if we don’t work to right them.

Have you always been drawn to performance? How do you utilise the body as a vehicle for expression?

I always drew since I was little, and I thought that was being an artist. But my dad was also always filming stuff, there are all these home ­videos from before I had siblings (which was until I was 12) that I think of now as total performance art collaborations between my dad and I. A 6­ year ­old me, gives a fashion show, wearing a lump of cotton stuffing in a variety of ways; a 7 ­year ­old me dances with a blow ­up skeleton, plays recorder underwater... all the wonderfully inventive things kids do, for me were kind of validated by my parents’ interest. So I feel really lucky for my open and interested parents, but in terms of a fully aware interest in performance, I didn’t really develop that until I started acting 4 years ago. Performance art for me filled the gap between acting and my more object ­oriented art­making practice.

“Equality and ecology are always on my mind, these are the issues that will bring this world to an end if we don’t work to right them”– India Salvor Menuez 

Can you talk about the young, heavily artistic and creative community you’re involved with currently in NYC?

It’s certainly something special to grow up in a city that is historically a magnet to all the world’s outcasts. I remember there was moment in 9th grade, where I stopped only hanging out with the kids in my school, and started to find friends through the shared interest of going to concerts, and getting involved with the political group ny2no. A lot of the kids I met then, through shared interests, are still my close friends now. After I decided to take a break from Hunter College was when everyone else in their early 20’s who either skipped college, dropped out or finished somewhere else in the world, moved to New York. A lot of kids come for just a year, the city is too unkind and expensive and then they leave.

It is always a bummer to see how my friends I grew up with can’t afford to live in the neighborhoods they grew up in, if in the city at all; and on the flip side seeing all the rich kids who don’t have to do anything to keep living here. The people I work with and consider my creative community are sort of all my favorite artists in New York; and it's important to me to have these inspiring friendships, where we can bounce ideas off each other, collaborate and lend our hands to one another on our personal projects. To work within a community also feels powerful in keeping your work within reach of the viewer– whatever that means.

How the collaboration with Maya Fuhr came about, and what can you tell us about these drawings?

Since I first started to draw as a kid, I always loved nudes, the drapery of clothing was hard, and the styling of how you dressed a figure gave too much context. I could go on and on about why I love to draw figures, but it’s just kind of my go ­to, what comes out of me if I’m holding a pen. So these are some drawings Maya had found, mostly from my notebook, some of which I had put on my site, and she approached me with this idea to shoot me like my drawings.

I thought of that now heavily meme’d, scene from Titanic, “draw me like one of your french girls”, a classic example of the female­ bodied­ “muse” to the male­ bodied­ “artist” trope; and how doing this project with Maya kind of pokes fun at this. Playing with the idea of being your own muse, or maybe rather, fuck the muse, isn’t the muse always fucked to begin with? The drawings are symbolic figures, and there was a feeling of performance involved with trying to embody these often unrealistic bodies. A simple idea that left room for a lot of play.

Draw or be drawn?

I prefer drawing then being drawn. But you can learn a lot about drawing if someone really good is drawing you, so there’s that.

See more of India Salvor Menuez's work here, see more of Maya Fuhr's work here