It was Shakespeare you said, “O! for a muse of fire, that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention.”
The artist and his muse is a tale as old as time. She’s the mysterious yin to his creative yang. She inhabits the mind of the artist and inspires his creation. Contemporary Australian artist, John Mezzini, recently found a muse in Miss Filly – a professional, award-winning competitive Australian pole athlete. Both established artists in their totally different fields, we spoke to John and Miss Filly about their collaboration.
How did the collaboration come to be?
JM: The first time I saw Miss Filly performing, I was impressed. How could you not be? Apart from the incredible sight that she is, she gets to do what she likes doing for living and she excels at it. How can you not respect that? She is a woman with a fierce drive, someone who practices extreme discipline and has the ability to draw the best out of other people. I find inspiration in that. It seemed only fitting to paint her, in a way to remind myself of those things which are so important. I have been looking for a model for some time and I am grateful she let me paint her. I’m pretty proud of that.
MF: John reached out over my social media and I was so taken by his work I couldn't refuse.
What was the process of creating the art?
MF: Currently all of works have been inspired by photographs of me in different environments. John has a great talent for painting body musculature and form, and we have similar taste in the presentation of shapes. I sent him some photos that I thought would have translated to his medium.
JM: First I had to convince her that I wasn’t "creepy”. Then sent me a few great photographs which I started on immediately. I wanted to experiment a bit with the themes. With the first one, I wanted to show her physical strength and power. With the second, I wanted to display a more demure side. The third one, was done with the idea that she may like to own it. I painted her as I think she would like to be painted. You ask for quite a bit of trust when you paint someone, I just don’t want that to be wasted.
Miss Filly, have you ever been a muse before?
MF: Not directly no, I would say I have ever been a muse. I think I have been told by people that I have inspired photos, paintings or dance but I have never worked closely with someone as they create their art. It's really amazing actually.
John, for you is painting more about the process or the final product?
JM: As an artist, there is never any final product, I’m always working hard to get "the one” painting, which I know will probably never come. It’s a process for sure. Each painting is a lesson, a stepping stone to get closer to the most likely unattainable goal. Always thinking about why is it not perfect and how can I avoid all the pitfalls of the last attempt.
Miss Filly, how did you feel when you saw the final image?
MF: I was in shock at the final work - it was so intricate and I loved the detail in my muscle striations and the colours were perfect. To be seen through someone elses eyes is a truly unique experience. I felt like he saw something in me that I hadn't seen in a while. I work full time in the studio, choreographing for other people and coaching competitors and it had been a while since I'd danced for myself. His paintings seemed to reflect that part of me that loved pole blindly. Someone whose body was transformed for functionality not just for athletics. Someone that wanted to train no matter how tired or how bruised I was. Someone that danced because they loved it, not because it paid the bills or because a schedule dictated it so. I really am grateful to John for showing me that again.
John, why is oil your preferred medium?
JM: Oil is the hardest medium to work with. It teaches you patience and perseverance. With acrylic, if you don’t like it, you can paint straight over the top - no loss. I like to be reminded that whatever I do is permanent, the choices that you make are final. It makes you that little bit more responsible for your painting. Even though you kill many of them in the process.
Miss Filly, do you see your pole work and creativity as art?
MF: Of course! I love pole dancing not only because it is a form of fitness but also because I can dance how I want. I can be barefoot, in eight inch heels or thigh high boots. I can be seductive, introverted, bold or contemporary; and it's all valid, it all feels good and it's all self expression. I have students that dance to get over divorces, mourn the loss of loved ones and celebrate their freedom or sexual liberation. It really is an amazing art form where we think about perspective, aesthetics and musicality as we try to make our audience feel, and connect without performance.
John, who would you love to paint, given the chance?
JM: In terms of a subject, I don’t think there is anyone better suited than Miss Filly, but if I had to paint a male, it would be German classical musician - Florian Magnus Maier. He is another one of my inspirations. I think he would be a great subject. Or Tex Perkins, he has a lot of grit and I think I could make some good paintings of him.
Where can we see more of you both?
JM: In December, I will be a part of Art Box in Miami. In September the work will be on "Artsy" the online gallery. All of it is for sale though my management at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm also on Facebook and Instagram.
MF: In November I will be competing at Miss Pole Dance Australia at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney. You can also find me on Instagram.