Mithsuca Berry on Making Art and Shouting Into the Void

By Janice Faith Heinrich
Art by Mithsuca Berry

Art has always been and will always be a vital part of the human experience. It’s a way to inspire and connect but also a form of resistance, transformation and healing. An artist whose work encompasses all of the above is Boston-based mixed media artist Mithsuca Berry (they/them).

Almost a year ago, the Instagram algorithm directed me towards their work, and it immediately drew me in with its bold colours and healing messages. Ever since I’ve been following Mithsuca’s journey, always excited for what they’ll create next. Mithsuca connects writing, illustration, painting and more with activism, for example by selling self-illustrated Black Lives Matter shirts that raised nearly $9000 for bail funds. DADDY got to talk to Mithsuca about the inspiration behind their work, the healing qualities of art and how colours make us feel. 

How would you describe yourself?

Mithsuca: Hello! My name is Mithsuca and I am a multidisciplinary artist based in Boston, Massachusetts. I live my life as a Pisces sun, Sagittarius moon and Gemini rising, so obviously, I’m a ball of spiritual and creative thoughts!

“For Black individuals, childhood can feel very nostalgic because once you become aware of the gravity of your identity, you can never go back.”

Tell us a little bit about your relationship with art throughout your life. How has it changed and developed?

Mithsuca: I was a deeply sensitive and observant kid. My mind was always a highway for questions, dreams, and depth. For Black individuals, childhood can feel very nostalgic because once you become aware of the gravity of your identity, you can never go back. Navigating that experience, I began to carry a lot of trauma and fear on my shoulders. I began detaching from my body and started distrusting my surroundings. Art was a way for me to try to heal that wound. I was able to create universes in which my pain could transform into something beautiful, like an image or a text. I learned to explore my emotions and beliefs in a new way that praised and empowered my identity. That exploration has revealed itself to be something I want to pursue long term. I recognised that many people could relate to what I was discovering through my work. It has become not only a tool of healing for myself but also for my audience. 

Personally, I love the colours you use in your work and your style. How do they make you feel, and what role do colours play in your art and the way you express yourself?

Mithsuca: We often take colours for granted, even though they're such a powerful part of life. They can tap into bodily responses that many don’t even think about twice. My stories use colours to start a conversation from the moment you lay your eyes on them. Your body can relate to the piece even before your mind does. I find that so interesting. My pieces carry a variety of heavy topics, but I don’t think those always need to be personified by muted colours. A beautiful image and a sad story can exist in the same place. I attempt to convey this kind of duality in all my work. I'm trying to depict those feelings that are hard to explain.

What are your favourite materials to work with? Which art practises would you like to explore more?

Mithsuca: I love to have my work kind of choose its own medium. My first thought isn't always to create with materials I’m already used to. As much as I have my favourite tools like painting, digital work or writing, I know that they all have different impacts on the viewer. I would love to go deeper into fibre or sculptural work! It feels ancestral to tell stories through multiple forms.

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Where do you draw inspiration for your art?

Mithsuca: My biggest inspiration for all my work is the life I live outside of being an artist. People tend to forget that inspiration often comes from moments that transform you in a subtle way. When I was younger, I reimagined my future through my dreams, which I reflected on in my art. As I get older, I’ve found that my practice also makes me grateful for the emotions I experience day to day.

I draw inspiration from life and nature. I like to view my life as a process of nature, with me as a plant thriving off of water and the sun. My body needs nurturing, and so do the bodies of my peers. I feel like the human experience has gotten so complex and frigid. Everyone is trying to unlearn this tension so we can let in true self-expression. Watching people around me grasp their feet and turn this process into art inspires me. You start to feel more like part of a movement instead of subscribing to the "lonely, tortured artist" narrative. This is all I need. My life is rooted in my expanding philosophies and personal development. Being present in this life I've been given is essential for me to make art.

Your most recent exhibition is called “The Sun Knows No Impostor”. What can you tell us about this title? What did you want to encapsulate in this exhibition?

Mithsuca: This show is a project I worked on for about a year before the actual real-life iteration. It meant to be a space that holds all the typical topics of my art. We constantly discuss mental health, generational trauma, etc., but unpacking these issues is often intercepted by experiencing imposter syndrome. It feels like the duality of your pain and joy can't exist in the same space. Until you commit to one of them, you'll always be a fraud in your own narrative.

My goal for the exhibition was to create a space where this spectrum can exist and be addressed. Personally, I always find myself having these kinds of conversations in private. Even as the artist of this beautiful body of work, I often feel like an imposter. We carry so many ways of being conditioned from our childhood, and they all turn into a voice in the back of our heads. A voice that tells us that we're not being what others want us to be. Every day, the world we live in feeds into this voice. From birth to death, there's the potential to accumulate so much pain. My work aims to be a release for people, may it be on a small or larger scale. I want to be the bridge that seals the gap between the audience and their inner child.

You’ve recently collaborated with Lazy Oaf, Covert Behaviour and also sell merchandise of your pieces. Has it always been your wish to make wearable art? Can you see yourself creating a fashion label?

Mithsuca: I am so grateful that my creative world has opened up to the realm of fashion. Self-expression has been a big part of my spiritual journey. What does it look like to shed the person you were taught to be? What would you look like if the major representation we have wasn’t white/cis/straight?

I’ve been disconnected from my body for a long time. The practice of wearing what I want has relieved me of so much pain. Having my art transform into this wearable healing is so affirming and exciting. I’m beyond grateful to be part of that experience for people. All the brands I work with honour this inner child, which is the foundation of my art. I’m taking what I’ve learned to create my own apparel. The fashion industry is so complex and I’m learning so much!

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What role does art play in communal healing? How, as a Black artist in a white supremacist society, do you find space for your personal healing?

Mithsuca: In my work itself and my people. The representation we’ve been given is hollow. It’s void of any depth or intimacy. The work of those in my community holds space for conversations that no one in power is willing to have. My peers are archivists, makers, storytellers and more. They bring life to ancestral Black stories. And they're unearthing centuries of history you won't even find in a Black history class. We're creating seats at the table, not only for ourselves, but we want to inspire other communities as well. So that in the end we can all unravel ourselves from the impact of white supremacy. Systematically, that's so hard, but I feel like art allows the psyche to be free, and thus a domino effect begins.

What are you working on at the moment?

Mithsuca: I’m currently working on a body of work around clothing! Keep an eye out.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Follow Mithsuca Berry on Instagram. 

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