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‘Exquisite Familiar’ Artist: Michèle Saint-Yves

Michèle Saint-Yves is one of our ‘The Exquisite Familiar’ artists. ‘The Exquisite Familiar’ is an Access2Arts project that sees a group of eleven South Australian disabled artists, both emerging and established, working together through multiple workshops and mediums to create powerful collaborative art. This art is then exhibited at prominent establishments, such as the Art Gallery of South Australia and MOD..

What was the inspiration for your selected uncanny creature?

The sloth is the creature that represents how I primarily inhabit and engage with the world since acquiring my disability.

When I feel myself appease the demands of an ableist world and/or let my will power override my body too much because I need to force myself to participate in life, I turn to watching sloths. Sloths remind me to seep in the words from Mary Oliver’s poem WILD GEESE “Let the soft animal of your body love what it loves” (in my case ‘be what it is’)

*insert illustration here*

Tell me a bit about yourself and your artistic practice?

Being half way through my sixth decade, I reflect on the threads and patterns that make the warp and weft of myself: love swimming, especially in wild water places; enjoy the reimagining of who I can be as a stranger in foreign places; deeply adore language; incredibly curious especially about science, suppressed histories and philosophy; love cafés, museums and galleries; and, could exist in a cinema just showing arthouse films.

My art making primarily is through words – writing for stage, screen and the page. I did start out as a visual artist in my late teens-early twenties with several group exhibitions and a solo exhibition. This is the first time I have done any visual art publicly since then.

Where do you find inspiration?

Primarily through the cross-fertilisation of concepts, language, ideas and facts that I have encountered from reading, seeing or hearing about in poetic imaginative essays, science journals, art and design collections/catalogues, films and popular culture digital pieces. I make notes of the things I have encountered and they ferment in my subconscious until I can feel a phrase, opening line or visionary outline of a new piece.

How does your disability influence your craft?

My disability means I only have a fully functioning brain for half a day for half the week, with ~3 days a week being unable to ‘think’ and ‘do’ due to my brain being offline.

This physical inactivity and resultant solitude have an inverse influence on my creativity – it explodes on to the notebook page/drawing book/screen during my functional periods and takes form fairly well developed.

What food, drink, or song inspires you?

Decaf coffee is a must and I have playlists depending on what I am writing-drawing – mostly jazz, vintage lounge, indy folk-singer-songwriters and lofi hiphop.