Although this young, vivacious artist has been growing tremendously in popularity in Mexico – having done design campaigns with everyone from Nike, to BMW, to her newest collaboration with Dos Equis – this Wednesday will be Kari Mayo‘s first solo exhibition in Europe at the Agora Collective in Berlin’s Neukölln district where she will be staying for three weeks as part of an artist residency. The show will feature a collection of geommetric masks inspired by the native Mexican tribe, the Huicholes. We sat down to talk to the artist and her producer Céline Huerta in their home-away-from-home studio at Agora about her life, art, and the deeper spiritual and cultural meaning her work embodies.
BAPS: You were inspired by the Huichol people of Northern Mexico. Why did you choose to draw inspiration from this society?
KM: Mostly because of their religion; what it means to them and how sacred it is. I borrowed some of their beliefs and made them my own. So I did my own language with symbols but inspired by their work but also the deeper meaning behind their work. Also I wanted to create something that was deeply rooted in Mexican culture.
CH: In a lot of Latin American countries there is always this tendency to kind of focus on what is happening abroad more than in your own country. There is a national complex that they don’t believe in this creativity that we have. So this is also really important in Kari because she is contributing to this reconciliation between Mexicans and their own culture. So they actually have started to give credit to that like, “Oh, so it is possible to make something totally inspired in our legacy and culture but in a really modern way.”
BAPS: So is there is a particular meaning behind each mask?
KM: Yes. I lost my brother four years ago he was my best friend and I was really having a hard time dealing with it so at some point I decided to do all these works. When you face death, all of the other things in your life start to fall apart and you have to gather it in pieces together to re-build something of your own. So maybe this is a metaphor for that my soul was fragmented and I was just like picking up the pieces
I found that these native Mexican people don’t have original gods, they believe only in nature. So for example like each animal and each plant represents something; the deer for them represents the older brother. Also their gods are their ancestors and the people who passed away. So the first exhibition was like a ceremony with totems and masks – kind of like a brightly colored funeral to help me cope with it. It was like an offering to my brother.
One of Kari Mayo’s Huichol-inspired masks in the likeness of a deer. Photo: Courtesy of Kari Mayo
BAPS: Has your work changed since the exhibition in Mexico City?
KM: Definitely. I started to produce work differently and this is the result of what happened to me after Mexico City. There were five masks in the first exhibition and each one represented a member of my family and how this affected each of us. I really went deep inside in order to see the really bad things but also the really good things. Once you’ve seen the real darkness of what happened then you can move on so now this exhibition at Agora is a continuation of that theme. But this is more about me and the change in myself because I really feel like a whole new person.
BAPS: This is your first solo show in Europe. How do you feel about exhibiting here? What do you hope to accomplish?
KM: First of all, I do really want people here to see my work. In Mexico, they see something like this and they recognize, “oh its a Kari Mayo” but I really wanted to go further geographically to get people to know what I do and if its possible to make them wonder about Mexican cultures.
CH: We are really happy to be here. It is really rare in Mexico to be an artist just starting out and having the opportunity to go abroad is only if you are like a big big artist in your country, like you are Frieda Kahlo or something. So it is cool that now there is a new generation of young artists who are in Mexico that are really moving stuff and changing the panorama of the art scene and taking it internationally, and Kari Mayo is definitely one of them.
Note: If you just can’t wait until Wednesday to see more of Kari Mayo join us at Santa Maria Mexican Diner in Kreuzberg for tacos and tequila tonight starting at 6pm for a meet -and-greet with the artist and the BAPS team!
Article by Kirsten Hall