Born with Crayolas in her hands: An interview with Elise Mesner

Whimsical with a tender touch, Elise Mesner’s art is captivatingly playful and dreamy. In her works, atmospheres are surreal; normalities are abandoned. Also a fashion photographer, painter, illustrator, songwriter, collage artist and costume designer, Mesner, 33, is a sheer force of creativity, radiating eccentricity everywhere she goes.

Considering the eclectic mix of brands the Detroit native has collaborated with, or the lengthy list of galleries that have featured her photography, it may come as a surprise to learn that the artist has never actually taken a photo editing class — let alone a class in photography. Rather, the Schoolcraft College alum is the self-taught, sager type. As Mesner explained to me earlier this week: “I go at it alone like a little pebble in the rapids and prefer the deep waters.”

Contrary to being a little pebble, Mesner is making giant splashes in her solo career. Also interviewed by Featured Shoot and The Photographic Journal this week, the LA-based artist has created a name for herself in the visual art world and on social media, where she boasts 106k Instagram followers. As an enthusiastic fan, I’m honored to be saying this — meet Elise:

When did you become involved in art?

I was born with Crayolas in my hands.

How would you describe your aesthetic?

It’s a good-time aesthetic. Bosom buddies, making laughs and enjoying the process as it transpires.

Can you tell me about the use of color in your work, and what draws you to vibrant colors?

Bright color palettes and harmonies feel good. I have this whole theory on color but it’s a long, long thing. I’ll spare you. It’s a “the shoe fits kind of thing.”

I love your Instagram name, lellopepper, and your bio “Obey your thirst.” Can you tell me a bit about both?

Well thank you for enjoying the lellopepps. I dig the word “pepper” and I tend to put pepper in/on an abundance of things: cracked rainbow pepper on a salad, always. Poblano flakes in hot chocolate, vanilla ice cream. Warm milk, pepper and honey. Also, pretty fond of yellow so I dropped the “y’ and turned that to “lello + pepper”. Has a happy jing-a-ling to it, right?

The slogan “Obey your thirst” comes from a old Sprite ad. I’ve always loved 90’s slogans like Coke’s “Just for the taste of it,” and Nike’s “Just do it.”Also tend to change my headline on Instagram from time-to-time. I’ve had “Sugar how you get so fly,” “Let’s make our own,” “OK OK OK baby, yeah,” “What the,” “Ice cream snow, see you in June,” and several others.

Of the brands you’ve collaborated with, do you have a favorite?

One of my favorites was Banana Republic because I remember in High School dropping my entire summer savings on their fall/winter collection and not having any money to do anything. Ate Ramen noodles for a year to recover from the fashion expenditure (laughs). Always admired their style and was thrilled to have them as one of my first clients. The process for shooting their campaign was a lot of fun because I was able to have full creative control. Mixed clothing with tropical plants and it was lavish and somehow these Banana Republic folks just found me on the ol’ internet — what a lovely world.

What helps you feel creative? Do you have any go-to artists or songs, or places where you like to create?

I heart the 80’s completely. Dreamy synths and all the dancy-ness. I have a few Spotify Playlists that I tend to pump on during big shoots: Heliotropes is a good one. Full of Italo Disco, 80’s, Darkwave, Synthpop, Indiepop, Gothic Rock, Goth-industrial, Post-punk, Technopop. Lots of Cocteau Twins, Gary Newman, and I’m on a 60/70s kick with Donovan and T. Rex as of late. Oh and I love to create art outside in the sunshine — big reason for moving to LA.

How has social media played a role in expanding your career?

Social media has been a huge tool. Connecting so much talent from all around the globe. I’ve worked with artists like Yoko Honda in Hong Kong, Lola Dupre now in Ireland. And so many friendships like Jarina DeMarco both of us fangirling one another’s work online and then moving to the same city, at the same time. And Jarina has introduced me to so many amazing people. We have quite the girl-group here in LA. I like how all the good stuff comes together like magnets.

Who are some of your favorite Instagram accounts and visual magazines?

Favorite Instagram accounts: Big fan of Blaise Cepis @itsalrightwerealright, Pat O’Rourke @chilligansisland, Lark Foord @larkfoord, Sinziana Velicescu @casualtimetravel… oh and so many others, jillions I could mention. Loving the minimal analogue architecture/street photography revelation…

Magazines: My lady Jamie Ortega’s Sumzine based in New York, excellent fashion stories. My loves Deniz and Turker in Istanbul running Match-up MagazineCereal Mag (fresh air), King Kong (less words, more photos, law breaking). I adore Acne for the hunky size and print quality (great to hold between the fingers, sip tea, and the pages are frame-worthy).

What are some of your goals and ambitions going forward as an artist in 2017?

Grow more house plants ’til I’m surrounded by a small jungle. I have two avocados and a redskin potato started as of this week.

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Sunny Sprinkles, 2012. “Made this guy back in Detroit when I was stuck in the house during a snow storm with minimal food options in the kitchen… sorta documents when things were a bit hard but still sunny and bright.” – EM

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Foundation Room series

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Cool Bisous series
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Elise Mesner x Jack in the Box
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It Snowed series

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8Nine series

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Swiss chards series

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This self-portrait by Elise Mesner is one of the artist’s 8 pieces which will be featured at Dussledorf’s Onomato Kunstleverin center next month. Check out her site for more art: elisemesner.com.

 

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