Artist Lab Report:
My drive to art

by Mirzam Pérez

As a true Gemini, I’ve had quite a few occupations. I’ve been an ice cream store clerk, business operations manager, entrepreneur, HR specialist, advertising guru, administrative assistant, housekeeper, social worker, post-secondary student, instructor, professor, mother, and life partner.  And yes, I’ve been an artist.


Being an artist and creator has been my one constant through the years. And frankly, I wouldn’t even call it an occupation.  My relationship to art is a compulsion, a drive, something I can’t quite control or calm down.  Let me explain.

Have you watched that video on social media of the rescued baby beaver being raised by humans? ( You can click on the QR code below to watch it ). Despite having no formal training in the arts of “beavering,” such as felling trees, carrying materials, and creating dams, the little guy has an uncontrollable urge to create mini dams with his human siblings’ stuffed animals. He has not seen other beavers make dams. He has not been taught to sculpt his masterpiece.  Nevertheless, he is toiling on.


That too is me: Mirzam the beaver. Collaging, painting, drawing, sculpting, throwing pots, crafting, collecting stuff, or sometimes, just thinking about art. Not sure why I do it. That’s not relevant. I must create. All the time.


As a Lakeside Artist in Residence, this drive-to-art flows unrestrained, undeterred from the responsibilities of daily life. I have no other schedules to juggle, no one to take care of, no classes to prepare, no papers to grade and, most importantly, no emails to interrupt my focus. I am here in a corner of Iowa focusing exclusively on my artistic compulsion. This is a luxury and a privilege, and I rejoice in it. I skip to my studio every morning. I am happy. I find my studio turkeys – yes, turkeys – at their usual place, roaming the backyard and munching on the treasures that have fallen off the bird feeders. They ignore me and continue their determined crunching activities. I am ready for what the day brings.


I start by reassessing the work completed the day before. At this moment, all my energy is devoted to a series of abstracted landscapes painted on long stretches of fabric. I am the only artist these first two weeks of the summer and have unapologetically taken over all the floor and table space in the studio. I talk to myself a lot. I’m usually not alone and this is a bit unsettling at first, so I keep myself company with my running thoughts.  Music helps focus my early morning jitters. Occasionally a class walks by. Today it’s the birders with their cool binoculars, mastering the art of walking and watching and listening at the same time. As they disappear into the greenness that surrounds us, I open paint bottles, find brushes, and get ready to continue adding layers of color to my fabrics. Let the beavering begin!

Mirzam Pérez

Instagram; @mirzamperezart

“Artists and scientists are both asking questions about the world, they’re just doing it in different ways”
Alex Braidwood
Director, Iowa Lakeside Lab Artists-in-Residence Program
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