Sometimes it’s impossible to not be enchanted by a piece of art. It could be the vibrant colors, the use of words to accent the piece, or the whimsical nature of the work as a whole that catches the viewer’s eye. In the case of Mikaela Savage’s portfolio, it’s a combination of all three.
Savage’s unique art graces the cover and pages of “the molting medusa,” the fall 2021 zine of The Laughing Medusa. The Laughing Medusa is Boston College’s only literary arts magazine that accepts submissions solely from female-identifying and nonbinary artists, according to its Instagram bio.
“When we get experimental artists like Mikaela, we get really excited because what we want to do is amplify those voices on campus and share the really interesting art that we find,” said Lexie Slotterback, Lynch ’22 and current editor-in-chief of The Laughing Medusa.
According to Savage, MCAS ’24, she did not seriously start pursuing art until the second semester of her freshman year. She submitted her artwork for the fall zine with encouragement from Jules Digregorio, Savage’s friend and council member of The Laughing Medusa.
Digregorio, MCAS ’24, encouraged Savage to submit her artwork not only because of Savage’s talent, but because Savage’s art also fit the message of The Laughing Medusa, Digregorio said.
“The Laughing Medusa is all about the magic in femininity and womanhood and also kind of queerness, and I think Mikaela captures that really well,” Digregorio said. “Especially in her portraits of herself, she becomes this divine being that feels very much like the mythological inspirations of Laughing Medusa.”
The Laughing Medusa publishes a full literary arts magazine every spring, but every fall it also prints a zine, which is a shorter collection of literary work. Every zine has a different theme based around submissions, according to Slotterback.
For the fall of 2021, Savage’s artwork inspired the magazine’s council members to choose the theme of “the molting medusa,” according to Slotterback. In addition to the cover art, three of Savage’s other submissions, all untitled, filled the pages of the zine.
The zine is typically printed in black and white, Slotterback said. But since Savage played with color in such a mesmerizing way in her pieces, The Laughing Medusa council decided to print the zine in color, Slotterback said.
Although her artwork depicts a range of images, including Alice in Wonderland–esque mushrooms, Savage specializes in portraiture. The cover art that Savage designed contains two large faces, one face in orange and one in green. Both rest on the page without eyes, surrounded by pen-ink figures and red and blue hand prints. The words “Excuse me. We are lacking Eyeballs!” surround the figures.
“I started with the face and then went in with some ink,” Savage said. “For this one, specifically, I liked drawing on my painting [and] writing, so here I added some words [to make it] interactive.”
One of Savage’s self portraits also puts words at the center. Instead of shading the features of the face in a traditional way, Savage wrote words and phrases over and over, in varying sizes and overlaps, creating depth.
Despite having a talent for visual art, Savage was more interested in pursuing ballet instead of visual art growing up. But her upbringing immersed her in an artistic lifestyle. Her mother encouraged Savage and her four siblings to pursue art while drawing inspiration from her surroundings.
“My mom would take us in the woods to watercolor, [and] we did a lot of classes like that, but I feel like I didn’t really start getting into art or developing my own style until [college],” Savage said.
While Savage continues to develop her own style, she said she plans to submit more work to The Laughing Medusa and potentially submit her work for the Arts Walk at BC’s Arts Fest this coming April. Because of the innovative nature of her art, the final piece surprises the viewer, and even Savage herself, as she incorporates unexpected colors and elements that make the art jump off the page.
“I feel like my art is always kind of like a work in progress,” Savage said. “Like I start something and I have no idea where it’s going, so the end result is a surprise to me.”
The Laughing Medusa is the first place Savage published her work, but her art is always on display all over her dorm room’s walls, according to Digregorio.
“I’ll walk into her room and she’ll be like, ‘Oh, look at this thing I did yesterday’ and it’s something that I would see in a museum,” Digregorio said.
One of Savage’s biggest inspirations is Austrian painter Egon Schiele, which is evident in the line-drawing style of figures and faces she portrays. Shiele paints distorted figures, typically using vibrant colors instead of skin tones for his portraits.
Savage also tries to stray from using skin tones, instead opting to use colors that she feels represent the people she draws or match their energy. Savage paints portraits from reference photos and images in her mind. She’ll sometimes create drawings of her friends as presents for their birthdays.
With her friends as her muses, Savage draws symbols or creates a collage around their face with images that remind her of them. Digregorio received one of these birthday portraits from Savage, saying it was one of their most special moments together.
“It was indescribable,” Digregorio said. “I instantly wanted to cry because it was not only this incredible piece of me, but it was this artwork of how Mikaela sees the world and how she saw me. It was just the most wonderful thing to see myself through the eyes of this person that I love.”
Featured Images by Mikaela Savage
Featured Graphic by Annie Corrigan / Heights Editor