It’s the day after New Years, and I’d been planning this studio visit for at least six months. An assignment from Glasstire is the perfect excuse to follow through and meet this enigmatic human, artist Mia Cugasi, about whom I know next to nothing. I call her as I drive through the gate of an apartment complex mostly reserved, according to Cugasi, for students of the University of Houston due to its proximity to the school.
I see a door swing open on the second balcony of the first building, and Cugasi emerges. I take a few photographs of the scene from below. I trot upstairs. We enter the place that Cugasi shares with her partner, artist Michael Bhichitkul, the two bedrooms of which the pair have turned into dual studios. Cugasi shows me where they sleep: a curtained-off platform, offset from the kitchen, that she designed and Bhichitkul built, to preserve the rest of their space for art making.
Cugasi, who was born in New Jersey and raised in Atlanta, graduated with her BFA in illustration from RMCAD in Denver, and moved to Houston with Bhichitkul in early 2015 to pursue making art in the community she’d heard so much about. She leads me into her zone, and I immediately eye a pair of meticulously rendered fashion sketches, only the head of the models are immediately recognizable as photorealistic penis heads. A woman after my own heart. (I happen to have an innate fondness for art depicting the male phallus. “Wieners,” as I affectionately call them.)
Several other drawings also feature masterfully sketched bodies of styled couples, but with crude markings for faces, and Cugasi says that she prefers her work to represent something “more incongruous than what one might expect.” Influenced by the likes of Edward Gorey and Kiki Smith, Cugasi is interested in pushing her background as an illustrator into more conceptually and formally adventurous territory as she plans for grad school within the next year. After discussing her transition into our fair city and what that’s meant for her as an artist, she reiterates how grateful she is for the time she’s spent here and how she’s looking forward to whatever the future holds. It is at this point that Cugasi asks if I would like a snack, and by now I’m pretty peckish, so I gladly accept and we adjourn into the kitchen to continue what has turned out to be a lovely introduction.