While Mattaya Fitts, 26, started out with an interest in drawing in college, she found freedom in painting and has since begun uploading her work to @misfitmuses on Instagram. Fitts spoke to the Globe about working from the female gaze, depicting vulnerability, and how she left — and then returned — to painting.
Q. How would you describe your work to someone who hasn’t seen it yet?
A. So far in my journey I’m finding myself painting portraits of women. I’ll paint men too sometimes, but I focus primarily on women. To be specific, women of color and black women. As a black woman myself, I like to kind of do portraits in the female gaze, using dreams of inspiration, real life memories, people that I know. It’s showing another side of us. I feel like there are various depictions of us, but what I show is vulnerability and a more sensual aspect.
Q. How do you think showing that vulnerable and sensual side is different in the female gaze rather than the male gaze?
A. There are definitely stereotypes out there that show black women as angry and loud. Some of them can be negative. I’m not saying that being angry or . . . loud is negative. It’s not that at all, but it’s very much a one-sided perspective. Being a strong woman, that’s great and all, but it’s just like we have our own set of problems and not everything is always easy to navigate. We have our vulnerable moments and our moments of suffering, and I feel like sometimes we have to do that in silence. So in my paintings, it’s not necessarily a whole story, but there are these moments of kind of vulnerability and moments of just being by oneself and seeing yourself and just being.
Q. Do you paint models, off of photos, or are the people you paint just from your mind?
A. It’s a little bit of everything. There are definitely a lot of photos. I haven’t drawn from models in a while, although that’s something that I would definitely like to start doing again. If I go off of models, it’s usually myself. I’m familiar with myself, I can manipulate myself any way that I want. But with photo, I use social media or Instagram or even Google Images. I’m kind of all over the place and sometimes use magazines, but just any visual materials.
Q. Tell me more about your background.
A. I am born and raised in Boston. I’ve always drawn, since the age of 5, and I always did it for fun, just drawing with my best friends. It developed more into a serious thing once I hit high school. In ninth grade I got involved with Artists for Humanity. It’s a nonprofit that employs youth to learn and make art and sell their art. They team up with businesses and sell their art to business. You get to work in a studio and have a mentor. You get to learn kind of all the ropes of making art, and being an artist to an extent, being a working artist, all while receiving a stipend.
I started off with painting and actually didn’t really like it much. I just wasn’t good at it at all. I kind of disliked it, so I found myself in photography. I really loved photography and I planned to study that in college, but once I got to college things kind of changed, so after a couple transitions and leaving college then coming back, I ended up majoring in painting. Something about it kind of just drew me back in.
Q. What drew you back in?
A. It’s personal. You paint whatever you want, and people that like your art or that kind of art gravitate towards you. I like that freedom.Interview was edited and condensed. Lillian Brown can be reached at lillian.brown@ globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @lilliangbrown.