CORK painter Micina wants to use her art as a vehicle for care. For almost four years, the 27- year-old artist lined up her paintings in various spots across the city for Corkonians to find inspiration in them or take them home, free of charge.
“I think a lot of people in the city have my art at home, I just laid them in the streets so people could pick them up,” she says smiling.
“I just like to gift people; I wish I could afford to paint all the time and gift them to people.”
Micina’s disregard for money is quite conspicuous, even though, she is now a “street seller” in Cork. She charges so little, however, that it almost doesn’t make any difference.
“Out of a whole week of painting, I only made €30 last week,” she says. “I don’t mind it though; my paintings are a way of communicating my love to people.”
Her contempt for price tags stems from growing up poor: a poverty-stricken life in her home country of Slovakia that made her believe in the radical notion that everything must be free.
“I come from a really poor family; I experienced heavy situations throughout my life, they made me feel strongly for people who have been in the same situations,” Micina says.
“I want to help people, I want to be a millionaire just to help people, I just don’t know how,” she says laughing.
Micina says that selling her art on the streets has given her a unique opportunity to live her passion: sharing her love and art with complete strangers, especially the city’s rough sleepers.
“Homeless people can’t go to galleries, or maybe they can, but I don’t think they will... I talk to them all the time, they are beautiful people, there are probably hundreds of abandoned buildings in the city I don’t know why they get to be homeless,” Micina says.
“We need to start caring for each other; that’s my message.”
The young painter herself is grappling with housing difficulties as well. Sleeping on friends’ couches at the moment, Micina talks about how much she would love to have a room of her own and her plans of turning it into a small studio.
“If someone has an abandoned building and needs someone to look after it, I would love to do so,” she says.
Although Micina is adamant that paintings should not be “bottled up” indoors, she makes exceptions from time to time. Moved by the love she has felt in Cork Cancer Care Centre, the artist has recently gifted one of her paintings to the charity organisation.
“I love the vibes, the colours and the amount of love within that centre, so I decided to gift one of my paintings to them,” she says.
In Micina’s paintings, everything — from trees to the moon — has a human face. She says it exemplifies her unwavering love for people.
“Every time I start to paint, people’s faces appear to me, I don’t know why, I think it’s because I’m so interested in people,” she says.
The young woman who usually sells her art outside Bishop Lucey Park or Paul Street’s Tesco has found loyal customers who come by to say hello, every single day. She has also become a source of inspiration to the city’s buskers.
“One day, one German musician whose name is Thomas started to freestyle about my art, it was really beautiful,” she says.
“There is also a guy who comes to see me with his dog every day, and he just gives me so much love with his presence, every single person is unique for me.”
Traça DeBarra, a 25-year-old social worker in Cork, who shares Micina’s indifference to money, thinks artists like her symbolise an escape route from today’s commercialised society.
“I think that artists are what make a city culturally significant. Their contribution should be encouraged especially in a corporate-dominated marketplace which otherwise lacks soul,” she says.
Noreen Murphy, a 53-year-old Cork activist and former monastery teacher agrees.
“We would be a much richer country if we had an artist on every street corner, but they are largely unsupported,” she says.
Josef Keys, a veteran British painter in Cork, thinks street selling is a “pleasant experience” so long as artists are somehow safeguarded against its potential dangers.
“A few years ago, Cork County Council contacted me and a few other local artists about displaying our work on the railings of Bishop Lucey Park. I sold seven pieces in seven months.”
However this didn’t last.
“The main reason I stopped exhibiting was the hassle,” he says. “One artist was threatened with being killed; we had to call the police, and a drunk told me to go back to England,” Josef recalls.
Despite challenges, Micina has decided to keep on sharing her art with the public.
“I appreciate each and every person who stops by, I just want to say thank you so much to all of them,” she says.
This year marks the seventh anniversary of the artist’s first arrival in Cork which coincides with the day she fell in love with the city. I ask if she would paint Cork with a human face.
Micina closes her eyes for a second then says: “I would paint Cork with the face of a lion woman with long hair.”
To see more of Micina’s paintings visit https://www.facebook.com/micinaart/