Thea Meussling was born and raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In 2011, Thea graduated with a BFA from The Herron School of Art and Design, IUPUI, in Indianapolis, Indiana. In 2013, Thea studied ceramics as a post baccalaureate student at The University of Montana in Missoula, Montana. Currently, Thea is in her final year as a MFA candidate at Kansas State University. Thea's most recent work is composed of performances and installations. She has developed an alter ego, Tooflady, to use as the protagonist for all her performance work.
For my MFA thesis show, A Visit with Tooflady, I will be building a a partial, full-scale trailer home. I will live in this space as Tooflady for two weeks. She will perform abstractions of mundane tasks like watching T.V., sunbathing, vacuuming, etc., as well as interacting with the audience and the objects that I make. Other performers representing her family and friends will participate in the show alongside her.
Entering the gallery, viewers will see Tooflady's fabricated home. The trailer will be branded with tagging and surrounded by gaudy lawn ornaments and a fenced yard cluttered with junk. Opening the front door of the trailer, viewers will be enveloped in cheap wood paneled walls, a floor of berber, and the odor of cigarettes. Down the hallway, vinyl accordion doors lead to Tooflady's living room and bedroom. Both rooms will be filled to the brim with used furniture, overflowing ashtrays, and an array of adornments that viewers can peruse.
Depending on the action Tooflady is performing, she will either be kind and welcoming to the audience, or annoyed and rude. This will be welcoming environment to those who are 18+.
My sculptures, installations, and performances utilize bold hues, text, pattern, and specific objects observed from life that embody the loud vulgarity prevalent in popular culture. Tooflady is the name of the character I created to use in my performance pieces. Tooflady is akin to a border town that straddles crudeness and chic. Her energy feeds on admiration and celebrations of certain members of the working class. At times sneered at in American culture, Tooflady is directly related to their experiences and lifestyles; she shines a light on them, emphasizing the positives that exist.
I am inspired by artists such as Pepon Osorio, Marina Abramovic, Matthew Barney, and Cindy Sherman. They are dedicated to creating false realities; this is the direction I am pursuing in my work. The book Art and feminism by Peggy Phelan is extremely influential to me. This book is full of feminist essays and female performance artists that made waves in the 1960s-1980s. Performance art, most specifically the Happenings Movement, is ephemeral; it only exists for the attendees at the time it is occurring. Being present in every moment is crucial for my work. Tooflady is a tool I am using to create that relates to the earlier empowered female artists. It is important for me to honor the precedent they set by pursing female performance art forward.
In Kansas, I have found vast sources of information and inspiration for my work. I have friendships with many Kansans, of whom, like me, have rough backgrounds and have struggled with substance abuse in the past. I travel locally, primarily exploring Wamego, Junction City, and Topeka. I conduct interviews with many people from this area. In direct relation to the investigations I carry out in my surroundings, the content and purpose of my performances expand and contract.