Petr and I were blown away when we set foot in Charisse’s studio apartment. It was as if New Orleans’ legend Marie Laveau herself had decorated and imprinted part of her voodoo queen soul on the walls. We were now in Charisse’s world; one dedicated to the mystic, and the sublime. A candle lit art studio that brought some fascinating tales into the light.
Where are you from originally, Charisse?
I’m originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I went to a regular school and we were some the first kids that went to an all white school. That has really shaped my whole entire life, I think.
Do you miss it back home? What do you miss the most?
No, I don’t miss it (laughs). I do miss my Grandmother and her house though. I don’t miss the city, I never want to move back.
What do you miss about your grandmother?
I miss her love and her aura – you know that grandmother’s aura.
How did you get to Prague, Charisse?
I flipped a coin. It was a toss-up between here and Seville in Spain.
No way! That’s cool!
It was one of the most interesting things I’ve ever done. I was living in Minneapolis and I was thinking, do I actually do this? I went to the window and it was raining, and I thought oh god! There was a double rainbow! The only thing I knew about the Czech Republic at that point was Alfons Mucha…
What were your first impressions of Prague?
I got into the wayback machine and went back 20 years.
A wayback machine?
The cartoon TV show Rocky and Bullwinkle. Peabody and Sherman had this time travel machine called the wayback machine (laughs).. Lots of parts of Prague remind me of Milwaukee actually, because of the Polish. We have a big Polish community over there too.
Where is your favourite place to hang out in Prague?
It used to be this bar Hush on Lublanska before it closed. Now I like Vzorkovna bar.. I had some of my paintings in a show there too.
If you could describe Prague in adjectives, which would you use?
Random, Grey, lost but found opportunities. It’s very new. Everything is a rebirth. Definitely a renaissance. Freedom.
Are you religious?
I’m spiritual. I’ve discovered a lot of stuff since I’ve moved to Prague. That’s why I think of it as a rebirth.
You’re a very talented! You paint and make your own clothes and jewellery too. Anything else?
Anything! I just like to make shit! Whatever I want, I guess. I like to spend my time being creative. Pretty much everything you see in this room has been done.
What inspires you to make these things?
I like different cultures. I like the mystic and I love the sublime. I like the underdogs, the people that nobody seems to like. The person that makes you question yourself, I like that person.
What designs or projects are you most proud of? Anything you can show us?
I’ve done all of these paintings. This is my Mary Magdalene (pictures below on the far left), she is my Mona Lisa and she comes everywhere with me and I WON’T sell her!
How would you compare Czechs to Americans?
Hmmm. You can pretty much say whatever you want to Czechs, and they will leave you alone and go home and bitch about you there, American’s will do the opposite. The people here are not aggressive at all.
What makes you laugh?
I like dirty humour; stuff that sneaks up on me. Quirky and random things make me laugh, the odd and the mundane.
If you could go back in time, when would you go?
I’ll be cliché. I would go and stand next to Buddha under the Bohdi tree.
Who has made Prague especially great for you?
My friends definitely. I’ve met the most inspiring people. We’re like honey and flies; we stick to each other. This is what I was looking for in Minneapolis, and it took me years to get it there.
Do you think you make friends faster when you’re an expat?
That’s when your human instincts kick in. Especially when you travel alone. You’re forced to meet people.
Can you speak Czech?
(Silence) Ambiguity is the best. Wink, wink.
(Laughs) Very good answer. How multicultural do you think Prague is? The US must be quite different on that level. Do you miss this?
Yes, I do. I miss the diversity. I actually find myself watching a lot of television shows from when I was a kid just so I can see some diversity again (laughs). Otherwise, everybody basically looks the same…
And do you think that Prague will change in the future?
Yeah, dude! Prague is changing a lot already. Look at the fashion for example, 5 years ago it was socks and sandals central, but now everybody has stepped up their game. It is the younger generations that are changing things now.
Thanks so much for letting us crash your pad, Charisse! We loved every minute of you company.
Written and transcribed by Ryan Keating. Photography by Petr Kurečka.