Mizu Desierto (They/Them) is an interdisciplinary artist and feminist farmer whose life = art research explores themes of gender fluidity, ancestry, social deviance, and radical creative living. They are the founder and director of Portland’s Water in the Desert, a hub of numerous projects, including: The Headwaters Theatre, Prior Day Farm & the annual festival that is Butoh College.  Mizu’s artistic works have been commissioned by The City of Portland and Portland Center Stage and their projects have received funding from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, Oregon’s Regional Arts & Culture Council, Portland Development Commission, Oregon Arts Commission, The Multnomah County Cultural Coalition & The Oregon Cultural Trust. As an educator, they worked as adjunct faculty in dance at Prescott College and Portland State University. They have been awarded two fellowship residencies at PLAYA for continued work with ÆVIUM, a multi-generational, multi-regional women’s dance project with a 24-year history of collaboration. They also recently received a Portland Dance Community Award for their service work in providing opportunities and a platform for local artists.

This is a rough documentation of a first iteration of a work-in-progress exploring loss, ancestry and gender fluidity. It was shown at Performance Works Northwest in Portland, OR in June of 2018.

Excerpts from a workshop with Mizu Desierto at The Portland Institute of Contemporary Performance. Video by Karla MiLugo. January 2019

This video includes excerpts from Mizu Desierto's "Matriarch", performed alongside Degenerate Art Ensemble's "Skeleton Flower" in the Fall 0f 2017 at The Grocery (Seattle), The Headwaters Theatre (Portland) and Automata (L.A.). In collaboration with Studio M13 (sound and video).

The Local Culture Project began as a dialogue amongst a small group of women artists (Emily Stone, Tracy Broyles, Mizu Desierto and Kestrel Gates) inspired to more fully integrate our creative lives into our daily living. As a kind of experimental score, we decided to spend a year together, taking our movement practice out of the studio and into the natural environments from which we eat and live---exploring our ideas around localization from an embodied perspective.

Excerpts from the evening length work of Mizu Desierto's American ME-- an absurdist, ensemble, butoh-theatre extravaganza into the underbelly of American culture.

Artist Statement

I am sustained and inspired to create because it nourishes.  It nourishes my wild self as it nourishes my contemporary art self, my relational self, my neurotic self, and my poetic self. They all have a place to exist freely in the realm of the creative. And this I feel is essential to human experience.

I discover work through observations of fleeting moments….precious and difficult. daily and ecstatic. This is why I must create—because it is one of the truest places for me to know the depth, complexity and beauty of all it means to be human. It is the place I can be the most honest, the most free of social conventions and boxes, and the most natural me. I am drawn to raw and rough expression, experiences that make me unsure of whether I am laughing or crying, and bodies/minds/actions on the edge of living. Social and Ecological issues, not always addressed through abstraction, are also an underlying impetus of my work. Diversity, Wildness, Culture, Domesticity, Presence and Femininity are topics I often wrestle with in both my daily life and creative life and I believe it is through engaged creative practice and awareness that we can best begin to understand these things and develop more compassionate ways of being in the world.

This is also why I am drawn to teach–in order to share these enlivened and embodied moments with others as a means to support the liberation of the human creative spirit. In my workshops I am interested in providing the opportunity for deep self and collective inquiry through present and invigorated physical practice, thoughtful creative practice and wild states of primal intimacy.

 -Mizu Desierto