Meet Mistaya(Mist-ey-ah)! A Romanian born, Santa Cruz local. Believe us when we say she is an artist with an array of colorful outlets. The second you meet her you will know what we mean when you feel her radiant energy. She puts out a vibe of love and warmth, yet her eyes tell a deep story of struggle and triumph. From raising a family of her own to mothering a group of teens that needed extra help, she has now created a strong community. Mistaya is an artist, survivor, cannabis enthusiast, an environmentalist, and an advocate for those with disabilities.
After decades of struggling and zero income to support medical needs, Mistaya was brought to CannaCruz Collective by a dear friend. After sharing her story to the young-new owners of a start-up business(CannaCruzCollective), they supported Mistaya by making cannabis affordable for her to try, being the first patient to participate in the Compassion Program. The Compassion Program creates a system where low-income persons with Cannabis-related medicinal needs are accommodated by CannaCruz each month. Since this pivotal moment, Mistaya has dedicated her survival of MS, Cancer, Autism, PTSD, Fibromyalgia, etc. to CannaCruz cannabis. Get to know a little more about Mistaya below, and see her art displayed at our Santa Cruz store or her instagram account.
What does your work aim to say?
“I don’t think it says much of anything…gosh that’s a good question…I think every artist asks themselves that…I think my art is more of a catalyst to get me to that [feeling], like, if the [art] brings you in and I get to have a conversation with you then maybe I can impact your life in that way, then that’s kinda where I’m at. My objective is just to LOVE people. Every person is an artist. I don’t care if you doodle…art is art”
What style of art do you prefer? Favorite?
“I think I relate a little bit to abstract only because I am a hyper-realist. I made portraits for many, many years and so I am trying to get away from doing anything that’s realism…[but] you kind of see a little bit of realism in everything I do. I’m trying to [focus] on abstract and trying to get more healing from PTSD, cancer, you know all that..trying to get my emotions more connected with my art. I did my first oil painting when I was 9, I still have that, it’s a portrait, a little girl..oil is a real love of mine. Acrylic…is a big passion of mine, too. I started as a muralist when I was 14 or 15..painting huge, giant walls. If I could [paint] a giant wall everyday I would. Digital work…I was poor, didn’t have any materials, and couldn’t get out of bed. I just took my phone and [downloaded] an app..I [began] doodling with my finger..with about a thousand paint brushes to choose from. They had every medium…acrylic, watercolor..it’s free! I’m poor haha. It’s not the tools you are working with, it’s that you honor them and you are respectful of them…every single stroke I have to make with my finger, I have to pick the right brush, pick the right pressure of the brush, the amount of paint on the brush…I have to design the stroke to go a certain way..it’s just as difficult. My style? I don’t have one.”
How does your work comment on current social or political issues?
“What people don’t know about the reality of homelessness, is that it isn’t because people aren’t working enough. Most of these people are coming from sickness, family hardship, etc. I want to find the local homeless [because] I’ve got a place where they can come do art. The Bluejoy Artisans Guild, [it’s a support/interactive] group for sober homeless who want to work and want to do art. I started the group on Facebook and invited these people to my home to have a safe space for them to do art. I have even had 2 members pull together [to donate art supplies] to those who can’t afford it. I [also] have another community program I am working on. I want to create a project where we hire the homeless to build a giant [sea creatures] on the [local] beaches to encourage people to recycle and clean up. If this works out I have plans for many more community projects working directly with the homeless. I want the mindset to change from ‘them’ to ‘us’ then we can hold everyone accountable, with a place of respect. We call it ‘functional art.’”
Who are your biggest influences?
“My dad and Grandmother. They were professional artists. [Their] art was never shown anywhere, they were never recognized but they should be in a museum somewhere. They did oil. All of us were self-taught..they painted a lot of nature. So, I just found my dad’s family this past couple of months. My goal is to have all of my art hanging in their homes. I want to influence all of those other autistic and disabled artists that think that because they are not selling a piece or showing it somewhere..that [their] art can do so much more. Art is…in our life every single day. Everybody needs to do art and share their art.”
What’s your background?
Legally it’s “Misty,” my name means “grizzly bear.” [But] I want to be called Mistaya. I am Romanian. I was born in California, then [after a family tragedy] I was shipped off to my mother’s side of the family, and my brother to my father’s side. I grew up in a tarp, paper shack with migrant field workers. I eventually found myself in Santa Cruz.”
How has cannabis influenced your life? Personal? Medicinal?
“I got in a major event in my life. I got into a surfing accident and my broke my head open and it took half of my memory away. And it came with a lot of mental, emotional, and physical struggles and it gave me what they call fibromyalgia, [all before I was 25]. My artwork, every time I got a chance, my art was like everything I had. I had a studio in Bakersfield for many many years, and worked with these street kids for about 20 years. They actually just made [an independent film] about them called, ‘Bones of Brundage.’ They called me, ‘Mom.’ I painted as much as I could and then the cancer got really bad. I was on about 900 pills/month, on my deathbed. Long story-short, I changed my diet and went on pot completely. Instead on 900 pills a month, I started smoking. I had never smoked before-well maybe once or twice in highschool, I think. I wasn’t really sure if it was going to cure me or not and I just needed to get off these pills and give it a try because I was going homeless. Ten months into it and I am off everything beside the morphine and methadone, the hospice medicine they were giving me. I did cannabis and went homeless, went into the mountains and started studying wild edible plant life. Met my husband, got married [all while] I was bedridden, dying of my stage 4 cancer that was getting worse. [So then my friend] Valerie and her mom gave us tons of [cannabis] oil and I just saturated my body. I felt like I was on an acid trip 24hours/day. It’s a scary trip, when you’re that sick and you’re putting that much in your system. [Cannabis] isn’t the cure-all…but I survived and the cancer went away. Cannabis and everything worked. It was medically documented I didn’t take any chemo or radiation. [I was fighting Cancer] for fourteen years…stage 4 for eight years. For the two years I used a new diet and Cannabis, it cured it like that. I was homeless on this very street (adjacent to CannaCruz in Santa Cruz) and I was living up in Harvey West park. I was walking everyday to the hygiene center and began volunteering. My friend Otter, this giant vet from Vietnam, he picked me up and brought me here [to CannaCruz]..he carried me literally. I was losing my battle and barley walking due to my fibromyalgia. Grant, [CannaCruz business owner], took one look at me one day, I think he saw [my struggle] and was like, I feel sorry for her. He gave me this green drink with nutrients and vitamins. It changed the game quick and it made me think well if that is going to do this much for me, maybe I should start studying more plant-life. Because I didn’t have an income, I wasn’t going to be able to afford this. So what happened was that [Grant and Brad Palmer’s] generosity knew no bounds , it saved a human’s life, and people need to know that. Him and his brother, I want to make them proud of me. I want to show that you can pay it forward to live your best life. There will be a moment where you can pay it forward and possibly save another’s life. Anything they could give me, they did. I even have seizures, and use my vape pen regularly today. I use concentrates daily because I have a very high tolerance, due to my brain injury. I went on the [CannaCruz] Compassion Program, [and it changed my life.] Because of [CannaCruz] we were able to come in monthly [for medicine].”
Where can we find your art?
Instagram: @mistayawilks “Mistaya Wilks Art”
Facebook Group: The Bluejoy Homeless Artisans Guild
Written by Kelly Davies
Marketing Director 2 years at CannaCruz Collective
“Meeting Mistaya opened my eyes to the homeless community and how we can better understand their struggle and how to help aide them. She showed me her unconditional love and I am so thankful to have gotten to know her. Check out Mistaya’s beautiful art at CannaCruz in Santa Cruz and see how you can help her make a difference in our community!”