Environmental Activist Katja Müller Encourages the Use of Sustainably Sourced Materials Through Her Art
Against the current.
- Written bySara Debevec
- Photographed byMonica Orozco
Growing up in Mexico City, Katja Müller loved playing outdoors. Her parents often found her covered in mud with a bag full of frogs. Her curiosity about the world and passion for discovery only grew stronger with time as she found a way to fuel her art.
When I first met Katja, she was carrying a large abstract painting entitled Microbiology across a parking lot in preparation for a Manhattan Beach art show. The bold, four-by-eight-foot piece covered most of her body and depicted an ecosystem of tadpole-like organisms otherwise invisible to the naked human eye. “I got myself a microscope and started looking at samples of swampy water, and that is what inspired a collection of my latest paintings,” she explains.
Katja’s passion for visual art started when she was 10 years old, with the help of her father’s old 35mm Canon camera. She learned about composition, color and light through photography and developed a strong interest in moving images.In college Katja majored in film production and became particularly influenced by Invisible Children, a documentary exploring the lives of children who were forced into being soldiers in Uganda in support of Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army. “It opened my eyes to the power of storytelling because these directors really started a movement, and I had never experienced anything so authentic in filmmaking before,” she says.
When Katja started painting, she was just curious to see what she could create on canvas as she did on film. “What I am genuinely trying to do with my art is to put into context something that I can’t necessarily articulate,” she shared. “I think words can only go so far, and my work is about trying to share my feelings and experiences with other people in a way that doesn’t necessarily need to be explained.”
Thoughts that keep her up at night include low literacy rates of women, especially in Latin America, and our deteriorating relationship with the environment. She tries to address both issues through her art.
“I want to constantly evolve and grow and try to reach a potential of who I can become. I don’t want to be limited to one type of medium. The way I am going to express myself is going to change, and that is just a part of me.”
Artistic Habitat, a Redondo Beach home goods business Katja started with her family, has given her the opportunity to use her creativity to reach out to a wider community and encourage conservation of our flora. “We wanted to offer products that are sustainable, and we are trying raise awareness about how you can have products in your home that don’t necessarily have to be affecting the environment. So our woods come from recovered trees, which means that they fell naturally—usually due to hurricanes.”
Just like her art, Katja’s ideas are bigger than her. She wants to use her art as a voice to be an example for younger women and talk about issues of inequality. “I want to constantly evolve and grow and try to reach a potential of who I can become. I don’t want to be limited to one type of medium. The way I am going to express myself is going to change, and that is just a part of me.”
When she is not painting, she practices jiujitsu and tries to get her hands on anything that will answer her questions on a specific subject—from science to space and cosmology. “I come from a family of engineers, architects and entrepreneurs,” she explains. “My ancestors came from Europe, Mexico and Argentina. They traveled across continents, and I think this is why my art always goes back to exploration and traveling.”