Christiana Musgrave is a 23-year-old data artist who lives in London with her photographer boyfriend, Ry Cronje. She first gained publicity when the government sent her painting Lady Gaga over the bridge as a way of attracting attention to German-born Melissa Lamborn, who was losing her job at the British Library. An exhibition of her work has opened this month at the People’s History Museum in Liverpool. Musgrave explained why she did the painting:
The idea of it being a bet for the eventual forfeiture of my rights to free travel came from just the idea of some teenager with a load of money parking somewhere and causing someone else great difficulty. That took it back to working out why is my free movement only linked to my salary, in real terms we all use our jobs as a means to get the cheapest weekly meals to cover the cost of housing, transport and food, but then when you make the fair comment that this person has his own money it feels unfair.
I was sent the music and in the space of an hour I became obsessed with Lady Gaga and I saw her live. I was on ecstasy at the time and then I woke up, over the next week and a half, wanting to make paintings that felt like they had told the history of Lady Gaga since she came out. I made the painting of Lady Gaga and that’s when I made my first piece, which is a reimagined head of Janet Street-Porter that was the first one I sent them [to the museum]. It really brought home to me the power of social media, I had uploaded it on Facebook to get people’s opinions, I thought it was going to be a bit of fun and for a week I got lots of positive comments saying this is absolutely brilliant, to which I didn’t see the point at all, because I was just getting a bunch of positive comments from people I didn’t care about, I just thought what am I doing here, but then they were given the painting and have kept it until now.
This person sounds like such a crazy person and then has 500,000 Twitter followers and sells 25m records a year and I find it completely hard to reconcile the two – I just wonder how they can be both? It seems like if you were in some weird situation you’d say I’m fucking insane.
What came from it was I couldn’t relate to a girl and I hated that because I find girls easy and I like a girl who is involved in the world and doesn’t have to put on her armour for me. If I’m going out, I want to have girls with me, I just don’t like to say that’s sexist but if you’ve got girls with you, you get to worry about themselves, what are they wearing, do they like that, how do they act, those girls don’t get my attention, which is why this picture comes from, I want my fake friends.
Looking back at Lady Gaga and I saw all the extremes of her career: the cheesy expressions, the cynical jokes, the balls-out performances, but after that the driving force of her career is all her fans. I think that’s a beautiful thing – I wish I could be that to them, but right now my fans are my mental tormentors.
She was an amazing force for good, really politically aware but sexy in her sexuality. She’s the personification of a 21st-century woman, if that’s possible.
• Beth Harmon’s exhibit, Charting Lady Gaga’s Music and The Culture of Sexism, runs until 2 October at the People’s History Museum, Liverpool