Ultraviolence - So Soft
Who is she? Human?
Interview by Marina may
We caught up with Liz Moore, first year MFA student, during the installation of Cunst Gallery’s inaugural exhibition.
In a matter of hours, she transformed the gallery space with her large-scale, mixed medium sculptures. Coagulating and protruding like primordial ooze, her works are both enticing and repulsive. They investigate the dynamics of human interaction, the intricacies of empathy, and juxtaposition between the beautiful and the grotesque. Ultimately, her works refuse to be controlled or contained, complicating the relationship between maker, material and viewer.
Make sure you see Liz's work this weekend at the St. Louis Fiber Biennial "Envelope, Innovations in Textiles" opening September 12th at the St. Louis Community College's Theatre Gallery.
Keep reading to learn more about Liz’s practice, “Great Stuff,” violence, beauty, and confusing haptic sensory impulses.
Marina May: Your work deals with the body and its relationship to decay, health, the grotesque, how we view “the beautiful.” Can you speak more to that?
Liz Moore: I’m interested in how beauty and the grotesque have been portrayed in history. I’m interested in the sublime and how we perceive it as this extremely euphoric, however extremely mundane thing. So I guess to put that in laymen’s terms, I guess the sublime is very natural to me. Very innate, but also it’s the description of something that’s similar to an experience of something greater than us. I like balancing between those two realms when I’m thinking about making the work.
With this work specifically, I’ve been thinking a lot about grids. A lot of what I do is blending different genres — in this work, painting, sculpture and fiber — as mediums together. When I was making the sculptural piece coming off of the grid wall, I made it on a weaving loom that I made. Technically it is a weaving in its birth form, but then I intertwined it with a lot of different elements that made it able to stand up on it’s own. I was trying to get the weaving to stand on it’s own, rather than being placed against a wall as an artifact. I wanted it to be very visceral and alive. Then I was thinking really a weaving is a warp and weft grid, very systematic, rhythmic —
LM: Yeah! Rigid. And I’m breaking that. Then that stirred me to think about fabrics in general — different patterns. Plaid for example, and it’s history. But the grid on the wall is the extension of the weaving that has been obstructed. It’s a plaid, but not a recognizable plaid because it’s been made by me. I guess I’m trying to push the weaving to play with the wall as an installation, while adding weaving, fiber, sculpture — and installation — into one experience.
MM: It’s an interesting juxtaposition between this flat grid surface matrix with another protruding matrix that is both obstructive and corruptive. Can you speak more to the corruption of form?
LM: Corruption of form has always been my natural tendency — which made me think of [Brittany Boynton]’s work. When I was younger I would always try to draw the perfect portrait, with the perfect shading. And I NEVER was able to do it! Even through art school. I was still really not great at making things in a systematic “art” way. When I started experimenting with fiber, that’s when things really started opening up for me. An expanded way of making and thinking that just exploded a lot personal things for me in the making.
There’s something very child-like about corrupting something. You own it because it’s yours and you destroyed it but it’s still yours. There’s an intimacy in that.
MM: There’s a degree of ownership associated with that.
LM: Each work is it’s own “thing” — it’s own body really.
MM: How do you decide to choose the materials? Is it per project? Or do you have materials you prefer over others?
LM: The big piece on the wall are all from Joann’s Fabrics. But recently, I’ve been trying to work more with things that have been given to me or handed down to me or I find in new cities that I go to — so I’ve been trying to collect as I go. But I really wanted to find stretchy fabrics, or fabrics that hold some history to them, where I can obstruct them more.
Then with the foam and the weaving, I’ve been trying to grow something that was lightweight. I think about weight a lot. The work is falling in different directions and every time I hang it, the piece looks different. The weight is an innate property of the work of it’s form. So when I’m thinking about picking materials, I’m looking for something that’s more lightweight so I can kind of control how it’s hanging on the wall.
I probably won’t work with foam anymore though. This’ll be the last piece. Because I found out after I made it, that this foam is really bad for the environment.
MM: Woah, what kind of foam?!
LM: Oh, ugh, it’s called “Great Stuff.” It’s a spray foam.
MM: Like insulation?
LM: Yeah… so “Great Stuff” don’t buy it. I mean if you have to insulate your house… I heard this amazing artist one time say that every MFA student needs to work with it once, but then my teacher said that it’s really bad for you. But there is NO INSTRUCTION on the can that it’s bad for you and I had to go online to find out that “you might get cancer, you might get lung disease, you might have a hard time breathing.” I was frustrated that it wasn’t on the can!
MM: It should be… Wouldn’t the FDA be regulating that?
LM: I don’t think they have to because it’s an industrial material.
MM: I feel like they should. I feel like that’s how people got mesothelioma…
LM: Right?! I think maybe this article is the PSA we all need.
MM: I think so. So this foam material that’s inside is all that foam?
LM: Yeah in this is lace so you can actually feel it.
MM: Oh so can we touch your sculptures?
LM: Uhh, yeah and no. I go back and forth with it. People don’t really tend to touch things in art spaces. For me, I think of it more as a haptic sensory experience. In addition to obstructing the senses visually, I’m also disrupting your haptic need to want to touch it. So the texture — being so volumized — is relieving that haptic need, but it’s also… not. That plays into the tension of experiencing the work. It’s a human experience. You can’t have it — It’s not something you can have physically — but it’s very physical.
MM: Due to the scale of the works, their positioning on the wall, the way in which it invades the space, as a viewer, I feel I need to directly confront my relationship to the piece as it functions within the space.
LM: I’m starting this experiment — which is fun. I titled this work “Clara” to accentuate a human body specifically, but also to confront “Who is Clara?” Is it this work? Is she the remnants of this? Is it not a human? I don’t know. With beauty and the grotesque, there are a lot of questions to get through — and I like that complexity. Everyone will have a different experience, naturally.
MM: When I first encountered your work — which was this work actually, at open studios — the first thing I thought of was an eviscerated body. Which in a way, alludes to themes of violence or dismemberment, but the color choice is soft, and the materials you work with are soft, or soft seeming. Is that relationship something you’re thinking about?
LM: I’ve been thinking a lot about empathy, and empathy is a very complex way of thinking. There are so many debates around empathy. Some people say you can never understand someone’s situation. Some people say it’s the best thing to try. I think, for me, I lean towards the trying.
When I think about even violence, there has to be an empathetic tone when you discuss it. It can’t be so heavy handed all the time. It’s a human being, that something has happened to, and it’s tender.
MM: There’s a humanity associated with violence that routinely forgotten.
LM: For me, with beauty and the grotesque as an art historical genre — it’s kind of resurfacing right now, but — coming out of the grotto, coming out of the sublime, it holds an even balance between true beauty: the “visceral honest” and the grotesque: a pelvis dropping regurging. It has to have a balance.