Duplex: Tell us a little about your installation.
Kathryn Cellerini Moore: This particular piece that I’ve been working on for Duplex brings together my recent experience of losing my mom (she passed away on Christmas) with a theme I’ve been working on for over three years now. Between ages four to six years old, I was obsessed with the movie The Wizard of Oz. I wasn’t reminded of that until a few years ago when I inherited some things from my mom that she’d held on to for me. It included an Oz coloring book I had completed with images from the movie with a dedication the inside cover to my mom, also some Polaroid images of my first pair of ruby slippers, handmade by my mom and I, and images of me dressed as Dorothy. The fact that she hung on to these items is significant to me because she lost or gave up a lot of her possessions later in her life. This included the property she called home for nearly 20 years. Those Polaroids and coloring book are relics of my childhood and I know she was proud to give them to me. Since then, I have been thinking about my relationship to Dorothy, asking “What if I had a pair of ruby slippers now? What would that mean and how would they function?” and “What is the yellow brick road?” In the movie, it’s the route that takes Dorothy home. But the more I’ve thought about it, the more it made sense to me that the yellow brick road was a bigger metaphor for life. The yellow brick road consists of many bricks that we each lay for ourselves and each brick represents a memory.
Some of the bricks, like memories, feel perfect; in brick form, very rectangular. Some of them are charred; some of them are fragmented or just little tiny glimpses or pieces. When I imagine an entire yellow brick road from beginning to end, I see a lifespan. So I’m approaching this installation as the end of my mom’s yellow brick road. My intent is to harness grief with a childlike playfulness while addressing familial relationships. For me, right now, this is both a dark and necessary topic but it is important to achieve balance with beauty and light. Grief is beautiful and ugly and everything in between. It’s uneven and so the bricks will be that way in the installation. There will be weeds and grass growing in between the bricks as though the yellow brick road hasn’t been tended recently. The wheelbarrows are vessels that contain the materials necessary to build the yellow brick road. They are called Mobile Dorothy I and Mobile Dorothy II. They are painted in a pattern mirroring the dress Dorothy wears. Mobile Dorothy I contains the bricks, or memories ready to pave the road. Mobile Dorothy II holds all the grass and dirt. Wheelbarrows are very functional items and for me they are symbolic of the maker of the road. Additionally, my grandfather was a mason so there is a family connection with these materials.
Duplex: Tell us about your background.
Jay Muhlin: I grew up just outside of NYC and moved to the city in 1996 to attend NYU’s Tisch school of the Arts where I obsessively explored photography. After graduating, I focused on personal projects and shooting editorial assignments. I worked at the Village Voice developing and printing images for the contributing photographers, as well as photographing assignments myself. New York was a different place then. When I go visit now I feel like a time traveler. I miss the people, but not really the place. I never thought I would become a former New Yorker. I truly believed it was the center of the universe, but left for graduate school in 2009 to focus on my art practice.
D: There are plenty of snowy cities the in county, but there is something about Syracuse that adds a layer of isolation to this series. Do you think a different city would have the same impact?
JM: A place and a city are formed by many factors – people and time being central. When I was considering programs, I wanted a place close to NYC because that was what I knew. I spent some time in Rochester, Albany, and Troy, NY and liked the creative energy. Rust Belt towns offer something special – mid-century charm and possibilities. When I visited Syracuse I felt comfortable, connected to the people I met, and it seemed like a place I could call home and be very productive. It wasn’t till my second year in Syracuse that my mother mentioned that my family emigrated from Russia straight to Syracuse for manufacturing jobs before they all moved to the Bronx. Syracuse was an unexpected homecoming and a way of starting over. I do believe that another city would have inspired a different project, nothing like Guilty Pleasures, which is so deeply rooted in a specific Syracuse winter, during a record breaking, snow covered year.
D: Besides the innate creativity that comes with the quarantine-like conditions of wintertime, was there something else about cabin fever that drew you? What did you personally learn or take from it?
JM: In winter I feed on a hyper energy that builds during the cabin fever. Grad school was a time of self-reflection, regression, and experimentation. It was great to focus on my work and try out different projects and visual languages. Having time to think, throw darts, and be self-indulgent was helpful in solidifying my choice to commit myself to making art. Read More «In the Studio – Jay Muhlin»