In the Studio – Kathryn Cellerini Moore

We visited our September/October artist, Kathryn Cellerini Moore in her Salem home studio. The work is on view at Duplex now until the end of October. Stop by on October 3rd to join the party.

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Duplex: Right off the bat, whenever I see this mauve, this muted blue and black, I always think these are very Kathryn colors. Is this a color palette that you have always carried with you and is it present in your new work?
Kathryn Cellerini Moore: Wow, yes I believe so! I think I go through phases with color depending upon themes I am working on. But, yes those colors, definitely the black but there is more yellow in my work now. I am integrating more saturated colors than I used to. But I think that you confirm what others would agree – there is a Kathryn palette.

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D: Tell us about your art background.
KCM: Well I didn’t touch charcoal until 2003. That was the first time; I was living in the dorms at Oregon State University. My roommate was a graphic designer and she was taking Professor Sandy Ryan’s Intro to Drawing class. It looked like a lot of fun so I tried it. It was great! My dad passed away shortly after that and drawing became a therapeutic outlet. Eventually in 2006, I got the courage to tell my family that I really enjoyed making art and wanted to be an art professor, which is when I declared a second-degree program at OSU.

D: What did you have to give up to move into the art school?
KCM: I started school in pre-med and happily ended up in psychology, which I finished. I studied neurobiology and did some clinical work in the research lab with kids and their parents. It was a stress and coping lab. But I didn’t give that up because I enjoyed it so much. The methodologies I learned in psychology continue to inform my art-making process and research-based studio practice. In art, I began in painting and drawing with Professors Julie, Shelley, and Andy. When I met Professor Yuji Hiratsuka I became enamored with printmaking-installation work. I moved and went to graduate school in New York and refocused on printmaking, sculpture, and mixed-media drawing. It’s kind of a late bloomer story. It all happened within a short 8-year period. My Nana calls me “Tenacious K” because I make up my mind to do something and do my damned best to be at my best.

D: You went to grad school at Stony Brook?
KCM: It was a great fit because I got to teach while I was there. Teaching is rewarding and fulfilling and I’ve been fortunate to do so since 2008. But I really got to hone in and work on my teaching practice when I was at Stony Brook. It was a cool place to be. I liked being at a research intuition where there are so many different types of people to collaborate with, talk to, and learn from, which is different than going to a more skills-based school or a more concentrated art program. I am truly thankful for the artists and amazing people I became family with during our years on Long Island. Those folks changed my life for the better and continue to do so.

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D: You’ve adopted multimedia art making. It seems you really let the project drive rather then the media. Do you have a process that you go through in deciding what kinds of materials you want to use?
KCM: Material choice is really important to me. I think that material (whether you manipulated it or it’s a found object) has such conceptual and aesthetic significance and to complicate the matter, a different significance to anyone that looks at the art piece. I have tried to be really mindful and honest with myself about that. When I look at work that I’ve made in the last few years, it’s really been idea first and then “what’s the most succinct and beautiful way that I can think of executing the idea?”

D: How does your current work differ from the work we see on the walls in the gallery?
KCM: This work you see here in the gallery was driven by a need to step away from sculpture and installation and get back to drawing. I have to vacillate between 2D and 3D. When I’m working on three-dimensional objects, it’s hard for me to draw at the same time. These drawings in the gallery were a direct reaction to what was going on in my life at the time. I had just stepped away from my thesis work and I was pissed off and tired and there was a lot of family angst – regarding my mom specifically. Whereas the work that I am making right now, a year later as an artist-in-residence with Salem Art Association, has shifted in emphasis. The new work is still based upon personal life stories, that hasn’t changed. But my location and circumstances have changed. I am home again, in Oregon, trying to re-establish what that means. And so the current work is more representational and the materials are starting to be more directly taken and influenced by my own childhood. My mom was a bit of a hoarder (in a very organized way) and there were boxes of stuff everywhere in the barn lofts. Since I moved back to Oregon, because she worked so hard to save those childhood objects, I was recently able to get some of those things back. Now in the attic of my house I have some childhood toys and books that were once really important to me. These memories that I associate with personal identity and behavior, as well as my childhood books, are steadily becoming the more dominant foundation in my art practice. Which I am very excited about!

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D: Do you feel that a lot of your work comes from a very personal place, something very internal that you are externalizing?
KCM: Always. In addition to making art, I have a lot of hobbies: I fish, bike, take photos of cows, and I spend a lot of time hiking. These activities and whatever I am reading at the time end up informing how I interpret the work as I make it. I started a series called Cow Jumped Over the Moon and during that series I watched Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman and I soon after realized there was this black hole that ended up in my work and there were these cows circling into the abyss. So, yes, the work is informed by these additional interests (science, history, philosophy, children’s literature) but these are viewfinders, not starting points. The starting point is always something that stems from my history that I am compelled to share with others because I must. I like to be challenged by shifting perspectives because we can grow from these internal and external dialogues.

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D: It’s interesting you are moving towards representational. Whenever you introduce a man-made object, it’s really easy to identify.
KCM: It is new, and it is a bit scary because I feel vulnerable. The stories behind these pieces (in the gallery) are personal but they feel different than the work in the studio because the objects and symbols I am using now are more identifiable and perhaps more relatable to others. People might have a sharper understanding of what I am getting at because they can relate to the objects more than these sort of abstract or symbolic metaphors I’ve been utilizing in my drawings for years. It’s been really important to me that I make everything. Even in the larger scale installations, like the barn that I built or the Vinculum piece, that is all hand crafted by me. It’s an uncomfortable place for me to grab an object and integrate it with other stuff that I made and just leave it alone. I want to make sure the work is coming from an honest place and in the past I think I’ve accomplished this best when my hand shows up in what I do. By integrating these hand-mades and man-mades I feel uneasy and I am still working through that.  Hopefully there is a nice homeostasis – or a very strategic imbalance.

D: What is your process for working at home? Can your husband be around?
KCM: It’s been a really difficult transition for me: from having a dedicated studio away from home for many years, to not. For a while at home I was pretty timid, but it got to a point where I just needed to make work and when I could, I did. I prefer to be alone but if Randel is here, he’s not watching me. He’s busy doing his own thing. I have kind of established this bubble of invisibility, that doesn’t really exist of course. But now, as I work at Bush Barn Art Center, it is really exciting to have a dedicated studio again. I feel like I am starting over. Balance is really important; I have to balance myself with “outdoors” and art making time. I get more of my husband time when we are playing outside and, in turn, when I am in here (my living space) I can focus more.

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D: Give us more background on the work showing at Duplex.
KCM: This work at Duplex deals with my family members and alcoholism. I was having a lot of cross-country phone conversations with my mom, she was in Washington State and I was in New York. During this time I was making these drawings. Anytime that a family member isn’t taking care of themselves it takes an emotional toll on a person. Materials-wise, this body of work is a compilation of some recycled materials from previous artwork and large-scale prints. The series was also an experiment in excising paper and integrating fabrics with paper. There were a lot of formal elements I was taking into consideration but what I liked about this work was that as I was talking with mom, I would hang up the phone and get back to making work I was able to transcend the feelings I was having through making something beautiful. I consider these drawings beautiful; but I know that it is subjective. These all started off a little bigger than they are. I started with a bunch of prints that were on the wall, drew over them, started adding fabric and then I’d draw on that. What I found was that it started off as this big entity and the more I tried to help it, i.e. cut away at it and make these beautiful organic shapes, the smaller the shapes actually became. I thought, wow that’s a really powerful metaphor for what I am going through with my mom and what happened with my dad when he ultimately passed away from similar causes. The more I tried to help, step in and be the savior, the smaller they were feeling. The smaller he and she would become. That’s the name of the series: The More I Try to Save Her the Smaller Her Cell Becomes. These are very cellular, I was thinking of them as neurons and dendrites. You can still see some stylized intestinal bodies in there but there is more than that; some barbed-wire fencing and hexagonal shapes. In my own neuroses I can laugh and think of them as a psychoanalyst’s wet dream. I was trying to make something painful beautiful. These were very emotional pieces, they weren’t planned and I stopped when it felt right. There are 6 in the series. I would like this show to be dedicated to my mom. This is another way I can support her and her transitions.

See more photos here.

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