Urbis: Maria Moyer, Traces of Presence

Urbis: You were born and grew up in Los Angeles. Is this where you discovered your passion for art?

Maria Moyer (MM): California is certainly where I learned to see. I excelled in art and science classes and learned that there were many ways of living and of expressing ideas.

Urbis:Being so close to the sea, you surfed during your childhood. What is it that draws you to the ocean?

MM: I thrive on the stimulation of living in New York, but I am most content when all I see is ocean, sky and sand. Exploring New Zealand’s Waipuka (Ocean) beach in Hawke’s Bay is bliss. The ocean offers infinite opportunities to consider the exquisite weirdness and genius of nature. We know so little about the ocean. Consider how many thousands of people have been to the top of the world – Mount Everest, in comparison to only four descents to the bottom of the planet – the Mariana Trench in the Pacific ocean.

Urbis: While you have worked with a number of mediums, you are mainly associated with sculptural work. How did you come to focus on sculpture?

MM: We live in three dimensions and I want to make work that evokes experience the same way. I use several materials – leather, plaster, clay, etc. My use of clay as a sculptural material allows me to explore materiality and process. At the same time, clay has memory records of my touch. I leave imperfections and traces of my presence even in the most refined looking work. Thisness, currently on view at Parlour Projects, includes sculpture and painting. I think of painting in a similar way, I want the paintings to challenge the two dimensional surface.

Urbis:Your works are a beautiful mix of whimsy and thought, delicacy and strength. What is the conversation that you are hoping to encourage with these juxtapositions?

MM: I think a work is strongest, when it not only makes me think, it moves me and might also make me smile. While I’m inspired by nature and natural phenomena, I’m not trying to represent it or describe it in my work. I do try to make work that provides me (and the viewer) with a sense of discovery.

Urbis: By their very nature, your works seem to invite people to touch them. Is this by design?

MM: I love it when people tell me they want to touch my work. That visceral impulse to interact with it, is a connection with the viewer. Every artist wants to evoke a response. If someone wants to touch it to better understand it, or because it might feel good in the hand (as it was for me in making it), I’m pleased.

Urbis: What inspired the collection of work you are exhibiting at Parlour Projects, which includes both sculptures and paintings – Thisness?

MM: I love words and I like to talk about ideas, but words have limitations. In the studio, I’m shooting for something that’s more a feeling or an idea, maybe it’s pre-verbal. When I’m making a body of work, I find myself thinking about how I want a particular piece be more “this” than that—hence the name of my show at Parlour Projects, Thisness. Much of the work is inspired by microscopic, water born life and the experience of discovery itself.

Urbis: We’ve seen images of your smaller works that will be at Parlour Projects, but do you also do larger-scale, site-specific works?

MM: Sophie Wallace’s Parlour Projects gallery is a remarkable space with great light, and height. I’d like to have shown more large work, but it’s quite impractical shipping large, fragile work from New York to New Zealand. There are three larger pieces that form the centre of the show, the rest are smaller pieces installed in colonies. I always hope they are collected in groups. I’ve not yet completed a site-specific, large-scale, outdoor project, but I would like to.

Urbis: Is this your first visit to New Zealand? Are there any aspects of our country and culture that have inspired you?

MM: This is my first visit to New Zealand. I’m quite impressed with the natural beauty and culture of Hawke’s Bay. I love pukeko birds and your black swans! Black swans are like unicorns in the U.S. I am eager to plan my next trip. I had a deeply inspiring visit to the home and studio of Bruce Martin and his late wife, Estelle—collaborative partners in art making and life. Their wood-fired ceramics are an essential part of New Zealand’s art history. It is the combination of their creativity and intentional way they lived together that is so moving to me. The design of their exceptional pumice-block home and every object in and around it is a lesson in the deliberate choices that allowed them to surround themselves with beauty and meaning for their 50 years together.

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Urbis: Maria Moyer, Traces of Presence