Saturday, January 3, 2015

An Introduction to Painter Moira Villiard's Brilliant World

I first noticed Moira Villiard's work through a painting at the PRØVE Gallery in 2013, I believe. This past May she contributed a Dylan portrait to the Dylan-themed Red Mug Show that I curated. Her colors are vibrant, as is her energy and personality.

EN: How did you first become interested in painting?
Moira V: There's two ways I always end up answering that question; I either talk about the lengthy technical, chronological way that it happened (which admittedly bores me!), or I talk about the fulfilling, emotional journey it became for me (which requires even more time, and maybe coffee).

Ultimately, I think I'd been dancing around the idea of being a painter for awhile after I got out of high school -- though, I was really not great at painting, I had some experience with organizing a mural for my graduating class and I'd gained a lot of recognition in the high school art world.

There was always this divine spark within me that yearned to create, but it had to be with purpose. When I decided not to go to college, I became consumed with improving my technical approach to drawing and glass etching. However, I am a very outgoing person and I couldn't stand the solitude that came with making things ... I finally caved in and enrolled at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College just to have a social outlet while I sorted my life out. I think my world turned completely upside down after that, probably for more reasons than I'll ever be able to express!

I started painting with those ninety-nine cent paints and bulk canvas boards. I thought I was going to be surrealist because that was the kind of art I'd done all of my life; however, my career as a surrealist painter only lasted about 6 months, and it was arguably born from a lot of confusion and turmoil. I gained a little more clarity when I became a portrait painter. The full story is something that, as I mentioned, requires more time and coffee, maybe breakfast, lunch and dinner in a café somewhere!

"Tell Your Story"
EN: When did you first start showing your work and where?
MV: My first show was at Gimaajii in Duluth with Rocky Makes Room For Them in April 2013 (before the gallery space was remodeled to be a gallery space.) I'd met Rocky in one of my classes at school and then we ended up working together as student ambassadors; during a training session he asked, out of the blue, if I had enough art to do a show with him. I said yes, and the rest is history. He's not only one of the best poet's I've ever known, but I'm pretty sure he's the one you can thank for my work coming to Duluth!

From there, the staff who run Gimaajii at the American Indian Housing Organization (AICHO) gave me my wings and helped me branch out into the community, they let me paint a mural there with Laurel Saunders, host my first show called EMERGE, etc. Because of them, I got to meet people like Kathy McTavish, who directed me to the PRØVE, and Ivy Vainio, who photographed my shows and shared my work, which got the attention of Daniel Oyinloye, who has really helped me improve the interactive aspect of my art (live painting)! I'm forever grateful for the opportunities that I've been granted thus far.

"You Love Me"
EN: What prompted you to begin doing the vibrantly colored portraits?
MV: Initially, it was because everything I'd created in my lifetime seemed to be in black and white. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but I felt like it was limiting my ability to communicate with my art. I did a surreal drawing called Chromophobia to test the waters, but it was still limiting because I didn't have any coloring utensils at home; I used a set of artists markers that was probably older than me at the time, so all the colors were some unnatural form of yellow. I liked the result. I also loved working with orange and yellow.

There's a piece I did around the summer of 2013 called A Synesthetic Daydream, which is a personal reference that I've come to associate with seizure experiences. I had a slightly frightening occipital seizure in 2010 at the eye doctor's office -- it wasn't life altering, but the colors that I could see and hear and feel when it happened were incredible. When I finished this piece, I recognized the colors as what I'd seen in my experience (which I'd almost forgotten about) ... I was truly fascinated, and then I started to explore different palettes in relationship to sound and texture and it just blossomed into something wonderful!

"The Weather Is Sweet"
EN: Who are your favorite artists?
MV: Ahh! This question... I used to keep a long list of my favorite painters, but that was more during the time when I was making surrealist artwork. Salvador Dalí was always my biggest influence, but I also loved looking at Renaissance works and pieces done by the Old Masters. I like the mixed media poetry and drawing by Kahlil Gibran. Recently, I did some research on Aaron Douglas. I still love them all, but I have a lot more favorite regional artists these days -- people who are doing things to transform the community and society as a whole with their work!

Jonathan Thunder and Karen Savage-Blue were my first favorite regional artists, I saw their work at a scholarship exhibit I'd won at UWS when I was in high school. That was the first time I realized that there was something happening in the arts scene and I wanted to be a part of it. Duluth's very own Donny Frank always astounds me with his work ethic and output, I think he's one of the coolest people I got to meet at Goody Night back in September. It was also at that show I met Delphin Amb, who did a live painting before mine -- I love meeting up and collaborating with other artists, he's another one on my list! Wing Young Houie, Haylee Goranson, Saydee Lanes, Laurel Saunders, Richmond Seju, Nina Holz, Rabbett Before Horses Strickland ... I haven't met her, but Sarah Riley seems to be doing some interesting work as well!


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