For the fourth installment of our new 'Wall-to-Wall' series, curator and writer Ken Miller talks with Morgan Blair, a young artist that redefines the art of indoors murals.
Morgan Blair has painted several wall murals, though oddly, many of them have been indoors. Her bright, geometric images have been commissioned for artist studios, a private residence, and most recently, the Facebook office. Her cement mixer collaboration continues to wander the New York City streets and if you happen to be in Tel Aviv at the right time of day, you will stumble past a rolling gate that she recently painted with squiggly abstractions.
Blair also paints strangely moody “Seinfelds” though maybe they should be called “Georges” since George Costanza seems to feature in a majority of the pictures. And once the technology is developed to turn her trippy gifs into murals, random pedestrians will have their minds more blown than Kramer.
What and where was the first piece of art you ever showed in public?
Maybe an acrylic painting I made in 8th grade, of a pharaoh that I copied from a picture in the newspaper? It got into the Boston division of the Scholastic Art Award shows they have in cities all over the country. I think that was my first art show.
Where or what would you most like to paint next?
I really want to paint a mural on the side of a barn at the farm where I worked when I was growing up. I'd also like to paint all over some big rocks. My good friend teaches at a Montessori school in Chicago with a long fence by the playground that we've talked about maybe becoming a future mural project. I also want to pick up a project again that I started and then abandoned a few summers back: painting some bike frames in weird speckled fades.
Do you think there is a fundamental difference between public art and art you exhibit in a gallery?
In general, I guess you could say public art has a wider audience. Though I'm not sure what that means, if anything, in terms of how one should approach making work specifically to be shown in public. For me, a public art project like a mural feels like it can be more free from the conceptual trappings I think about with my ‘personal’ work. I feel like I have license to make something decorative, where people won't necessarily need it to mean something, and it can be enjoyed as a purely aesthetic enhancement to its environment. Both public and personal work can do this, but I guess public art often gets a pass, conceptually.
What is your process for each piece?
It depends on the piece and the project. For my own work, I'll often use an overhead projector and cut up pieces of paper and acetate to rearrange shapes and come up with compositions that I project onto my surface. Then I lay down contact paper and make stencils, which I seal and paint-in with flat color, or paint with sand mixed into it, and/or airbrush gradients. I make a few shapes at a time, then the next set of shapes play off the ones before. I usually use a limited color scheme made up of a few colors I choose at random in the beginning.With murals, if I can, I usually improvise the whole thing. I'm not sure why this feels easier to do on a larger scale than on a smaller painting. Maybe because I'm not worried about the idea of having to paint back over areas I don't like, because the surface is rougher if it's outdoors and the whole process feels more raw. I stay away from copying a sketch too closely because the final piece will end up feeling dead.
Where do you find inspiration for your forms?
Most of the shapes I use again and again are derived from things around me: plant life, banana peels, gloves, bodies and human forms, puzzle pieces, pieces of trash, bricks, every day junk….