Magazine article Sculpture

Traveling the Road to Freedom: A Conversation with Dominique Moody

Magazine article Sculpture

Traveling the Road to Freedom: A Conversation with Dominique Moody

Article excerpt

A Conversation with DOMINIQUE MOODY

Last summer, assemblage artist Dominique Moody brought NOMAD, a "tiny house" on wheels that serves as her living and creative space, to Harrison House Music, Arts & Ecology, located in |oshua Tree, California. The 140-square-foot mobile shotgun house, whose title stands for "Narrative, Odyssey, Manifesting, Artistic, Dreams," is a gem of a compact, self-sufficient dwelling that highlights Moody's deft joining of aesthetics and practicality. More than this, though, NOMAD is a work of social sculpture; Moody often uses the porch as a platform for spinning personal narratives around issues of affordable housing, race relations, and art as a tool for healing.

The daughter of a U.S. Army officer, Moody, who was born in Germany, knows about the nomadic life firsthand. After her large family returned to the United States, they moved frequently. They landed in Philadelphia, where they restored abandoned houses with the promise of ownership through "sweat equity," only to have the homes repeatedly snatched away by the banks just before completion. The skills and resilience that Moody developed from this experience came in handy when she was forced to abandon her work as an illustrator, due to macular degeneration, and began creating sculptures.

Her three-month residency at the Harrison House's Art & Ecology space focused on the principles of permaculture. Founder/director Eva Soltes says, "What Dominique Moody has created in NOMAD is so integrated in terms of art and ecology, this was a perfect match for both of us. For 30 years, she's been evolving a system of aesthetically practicing form and function in her daily life. She brought her extraordinary ability to this site and helped us realize it."

George Howell: One of your assemblages, which is made out of layered cardboard with a peaked roof and wrapped in twine, looks like a miniature version of NOMAD. Was this the earliest seed?

Dominique Moody: Not quite, but it was certainly part of that process. The Santa Monica Museum of Art had invited me to do a piece for its Incognito fundraiser, and I needed to replace a small house, which sold within days of being made. I found an old roller-skate at a sidewalk sale, put a shoebox on top of the skate, and immediately it was NOMAD. It's called My Road to Freedom, and it took on a different dimension for me in its simplicity and "pared-down-ness," as well as in its title - what being nomadic would mean for me.

GH: Did the idea of making a social space, a space that you not only lived in, but that also functioned as a platform for storytelling and community exchange, evolve out of making smaller pieces like this, or did you have the concept in mind to begin with?

DM: It may have been a combination of both. Initially this was to resolve a critical question for me as an artist, which was whether my work could support me and all my life needs. I needed to find a way to re-shift how my resources were being used: Could I continue to maintain a studio?

One of the very first pieces was called House Dreams of an Urban Nomad, a stack of boxes on wheels that rotated around. It was part of a dream series that I did for the Watts Towers Art Center, my first solo exhibition, which brought me to Los Angeles for the first time. It was an amalgamation of all the places where I had lived, and it talked about the sense of being often displaced. In other places where I've shown, people were intrigued by the collage and assemblage, but they didn't seem to quite grasp the kind of narrative I was telling. But in Watts, it was different, because people were immediately engaged with the stories, which connected to their everyday lives. And that's when I started to realize the impact of my work as a social medium.

GH: When your family returned from Germany, did you feel like an immigrant?

DM: Exactly. Even at the age of four, I was acculturated elsewhere, and so I had to Learn the culture firsthand, and I wasn't comfortable with the Language. …

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