On Memories and More, interview with Molly Berger
interview with Molly Berger — Written by Laurie Britton Newell
Can you describe your practice for us?
My studio practice is two-part. One aspect concerns itself with what one might call “sculpture”, investigating memory, the forming of personal histories, and the role objects play in our understanding of the world. This work often includes a combination of ceramic and found objects. I also dedicate space in my practice for designing and producing handmade tableware for everyday use. Both facets of my studio explore the ways in which everyday objects acquire profound meaning.
What drew you to ceramics?
My last semester of college, I took my first ceramics class and quickly became smitten with the tactility of clay. The analogue, slowed nature of hand-building is so antithetical to most of our day to day activities; I found it really challenging and engaging. I’ve been working with it ever since.
Can you tell us about your site in Gold Hill and your installation?
My installation consisted of 65 porcelain and gold objects inspired by the area’s mining history and various objects from everyday mountain life. These ceramic tool-like forms were situated on the exterior of a historic cabin in Gold Hill (behind what was once the town post office) aiming to alter ideas about the preciousness of the ordinary and confusing the line between function and ornament. On the south side of the cabin, in the horse stable, were a collection of doormats displaying statements taken from conversations had with long standing Gold Hill locals. Little snippets from much longer stories, the remarks on the mats gave an intimate peak into the lives and histories of the town and the members of its community.
How did you come up with the idea for the Gold Hill Art Project?
I am very curious about the ways in which objects give us a sense of history on both a personal and universal scale. The things we chose to hold onto seem to somehow become symbols for something far beyond any object’s particular function. In wanting to investigate these themes as they specifically related to the site of the project, I began to research the origins of Gold Hill and the changes it has undergone. I also began visiting the town often and doing interviews with various residents of Gold Hill, all of which informed both the objects I ended up creating and the doormats displayed in the horse stable. The configuring of once useful objects as items for display on the exterior of a structure is a familiar western typology that inspired the conception of my display strategy.
What has been the biggest challenge about this project?
The biggest challenge about this project was the scale. Beyond all of the research and planning involved, hand-crafting the number of objects necessary to do justice to the scale of the four cabin walls was a huge undertaking and really made me re-examine the boundaries I tend place on my studio practice.
Memory and nostalgia seems to play a big role in the works you create. Can you tell us a bit more about how this plays out in the works you create?
I am constantly circling questions about memory in my studio. Memories are the foundation from which so much of our identities and histories are built, yet they are so fallible and opaque. I often find myself questioning what is objectively historical and what is fiction. What do we really remember and what have we imagined in order to fill in the blanks? To what degree does nostalgia color our perspective on the past? Is nostalgia productive? In what ways do the mementos we keep help us to look back in time? Through the collaging of remembered and imagined bits of what once was, my work explores memory, mourning, and identity as they speak to needs of the present and a queering of the truth.
What is coming up next for you?
This fall, I began pursuing my graduate degree at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Detroit, MI. The MFA program at Cranbrook is a 2-year opportunity for dedicated and uninterrupted studio exploration and I plan on taking advantage of every second.