During the Coronavirus pandemic, Art Spiel is reaching out to artists to learn how they are coping.
John Moran is a politically and socially engaged hot glass sculptor, mixed media artist, and all around nice guy. Originally from Philadelphia, Moran currently resides in Ghent, Belgium and is also the director of Gent Glas, a community glass studio he co-founded in 2014. He received his BFA from Tyler School of Art, MFA from Illinois State University, and is currently pursuing his PhD at Eugeniusz Geppert Academy in Wroclaw, Poland. His work has been exhibited in many galleries and museums across the United States and Europe, including Habatat Galleries, SiC! Gallery, Glasmuseet Ebeltoft, and Delaware Contemporary. His work is dedicated to his interests in politics, pop culture, social awareness, and contemporary art.
MS: How are you coping?
JM: Every day is a different experience. Somedays I feel very lucky to have time to work on new ideas and think through ideas that have been festering for some time, other days I am so fed up with thinking and having time that I just want to do something simple and stupid, like walk around with other people. But overall, I think I am coping fairly well. I am feeling pretty lucky that I moved into a new studio at the beginning of the year and have the opportunity to work through this period. Had my partner and I been stuck in our old place, I would probably have a very different answer.
One thing that has come from this is that I have connected more frequently with my friends from the US and reconnected in many ways with friends who I have lost touch with due to the busyness of our normal daily lives. At the beginning of this I could not imagine that we would think it was normal to sit in front of our computer for hours on end chatting with friends and waking up the next day exhausted as if we were out partying all night.
I am trying to distance myself from the online bickering and fighting of the two opposing ideas about the handling of the situation. But as I am sure is true for everyone, as I spend way more time in front of my computer, I spend a lot of time falling down rabbit holes of different opinions and fascinated by (though in opposition to most of) the developing conspiracy theories.
MS: Has your routine changed?
JM: Well, my hours have completely shifted. The week before the lockdown here, I had just returned from the United States from a residency at Pittsburgh Glass Center, so when the lockdown hit, I was deep in the throes of jet lag and working into the evening. Since then I have more or less maintained this routine of working pretty late at night rather than during the day. I have always been more productive in the evenings and into the night, especially in a creative sense, but since moving to Belgium, I have maintained a more ‘regular schedule’. If anything, this period reaffirmed my late night working habits and has definitely given me back some insight into my creative process.
Aside from the late night activity, I have also been focused more on the mixed media aspects of my work as Gent Glas, the glass studio I direct and use for my glass work, is closed. I started delving deeper into some materials and techniques I have been toying around with for a couple of years. Since I have not been in the glass studio regularly, I have had more time to experiment with new materials and take some risks and decisions I would not have taken before. For instance, I was inspired to take a mold of this strange hole in the blacktop outside of our studio that exposes the underlying cobblestone, mainly because it has the shape of the silhouette of a virgin Mary. It was the first time I have ever taken a rubber mold, so it was a completely new experience, but now that I have the object cast in plaster, it has opened up a whole new direction with some pieces I was working on. Typically, I do not work like this at all; I start from a concrete idea and then work my way towards the material aspect rather than the other way around.
MS: Can you describe some of your feelings about all this?
JM: One of the things that has been going through my head throughout this whole period was how it would affect our day to day lives once this is all over. I feel like I go between having trust that the system is not completely rigged against us and all of this is done to protect us, to the overarching concern that the small business (and artistic) economy will completely collapse because the small businesses have been forced to close while the ‘essential’ multinationals have been able to remain open for business. That being said, I see that the world slowing down for a few weeks has had a massively positive influence on the environment, but I also fear that as we reopen – as we beginning to do in Belgium – people will not only return to their normal ways but be overly consuming or aggressive towards each other to catch up for lost time.
I guess I can say my feelings teeter between hope for the future and fear of impending doom . (I think that smiley face is necessary in order to attempt to express my wavering indecision between emotional certainty and rational insecurity). It definitely shifts regularly. This afternoon, I had to take my dog to the vet. It was probably the first time I have been out since the restrictions were loosened a week ago. It was disheartening to see the amount of people out (even though all the shops are still closed), the aggression on the roads, and the ‘return to normal’. Though this period has been trying, in some ways it has been peaceful – maybe not on an individual level – but on a societal one.
MS: What matters most right now?
JM: Community. If there is one thing I hope we learn as a society, it is how important we all are to each other. Even though we may not all agree, we are all essential to each other’s survival; especially from a social and mental perspective. As I mentioned earlier, I am the director of Gent Glas, this period has been trying for the organization. I am really not sure what the future holds for it. But this time for reflection has given some insight into our mission of building community and possibilities for moving ahead in a way we did not expect.
Obviously, also snacks and beer.
MS: Any thoughts about the road ahead?
JM: I mainly exhibit in contemporary art centers and museums and truly believe they are massively important to the public’s connection to art; I hope that they are able to survive this. I think many people have turned to the arts during this period and done everything they could to show support. I think that when things balance out, this trend will continue. With Gent Glas, I hope we are able to reengage the public in a new and refreshing way. During this period and seeing what is important, I believe we will take steps towards having a more meaningful social impact and working more efficiently in order to be more ecological in our approach.
Since this year was basically cancelled, I am just trying to keep moving forward with the hopes that some of these exhibitions and residencies will be rescheduled and still come to fruition. In 2021, I should be finishing up my PhD and am working on some ideas that I hope to show in Wroclaw (PL) at SiC! Gallery. I am optimistic about the future in many ways, at the very least there will be plenty of content for inspiration.