Cut, Place, Paint, Repeat: The Art of Caroline Moses

In the fall of 2015, I looked across the room in OSU’s Morandi Hall and saw this stranger tackling the densest block of hardwood I’ve ever seen. With a few basic hand tools and a couple of weeks, she coaxed it into the shape of the cosmic Van Allen radiation belt. The artist was Caroline Moses, and in the year and a half since, I’ve been fortunate enough to watch her work evolve up close. An artist of frightening dedication, Moses regularly transmutes a truly unique and unfettered perspective into works that are not only physically beautiful, but intensely personal. To a rather stunning degree, she achieves in her artwork an honesty that lives and breathes loudly on the surface, yet doesn’t spoon-feed or force a specific engagement.

“I want the work itself to ask questions of people, so a conversation can start,” said Moses, who in her current body of work is focusing on narratives related to obsessive-compulsive disorder. Though art dedicated to oft-marginalized topics can be overtly activist, that’s not the case here.

“It’s meant to nurture,” she added.

This nurturing extends not just to the viewer, but to the artist. Moses explained that where traditional therapy has failed, her practice has succeeded. I myself have found her work therapeutic for my own reasons, many of which highlight the importance of process. Her Instagram feed has provided a constant stream of hypnotic video loops, detailing small aspects of her tedious creations. Hundreds of wooden triangles being dropped rhythmically into a box, glue being methodically slicked across a surface like waves washing onto the beach. Mosaics constructed square by square. Process is a major part of art-making in general, but in Moses’ case it is nearly all-encompassing.

“The repetition is therapeutic for me. But it’s not just about that anymore. Cutting, placing, and painting all by hand, all in a particular order, has value to me. I could use a jig to cut each piece to match the last identically, but it feels more authentic when I’m addressing mental health and OCD specifically that each piece has its own character that mirrors compulsive behavior that is never exactly the same. So, after I make each individual piece by hand, I find myself finding my favorites among them and a sense of pride for the labor of the work. And when the project is finished I have something I find beautiful because of its imperfections,” she explained.

Hoping to make the conversation around mental health more approachable, Moses seeks to create art on the topic that reflects beauty and accessibility. Even fairly early on into this lifelong body of work much has been achieved, each new piece bringing with it the promise of an expanding platform. For example, if you make it to her CEI Artworks exhibit, titled Check, Check, Check, Check, you’ll be greeted with a 13-foot-long construction of over 4,000 painted wood triangles, creating two conflicting images depending on where you’re standing. Perhaps the biggest leap in her work I’ve witnessed yet, it has me already anxious to see what comes next.

Whether you head out for the Corvallis Arts Walk or catch the exhibitions on your own time, don’t miss an opportunity to view this work or get in on the conversation it creates.

For more artwork, visit www.carolinemosesart.com. Check, Check, Check, Check will be at CEI Artworks (408 SW Monroe Avenue, Suite 110) from March 16 until April 18. The opening reception will be during the Corvallis Arts Walk on Thursday, March 16 from 4 until 8 p.m. For more information, email Bruce Burris at bruce@ceiworks.org.

By Johnny Beaver

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