Senior Art Major Focuses on the Artistic Process
By Stone Ferrell
Finding senior Michael Mosley’s house is pretty easy. All you have to do is look for the yard covered in paint cans.
The inside of the Daniel Street house is just as distinguishable as the outside. It looks like somebody pulled the front porch in on a living room that just happened to be there.
Art is everywhere. On the front porch there are least three pieces of art–four if you count the rose sitting in the flag stand, and inside the story’s the same. Even their toilet lid is art, painted so much like a Picasso that you don’t even think twice seeing it mounted on the wall.
This ramshackle art gallery just off William Street was made thanks to Mosley and his four roommates, all of whom are either Studio Art or Art History majors, but most are both. It’s fitting, then, to learn that he and his roommates, in an ironic nod to Frank Lloyd Wright, christened their little blue house “Stagnant Water.”
In Stagnant Water’s living room, Mosley is tired, but he looks comfortable. This is understandable, considering it’s almost eleven and he’s just gotten in from a twelve-hour day. So, with his Miller High Life in one hand and the waxed tip of his mustache in the other, he tucks himself into the couch and kicks his feet up.
Mosley’s art is hard to find on the walls of the Stagnant Water Gallery. While his paintings have been exhibited all over Fredericksburg, including the downtown Visitors Center, that’s all old news. He doesn’t paint much now; these days, Mike is making movies. Most of those twelve hours were spent in the editing room, working on a project for his individual study.
For Mosley, the transition from traditional arts like painting and sculpture to video was a natural one. For him, it’s all about the process, and when you’re working with wood and other earthy, transitory materials–as he was–documentation is a must. What attracts him to film is the dynamism that comes from the creation process, its documentation, and how those interrelate.
Mosley says he wants to bring the audience into his work, to involve us and show us how it’s done. It all started one day when he was working on a project, chopping on a tree stump with a hatchet, when he noticed that the camera jumped whenever he’d hit the wood below it. That jump, that bit when the camera actually interacted with his art project, gave him an idea.
Since then, he’s become well known on campus for his work, and his latest project is already achieving its own renown, if even a little infamy.
“Why would anybody want to watch that?” said an anonymous gallery visitor of his latest work.
His movie, “Weak by Nature,” examines the things that animals can do, but people no longer can. Played on a gilded television on a pedestal draped in a white tablecloth and flickering candles, the film premiered in the “Irrational Roots” senior show and is currently being featured in the Annual Student Art Exhibition in Dupont Hall.
In the movie, Mosley is seated at a table dressed to the nines in full tuxedo, tails, mustache–the works. One by one, a waiter brings over plates of food which humans today can’t eat. One after another, acorns, dandelions, and raw meat all go down the hatch. The waiter then returns, this time bearing a large, crystal punch bowl. From there, well, it gets ugly.
Those who stick around until the end see Mosley–still dressed like a gentleman–vomit into the empty punch bowl all the things they just witnessed him eating.
So, why would anybody want to watch that? Well, not everybody got it at first.
“I guess I just must be ahead of my time,” he joked.
But other people, especially his friends, were fully behind it.
“When Mike first told me about his idea for the film, I laughed because its just like Mike to do something like that, to do something out of the ordinary, maybe repulsive. But when he explained it further, it made so much sense, this inability for the current population to live the way we used to,” said senior Kyle Schuster.
His friends were behind it, but Mike laughs when he admits they didn’t want to be around on the day of filming. While “Weak by Nature” may be a bit hard to watch, it shows an artist whose commitment to his work is undeniable.
But, in the real world, Mosley is far more laid back than some of his art would suggest.
He’s more blue jeans than tuxedo, and prefers going with the flow. This shows through in much of the work he’s created, where he’s let the art guide him rather than the other way around.
After he graduates in May, Mosley plans on doing just that, and let things take him where they want. He’s shying away from committing to anything too solid and wants to go with the flow, but so far a quick trip to Portland to visit his older sister is in the works.
After that, he’s going to make a go at “tramping,” just wandering the country and taking in the scenery for the summer. But, there’s still close to two weeks before all that. For now, Mike has to get back to editing.