Mollie McKinley is a Hudson Valley and New York based artist.
Her work has been shown at Ethan Cohen Fine Arts; Field Projects, New York; Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions; Anthology Film Archives; the MoMA Pop Rally; the New York Art Book Fair at MoMA PS1 presented by Independent Curators International and Limited Time Only; four Brucennials; the Index Art Center, Newark; the Wassaic Project Exhibition; SPRING/BREAK Art Show curated by Natalie Kovacs; Anna Kustera Gallery curated by Natalie Kovacs; Dimensions Variable Gallery, Miami; the Art Director’s Club of New York; the Humble Arts Foundation; the Fringe Arts Festival in Philadelphia; One Mile Gallery, Kingston; KUBE Beacon, NY; Matteawan Gallery, Beacon, NY; the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, New Paltz, and a host of others.
McKinley studied photography and filmmaking at Bard College.
All images copyright Mollie McKinley Studio 2017. Artist portrait by Eva Deitch.
How did you find yourself in the arts?
The arts have been with me since the beginning. As a little kid, it seemed to me that being an artist was my only possible path. My Aunt Mary lived as an artist in SoHo for three and a half decades, and she encouraged me in my pursuit since I was quite young, as did my mother.
I began working in photography following the death of my father when I was 19. I was living out west then. My desire to learn color large format photography led me back home to the East Coast, and I have continued working as an artist ever since.
Who has been a big influence to you in your career?
Ana Mandieta, Louise Bourgois, Peter Hutton, Kiki Smith, Stephen Shore, Jack Smith, John Waters.
When you hit a creative block, how do you move forward?
Daily walks along the Hudson River. Visits to the Dia:Beacon book store to nose around in the
biographies of great artists. Agnes Martin’s Writings are an oracle, as is Ann Truitt’s Daybook. A trip to
the Egyptian wing at the Met always puts things in perspective. I prepare, study, and wait.
How do you define success?
Success is when the process of making an artwork is generative, and furthers the larger body of work. View camera photography in remote landscapes and glass casting my salt sculptures are both uniquely challenging processes. So working with these mediums means productively working with the struggle encountered along the way; you just keep learning and moving forward.
I’m not sure success is anything except for a sense of meaningfulness, or a sense of having earned an experience that you sought out, regardless of the outcome. In the social realm that surrounds an artwork or exhibition, success is a space of dialogue and critical observation.
What message do you hope your work communicates?
My salt and glass sculptures are meditations on time. They invite metaphysical questions, but they also very physical, literal, elemental.
I’d like viewers to experience intimacy with these sculptures, one that allows them to feel their inherent connection to the earth in a new way. My landscape and performance photographs function similarly; they’re more explicitly a feminist dialogue.
All of my work adds to a larger cultural conversation about rebuilding our broken systems of thought about the earth and gender/sexuality.
What has been an important lesson you have learned during your career?
Being an artist is an exercise in resilience and obsession. Nothing you experience in life is “outside” of your experience as an artist. It all gets into your work, somehow. It’s a big, fabulous mess.
Finally, what advice might you give to your younger self?
An artist’s life is a long experience; your best work will happen as you mature. Seek out techniques from the masters, but also learn workflow and work ethics from them. Don’t let a hardcore work ethic get in the way of living a healthy life.