You are currently viewing Word of Mouth: Nashville Conversations— Mary Mooney, Visual Artist + Designer

Through repurposing, Mary Mooney discovers the real meaning behind her work.

Before settling in Music City, the painter and designer was always the new kid on the block. “My family moved around a lot growing up so I got used to being a nomad,” she explains. “I just got used to being transient.” After making Nashville her permanent residency, the artist felt a sudden urge to push her creative boundaries. Around the same time, she became obsessed with collective experiences—fascinated by the idea that 12 sets of eyes could see a composition a dozen different ways. In her abstract art, Mooney hyper-concentrates on texture, color and why a brushstroke looks a certain way. Selecting certain sections of her canvases as the primary focus became the impetus for her line of wearable abstract art. The hand-painted pendants are components of a larger composition. Mooney gives buyers the opportunity to bring beauty with them everywhere. However, at the core of her creativity remains an eternal curiosity about how each piece is perceived by the viewer. Whether good, bad or in-between their opinion is always welcome. Mooney wishes for her art to provide comfort—yet, ironically it is how she rebels against her own comfort zones.

I love Mary Mooney… it sounds like a stage name. 

(Laughs) It is. I’ll pass along those compliments to my mom.

How would you describe where you’ve been and where you are going?

As a visual artist, I love using abstract imagery as a means of expression. It’s the classical music of the art world. Through paintings, pendants and installation I love exploring subtle communication and connection. And it’s exhilarating when people find something poignant in my work!

Were you an art kid growing up?

In school I was actually a math nerd and more concerned with getting into AP Calculus. My family didn’t have a ton of money growing up so my mom made all of our coloring books, Halloween costumes and home decor. Since we moved every couple of years, creating was an activity I could do on my own.

Can you give me a little insight into your jewelry making process?

Sure! The pendants and paintings come from the same material. Jewelry was a total accident, and something I fell into a little over a year ago. When I first started cutting my paintings up and fabricating them into pendants it was really to use my pieces in their entirety. I’m a crunchy person— a vegan and a hippie— so nothing in my world goes to waste. From an artistic perspective, it’s curatorial. I love zooming in on small details of a painting to create a mood, feeling or environment.

I love repurposing materials, from quotes to crap I find around my house, as well. 

Totally. Being a maker is a responsibility. Everything I get is sourced in the US because I know our production standards don’t contribute to suffering. Also, I love that a single cropping of a painting feels different than the totality of that same piece. I think people dig wearing art as much as they like looking at a painting on the wall.

When did you first realize you had a knack for painting?

Before I took a class on abstract art it seemed foreign that people could interpret my intention if it wasn’t literal. My first abstract painting was inspired by my grandfather, a mechanic by trade. I imagined his masculine nature, and our childhood fishing trips. I incorporated the old age he was inching into at the time. Rather than having a plan, I reacted to my thoughts and reflexes. Color, texture, and brushstrokes became my visual language. The best part was getting a hint of what was in the viewer’s head while looking at it.

You gave them the opportunity to use their imaginations. Is there an intentional cohesiveness amongst your work?

I wish my work was more straightforward sometimes. Lately it’s an intersection of intention and experimentation. Currently, I’m working on a larger body of work for an exhibit at the Red Arrow Gallery in 2017.

How would you describe the Nashville fashion community, which you are heavily involved in?

Everyone is moving towards a single goal, which is to put Nashville on par with fashion heavyweights such as New York and Los Angeles. It really amazes me that I fell into this world and am collaborating with all kinds of artists. To call myself a designer still seems really crazy and has caused me to do some hard reflecting on my current wardrobe. (Laughs)

What is the personal philosophy that you live and die by?

“Be open with focus” is on my studio wall. If an opportunity keeps me making I will probably consider it.

That’s a good one. How do you feel Nashville has played a part in your success story?

Everyone here just wants to help. It’s insane how much the city feels like one, giant family. After wandering around my whole life I finally found a home.

Can you describe the joy that comes from doing what you do?

It’s amazing to create something and put it out into the world with pride. If other people want my art then that’s just the icing. However, running a business can be incredibly stressful. Sometimes you just have to take a shot of Tito’s, and take a nap. (Laughs)

Hey, that’s my solution!

After that I bust out my crayons and coloring book. (Laughs) I try to breathe through the ups, downs and all arounds.

Check out more of Mary Mooney’s work here. 

May will have an installation piece featured in the OZ Art Pod Exhibit—click here for more details. 

Hire Lily for an interview or to write your bio here. 

Lily Clayton Hansen

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