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A&E Q&A - Living Walls: Molly Rose Freeman

Memphis, Tenn.

Molly Rose Freeman hails from Tennessee, but she has been creating public art all around the South, including recent trips to Miami's Art Basel in 2010 and 2011. Her geometric forms convert walls into complex grids of color and abstracted forms.

How did you become a participating artist in Living Walls? What drew you to participate?
A friend of mine told me Monica was looking for female artists who work in public spaces, and I knew about Living Walls, so I emailed her and told her I wanted to be involved in any way I could. I crossed paths with some of the Living Walls girls in Miami this year at Art Basel, and everything just kind of aligned. I've been a fan of Living Walls for a long time, and this year especially I think is a real trailblazing effort, so I'm just happy to be in on it.

How do you feel about this year's Living Walls lineup being an all-girl cast?
I'm ecstatic! For starters, I think it'll be a blast, and it's also a completely new experience for me. It will be nice not to be a novelty. Plus, I think that it's really important to draw attention to the one-sidedness of the conversation in street art and public art. I got into public art partly because, practically speaking, anyone can do it — as in, anyone who has the desire and the drive and the talent to do it is in the game. But for some reason it's still very much a boys' club, so I think this is a good chance to shake that up.

Why do you think public art is important? How do you think public art affects the community or city it is displayed in?
Every place I've been to that has art in the streets seems more alive than places without it. It gives people something to look at and talk about that's more personal than a blank wall. I've seen people take ownership over pieces that are in their neighborhood. I've seen people get inspired. I've also seen people get confused and angry and resentful. But at the very least, public art gets people talking because you can't ignore it. Art has never been about making something everyone likes or even completely understands, it's about introducing something to experience and talk about and share in, and I think public art is probably the purest forum for that discussion. So much of our visual culture is advertising — trying to sell you a product or a lifestyle or an ideology. But I think public art can be the antidote to that: art for art's sake.

What inspires your artistic process? For example, how do you come up with a piece for a wall?
I'm trying an approach for this wall that I've only ever done on a small scale, but I think it will work — and if nothing else, it'll be fresh! So I've been working on these drawings that are basically hundreds, maybe thousands, of triangles made up of intersecting lines of different lengths and angles, pretty mathematical. But I draw them freehand without any kind of plan so they end up being really organic and having some movement to them. So that's my approach for this wall. And I don't know what it'll end up looking like, which is kind of terrifying, but also exciting! It means the shapes can evolve naturally, and the wall will be as much a discovery for me as for anybody else.

What do you hope people get out of your work?
I just hope people have some kind of feeling when they stand in front of it. Because it's abstract, its value comes from its ability to strike some really elemental chord that resonates with people on a broad human level and also a personal emotional level. Instead of my work telling someone "THIS IS THE MESSAGE, GET IT?" I would like it to offer them some kind of visceral experience. I would rather it do something than say something.

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