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Q-and-A with John Moran: Glass artist’s provocative works focused on school shootings, bin Laden

back to school. exhibition

M.F.A. student John Moran transformed a gallery inside Illinois State’s University Galleries for his thesis show, back to school, which he created in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings.

John Moran, a studio glass artist set to graduate in May from the M.F.A. program, has received two Friends of the Arts grants during his three-year career at Illinois State. The latest grant supported his M.F.A. thesis show, titled back to school, which was shown in early April at University Galleries.

Moran talked about his work, the importance of the grants, and his upcoming projects in an interview conducted in April.

Why do you work in glass?

There is a social aspect to it and there is a physicality to it that most other materials don’t have. And then I feel like I have found my niche here because there are not many sculptors who do figurative work in glass and even fewer who do mix media and figurative work.

Tell me a little bit about the project for which you received the latest Friends of the Arts grant and what was the forum for your work?

That grant was for materials for my M.F.A. thesis and some work that I made in my fifth semester here, late 2012. And I used that to buy resin and to buy some metal, do fabric printing, and to experiment on some things. So I made a piece with Osama bin Laden in a shopping cart. And I used that grant to figure out how to build that figure. And I used that as well to do some of the work in this show, which is that figure. Most of the resin and the material, the color, the glass color, the latex—all those materials were bought with that grant.

John Moran

John Moran decided to come to Illinois State because of studio glass Professor John Miller, whose nationally renowned glass art caught Moran’s eye when he first started working in glass.

Just explain a little bit about your M.F.A. project (back to school). What is it about?

It is kind of layered. When I started thinking about it was right after Sandy Hook, the shooting. It was kind of my reaction to that and a whole chain of shootings too. It’s just violence in general, not just Sandy Hook but that was the catalyst. And I was trying to think, why I think that happens so much here. I just kind of bring all those ties in—so there’s corporate ties, religious ties, and then also like innocence and some sacrifice issues that run throughout my work. Those all ended up tying in with this. There is a lot of double entendre and double play on words. Back to school is referencing a back to school sale, it is referencing me being back in school, and also Sandy Hook, or the school massacres. The target symbol in there has kind of a double play where it’s the logo for the corporation but also like a bull’s-eye target. But then it is also referencing the trilogy, the trinity I mean, because there are the three circles. So there are a lot of layered references.

You make a lot of art that is provocative. Osama bin laden, this topic—you are not afraid of those topics by any means. Are you looking for a specific response? Why are you choosing those?

I think I don’t necessarily want a specific response. I think I have a specific idea that goes into it. I don’t necessarily want that response from the viewer. I’m more interested in drawing emotion. It can be anywhere from people being sad, or laughing, or just being angry. But then as long it doesn’t just end there. I want, beyond there, people at least to question the things I do. Because it’s not coming out of a void; it’s coming out of a lot of different places. One of the things I have talked about before is The Simpsons. If you watch The Simpsons, you might not get all of the jokes, but it is still funny. But once you start to understand all those references, it starts to come together as a deeper picture. And that’s kind of how I think about my work. There are layers and layers of references and they don’t always have to make sense, but when they start to make sense it just adds depth to the stuff.

Why are these Friends of the Arts grants important, especially for the students in the graduate program?

I think it gives the students an ability to take risks they might not be able to take, especially financially.

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Moran’s plans

Moran is showing some of his recent works at a show titled Sorry for the Convenience at the cometogetherspace gallery in downtown Bloomington. The show runs from April 19 to May 3. He is also raising money to help promote and transport his American Idols series, for which he created busts of the U.S. presidents. The series has been exhibited at the Pittsburgh Glass Center and will be shown at the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts. The Philadelphia native will be moving to Belgium after graduation to be with his wife, who is Belgian. He plans to create and show his work in Europe and the United States.

 

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