The current micro-gallery solo artist is Jean Gray Mohs who works with shaped wood that she paints and connects together in unexpected forms. For this interview, we crowdsourced some questions, as well as having a few questions from me. Here’s the interview, and some images of her show!
Interview with Jean Gray Mohs
Q. Eve Lynch, @evesfcaquilts asked on Instagram:
I’d like to know if working on a tiny scale changes anything in her process.
It was a bit constricting but I loved the challenge. It felt harder to do more with such a small space/piece but I am very happy to see how they turned out. What a great way to play with scale!
Q: Did the mini pieces originate from charming scraps, or did you start from scratch?
A. I always start from scratch when creating the pieces in this collection. When I work, I start with two 4 x 8 feet “bodies” of wood and I paint contrasting color schemes on them both. I like to create organic shapes with this wood until there is really nothing left but sawdust. These pieces will collect in the studio ready to be worked into a final piece. In this way, I feel as if I honoring the wood and the life it can give. If you apply this back to transplant, a person who has donated life can save up to 8 lives and enhance the lives of 75 more. I want this to be reflected in my use of the wood.
To build on this question, this is also how I build each of my pieces. When I was waiting for transplant, I was waiting for the correct puzzle piece lungs to my body. They were looking for blood type, cavity size, and many other variables. When I build pieces from the Woven Strangers collection, puzzling is an important part of the process. Sometimes I will make a piece and it will take months before I can find a piece to fit and sew perfectly with it, sometimes it will take a few days. I love how this naturally mimics the waiting process of those waiting for the gift of life.
Q: What type of paint or pencil do you use?
A: I love Ticonderoga pencils and when sketching really only use a black pilot G2. With paint, I use a wide variety of brands with some of my oils dating all the way back to 1997 and have no particular favorite. Over the years I have found a deep love of oils, watercolors, and acrylic with the way they can each bend to your needs.
Q: When did you start working on shaped wood? What did you do before?
A: I started working with wood about three years ago after I had my double lung transplant. When I was on oxygen full time and was disabled pre-transplant I could only work in small bursts and so a lot of my work was on paper or canvas, fragile, thin materials.
After surgery, I had the freedom of movement. I wasn’t tied to an oxygen concentrator, I could walk, I felt strong again. Paper just wasn’t fitting the bill of the narrative of the work I wanted to make. Wood, however, felt like a perfect next material. The maple plywood I use is a wood made stronger by gluing two or more pieces of wood together. It is rigid, strong, and highly versatile. It can be sanded, sawn, drilled, scraped and felt like a perfect new representation and what I wanted to say.
I have just received a grant for some woodworking materials and will be taking a woodworking course in January to add to my skill level. Really looking forward to watching this work evolve.
Q. Lea Shell, @leonorashell asks, do you name the pieces before or after they are finished?
A. Once I finish a piece, it has become fully formed at this point and is ready for a title. Looking at the finished piece, I often let the color and shape lead the way for its naming. I often title by the first thing it reminds me of.
Then, in thinking of transplant and reflecting back to the key meaning of the work, things aren’t always smooth so sometimes I will name a piece two conflicting items like “Peak and Crash”. Whilst other times I will name things very agreeable titles like “Bubble and Gum”, a piece which just recently sold at the NCMA gift shop.
Aparajita, @aparajita_atot asked on Instgram,
Q. It seems across all her works she consistently uses two small equal lines to connect her forms with each other. Curious to know if there is a significance to it… the thought behind it.
A. When my mother started creating ceramic angels after my brother passed away at a young age, she took a nail from our house and would sign the bottom of the angels with four dots, each dot representing the four of us in the family. In honor of my mother, father, and brother I named my budding art business after them with my four dots. As you can see on my Instagram @jg.fourdots and www.myfourdots.com.
So in each of these seemingly fragile binding spots on the pieces, there are four dots holding the pieces together. A small homage again to my family and to the support that has always buoyed me through my community of family and friends.
Bio and Statement
Jean Gray Mohs is an artist born and raised in North Carolina. In December of 2002, she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Georgia Southern University. Upon earning her Master of Arts in Teaching at Georgia Southern University in 2008 she settled back into North Carolina where she is an active artist.
She lovingly calls Raleigh home and has been creating artwork and educating the area about art since 2008. Selected exhibits include the Contemporary Art Museum in Raleigh, the North Carolina Museum of Art, Greenhill Gallery, and Meredith College. Her work has been featured on Georgia Public Radio, and in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Southern Living, and Traditional Home. Her works have been shown regionally as well as internationally.
Everyday forces are at work in our very own bodies that allow us to breathe and move. They can go easily unnoticed unless there is some sort of disruption. The pulse of our hearts, the inhalation and exhalation of our lungs all in a steady rhythm carry us through our days. We depend upon these natural mechanisms and like clockwork they support us. Those of us in the disabled and chronic illness community are in tune with these disruptions all too well.
I make abstracted objects that honor and bring attention to these processes and mechanisms through the use of contrasting sturdy and fragile materials. My objects communicate the body’s tenacity and put emphasis on the balance we all walk in this world. These pieces celebrate the harsh edges of life and closely observe our bodies’ exposure to time and disease. As fragile and fleeting as life is, it is also strong and relentless, unhindered by the constant barrage of obstacles sent its way.