Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Molly Keenan Creates Storybook Collages

Molly Keenan is a collage artist working under the moniker Retro Futures Designs. Her compositions often begin with images from vintage children’s books and convey messages with thought-provoking overtones. In her Etsy shop, she describes her work as: “Vintage storybook collage. Speculative cultural commentary. Feminist. Geeky. One of a kind.”

Returning for her second LoLa art crawl, Molly will be showing at Blue Moon Coffee Cafe, 39th Avenue and East Lake Street, where she is the featured artist for the month of August. “We'll take over the back third of the cafe for the two days of the LoLa Art Crawl,” she says. 

Sharing the space with Molly is stained-glass mosaic artist Lisa Arnold, aka Xola Arts, who was profiled earlier on this blog. Lisa’s work will be showing in the windows, and she’ll also be set up on the sidewalk outside the cafe. “It's a great symbiotic relationship,” says Molly. “We're excited to be sharing the experience with Lisa."

What media do you work in?
I am a collage artist. Most of the material I collage with comes from vintage books. My work ranges from very small-scale (micro-collaged jewelry, often with vintage or repurposed beadwork) to large-scale (on large artboard, wood panels, and upcycled furniture). Many collages are mixed-media, with collage on top of a painted background.

A year ago I started experimenting with micro-collaged earrings and pendants, in metal bezels and covered with jeweler's-grade resin. With the micro-collages, I'm still trying to tell stories, like I do in larger-format work, so that people's jewelry will engage them in a certain mood, or connect them to a sense of something, or ground them in some part of their identity because they choose to wear these micro-collaged earrings about writing today, or this pendant that's part of a map of a place they've traveled.

I made one pair of earrings where one said "Yes" and the other said "No," and it became clear that that both/and feeling needed to be represented in jewelry. That pair of earrings spawned a whole subsection of the earrings I make now: Yes/No, On/Off, Awake/Asleep, Formal/Informal, and so on.

What inspires/informs your art?
I'm inspired a lot by the interplay between wildlife and human life, and by the relationship between the city and the natural world.

I have a very visceral, almost mythic reaction to certain scientists and writers and other kinds of heroes, which I think—I hope—comes across in the collages that I make about people like Rachel Carson and Rosalind Franklin.

I'm inspired by childhood—both my own and childhood in general—which goes a long way to explain why so much of my source material comes from vintage children's books.

A new series called "The Memory Keys" is the outcome of many years of therapy, recovering memories of early childhood and adolescent sexual trauma. It tells the story of recovery from trauma, not the story of the experience of trauma, so the intent is for the work to convey optimism, even if it's not as easy to take in as my work about birds and books and biologists.

What do you like about the Longfellow neighborhood?
I live in Cooper, just up the block from El NorteƱo, with my partner, Aaron, our kid, two dogs, and two cats. We love living on the cusp of Minneapolis and St. Paul. I grew up just a few miles due east of our home, so Ezra gets to grow up really close to her grandparents. And we're just a block from the Blue Moon, where Aaron and I first met. We love the proximity to the river, and all of the great walkable/bikeable resources in our neighborhood.

We have a special affinity for the Little Free Libraries that are thick on the ground in Longfellow. We regularly go on family bike rides that are specifically about hitting as many "LFLs" as we can find, donating books we no longer want, and collecting books for Ezra or for me to collage with. Sometimes we have to flip a coin to decide who gets a particular book, and for what purpose. Ezra has been known more than once to say, "No, Mama, don't cut that book up! I want to read it!"

photo by Julia Merle-Smith

Our favorite LFL, though, is the Little PoetryLibrary  right outside the Blue Moon. I was commissioned last fall to collage the exterior of the library. Seeing art that I created, right outside the cafe, makes me feel even more connected to my neighborhood.

Are you doing anything special for LoLa?
I will be offering Virtually Instantaneous, Personalized (VIP) Mini-Collages: You pick a word out of the dictionary, talk to me for a few minutes about your choice, then look around at the art and jewelry, or have a coffee, while I snip and glue.  Fifteen minutes and ten bucks later, you get to take home a piece of personalized art.

The Blue Moon will be providing sweet, sweet air conditioning as well as beverages and nosh.

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