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Grant recipient

Morgan Rose Free

The recipient of the August edition of the MyMA Artist Grant is Morgan Rose Free. She is a Canadian artist predominantly working in sculptural assemblage. Her conceptual interests lie in human engagement with the outside world, often grappling with ideas around our current climate crisis, engagement with public spaces (both natural and human made), and how the digital age has affected these relationships.

Congratulations on winning the August MyMA Grant! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your practice?

It is such an honor to win this grant, thank you so much! I’m a Canadian artist currently based in Columbus Ohio. I work with a wide range of materials including wood, fiber, ceramics and found objects. I use these different elements to build worlds that work together and against each other at the same time, as I’m interested in holding a lot of ideas in my work at once: contemporary climate anxieties, romanticization of the beauty of the natural world, human desires versus the needs of our planet and the consumerist escapism that is entrenched in our culture.

When did you start making work? Or when did you first know you were interested in art?

I’ve always been a maker. When I was a kid I would tell people that when I grow up I want to be an author, illustrator, poet and artist. As a preteen I wanted to be a fashion designer, and as a teen I knew I wanted to go to art school.

What is your process like?

My process often starts with a found object or a new material that I know I need to use for something, and I build a piece or a body of work around that. Sometimes a thing will hang around my studio for years before I figure out what to do with it, but I know it’s a special thing. Other times it starts with imagery or a color pallet. I use the Biodiversity Heritage Library’s online image library a lot, searching for weird organic forms, insects and animals to bring into my work. Drawing enters my practice only as diagrams or schematics of how I’m thinking about making something.

Do you have any studio rituals or routines? What’s a typical day in the studio for you?

I work with a lot of time consuming and repetitive processes, like weaving or jigsawing forms, so I ebb and flow between quiet decision making, and just being in production mode to execute something that’s going to take a lot of time. On those days I listen to a lot of podcasts or books while I’m working.

Can you share with us a specific moment or experience that first sparked your interest in sculptural assemblage?

When I was in highschool my art teacher told me to go see an exhibition at The Alberta College of Art and Design (now Alberta University of the Arts), which is where I ended up going for undergrad. I took the train across the city with some friends to what turned out to be a David Altmejd solo show. It changed my life. I had never seen anything like it. The way he seamlessly integrates materials you would never think to put together into such rich and dynamic forms blew me away. To this day he is my favorite artist and I’ve had the privilege of seeing his work several times in person since then. I think he gave me permission to work with and combine any materials I want while still being focused on aesthetics.

You’re also a cofounder of Dream Clinic Project Space. Can you elaborate on the mission and goals of this space and how it fits into your overall artistic journey?

Dream Clinic Project Space is a small gallery located inside of a garage studio I share with some other artists here in Columbus. We started programming in 2021 and are still going strong! We give artists solo exhibitions, curate group shows and do open calls a couple of times a year. We also have an ongoing project called Tiny Pedestal that we run on instagram in the winter months when we’re not hosting in-person monthly shows. The goal with Dream Clinic is to create community and let artists get weird and experiment. Since it’s only about 7 x 13 feet, it’s easy to completely transform the space and try out ideas that might not be financially possible for an emerging artist to do in a larger gallery.

Who are your artistic influences?

I have always been interested in aesthetic experiences and rich materiality. I am constantly looking at a lot of different work, and it’s hard to come up with just a few names. On instagram, whenever I come across something delicious I share it to my story. It’s a great way to create conversations and foster community, and I also get to look through my story archive and see trends in my own visual interests.

What was the best art advice you have received? / or What advice would you give to your younger self?

This one’s for the sports fans! In baseball, if your batting average is 300 it means you hit the ball 3 out of every 10 times at bat. This means you are actually failing 70% of the time. But in baseball, batting 300 is like Hall of Fame level skill. I think of my practice in the same way. If I only get 3 out of every 10 opportunities I apply for, or jobs or grants or whatever it is, then I’m definitely still in the game! If 70% of the art I make is bad, the 30% is truly what matters. I tell people this all the time, and it can really help put failure and success into perspective.

What is your go-to karaoke song?

Definitely Avril Lavigne, sometimes if I’m feeling ambitious I’ll go for Christina Aguilera. I basically revert to my preteen self.