Art Thoughts

Shannon Molter Interview: Origin Story at the 10th Street Gallery

**The following interview was conducted via email with artist Shannon Molter regarding her current exhibition – Origin Story at the Tenth Street Gallery**

JA:       How important do you feel the narrative is in contemporary society?

SLM:   Narrative is exceptionally important in contemporary society.  It is easily seen throughout our world and is deeply ingrained within our minds, constantly being considered and being put into practice.  For example we all have a personal story.  It includes the setting in which we grew up, who our parents were, how we were raised by them or someone else, what has happened to us directly and in society during our lifetime.  The narrative is a fascinating starting point for investigating culture and society.  Humans in the time before written history often shared a collective story.  It explained how they came into existence and what they were alive to do.  But, contemporarily, we tend to view ourselves as singular from the whole, favoring our personal story, and more easily separating our actions from the influence they have on the world we share.


JA:       How important is the individual story vs. the collective?

SLM:   The importance of the individual story v. the collective depends on the context.  I might ask, what is the setting of the story?  Perhaps if an individual story could have profound significance to the whole, it would be quite important.

Yet, if the collective story is ignored, horrendous damage is likely to be done, as we see in countless examples of colonization.  That said, one should not generalize a culture or individual as right, wrong, bad or good, but impactful in proportion to the breadth and salinity of the message in said story.  I feel the individual story can become somewhat self-important unless used in the situation of an example or comparison brought to attention for the sake of the “greater good.”


JA:       Are you concerned with the legacy you will leave behind, your impact on this world?

SLM:   I am concerned about my impact.  But more often I worry about the legacy being built by the society I belong to.  It is easier to change and build your individual legacy, but much more agonizing to try to change your culture as a whole.  Though human, I do my best to make positive impacts on my fellow species, but am constantly correcting and educating myself.


JA:       If you could be known for one thing, what would it be?

SLM:   Eep!  I suppose I hope to be inspiring.  To be a teacher.  Not in the traditional school setting, but simply living as an example.  I want to help others to open their minds and see themselves as powerful capable beings by being that kind of person myself.  I can see no greater achievement than energizing the potential within others.


JA:       If all stories (both written and especially oral) are a mixture of fact and fiction then do we ever really know the truth about anything other than that which we personally experience firsthand?

SLM:   Well, following Descartes’ logic, how can we know that even what we experience firsthand is the truth?!  People often mistake what they perceive as truth, but truth is simply what we believe.  The story can be based in reality or built upon fiction.  It can be told orally with as much truth as the written.  But the purpose of any story is in what the reader (listener) learns.

That is why I call this project Origin Story.  Like any aboriginal story built around major animal protagonists, living environments and secondary human roles, this story may not be classified as either entirely fiction or nonfiction, but it could cause the reader / viewer to interact with their world differently after experiencing the story.


JA:       You talk about the desire to consume within The Black Mare, is that desire the fate of all humans?  To constantly be focused on the future forgoing the present for dreams of tomorrow?  Is there free will, or are we fated beings?

SLM:   The Black Mare is the allegory I have invented to help consolidate evils in the world.  If instead of being constantly torn between equally important causes and specifically, environmental battles, we could focus on the collection of wrong-doings as one character, she may be simpler to comprehend and bring to a close.

The desire to consume discussed is a product of humans, a cycle we have programmed into our own minds over centuries.  As a result we cannot easily break away from this craving; she is the Black Mare.  Because we humans are also a species belonging to the ecosystem, having an influence on and belonging as much to other animals as we do to ourselves, I do not believe it is our natural desire to over use our “resources” (brethren).  It is actually a result of hundreds of years of civilized evolution.  We have unfortunately forgotten how to live any other way.

My hope is that we are not fated beings.  We are certainly intelligent enough to acknowledge the relevance of our actions, but are not plainly asked to do so often enough.  If real changes thinking and patterns of behavior are not altered, we will fulfill the Black Mare’s desire and lose out on the possibility of another stage in human evolution.  The one that sees us return to nature with respect and foresight.

JA:       Do you feel urban sprawl and development is having a negative effect on the mindset of our youth – not allowing them to grow up in a world connected to the earth?  Do you feel people that have grown up solely within the confines of a cityscape are missing an essential link to mother earth and nature?

SLM:   I worry that children who have not had the opportunity to enjoy the landscape when they are young will feel distant from it, or not belonging to it.  They may even feel scared of it or deterred by its wildness.  I don’t think anyone is missing the link, but many have buried it in the basement of their thirty story apartment building.

I have heard many kids in my teaching experience, talk about hating to go outside because of tiny set-backs like insects or not wanting to sit outside because grass is itchy feeling.  I believe these avoidance’s are because of a lack of exposure and positive experiences.  But they could be easily mended!  Taking a lovely walk in the woods or picnicking with favorite foods in a canoe are both examples of ways to feel close to nature and repair the broken relationship.  I also hope that just because adults are enamored with the building of subdivisions, children will not be convinced that it is the right thing to do for the environment.

Shannon Molter: Origin Story is on display currently at the 10th Street Gallery through May 27th.