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Kathleen Moore: The Storyteller

Spartanburg Artist to Exhibit at West Main Artists Co-op

By Steve Wong


Well known local ceramic artist Kathleen Moore will exhibit an extensive body of work at West Main Artists Co-op March 6-31, giving the public an intimate look at how art is a storytelling medium. The free and public reception will be Thursday, March 15, 5-9 p.m. during Spartanburg’s monthly ArtWalk.

“Kathleen Moore: The Storyteller” will have more than 100 works of art in clay and combined with variety of mixed media and found artifacts. It will be in the cooperative’s large Venue gallery that was once a church sanctuary. “You will come across great stories every day if you only listen,” the Michigan native said recently. “Someone asked me if I had any good stories that I wanted to share. I have brought several together for you to enjoy. Some will make you cry; others will make you laugh so hard you wet your panties! I hope you enjoy them both. You can expect to be surprised. Some of the works actually require viewer participation. I hope you will smile when they walk away. I hope you will say, ‘Hummm, I have a story, how can I tell it in an interesting manner?’ Some of the stories have been rolling around in my head for several years waiting for some bizarre spark to inspire me to illustrate it. Some pieces sprang to life almost instantly when I came across an interesting object to hold the story.”

Moore’s insightful storytelling through art was mystically foretold when she was 12 years old: She and her family were visiting Northern Michigan, when an elderly woman, most likely an elder from the Huron Indian Tribe — “a stranger with deep penetrating eyes” — gently cupped the child’s face in her wrinkled hands, smiled, and said, “You are not at storyteller yet — but you will be!”

Many of the works will be for sale, starting with functional mugs, bowls, and vases for $30. Other larger sculptural pieces will price as high as $3,000. Most of the work on display will be recently made, however, some of it will from her student days, giving the public the opportunity to see her creative development over time. Some of the more quirky and thought-provoking pieces will include metallic heads with elaborate hair mounted on toy safes with combination locks; primitive and sexualized corked vases; ceramic figures incorporated into machine parts; animal figures; bulbous torsos; and egg-like figures with minimal faces.

Moore’s work often uses a bit of whimsy to tell a story. She has recently completed a week long teaching assignment at Pine Street Elementary School in Spartanburg where she taught the traditions and methods that allowed more than 120 students to each create their own unique and very ugly face jugs. Kathleen has taught this program for the past three years and said she is still astounded by the imagination of the students. She is fascinated with the way all stories are connected and likes to explore what is hidden within the obvious.

She also enjoys making functional wheel-thrown pieces, as well as hand-built forms, that explore fertility — not just physical reproductive fertility but fertility of the mind. This interest in fertility keeps taking Moore back to the classroom. She loves teaching and calls it her “first love.”  She finds great satisfaction in pushing students of all ages to develop their own style and in urging them to think constructively about themselves and the art they make.

Moore is “approved” by the South Carolina Arts Commission as one of the state’s “Artist in Residence,” which allows her to travel to schools and introduce students to the joy of working in a 3-dimensional format. She has one strict class rule: “If it’s not fun, we are not doing it!” In addition to visiting and teaching at schools throughout South Carolina, Moore has served in many other teaching positions, including being the Art School Director for Spartanburg Art Museum; Director of Educational Program at the Artists Junction in Sarasota, FL; a ceramics instructor at the Sarasota County Adult & Community Educational Program; a graduate instructor in 3-D design; and a teaching- assistant in sculpture at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. She holds a bachelor’s degree in fine arts (graphic design) from the University of West Georgia and a master’s degree in fine arts (ceramics/sculpture) from the University of Mississippi.

Known for her sense of humor and quick wit to illustrate a point, Moore declines to directly reveal her age. However, she said: “While doing a pottery wheel demo at an elementary school recently, I mentioned that I first learned on a kick-wheel that had a big stone at the bottom that I had to kick to get the thing to spin. One young man asked, ‘Like Fred Flintstone?’ I am not quite that old! (Also,) I was doing a demo once wearing my University of Mississippi--Established in 1848 T-shirt. A young man looked carefully at the shirt and then asked if that was when I went there. I’m not that old either.”

Starting in 1988, Moore began being recognized for her talents when she received an Art Department Scholarship at the University of West Georgia. In addition to other academic awards, she began receiving professional awards and recognitions in 1990s, including the much-noticed “One Woman Show: Legalized Pot.” At the turn of the century, she began a personal and professional relationship with Empty Bowls, an international pottery program that raising money to feed the needy in local communities. She has been recognized for her Empty Bowls contributions in Florida and in Upstate South Carolina. In most recent years, her work has been seen and applauded in the Upstate and Western North Carolina at various invitationals, benefits, and juried art shows.

Though not a member of West Main Artists Co-op, Moore holds the non-profit and all-volunteer arts agency in high regard. “I have always enjoyed the shows at West Main,” she said. “I think one of my favorite parts is the artists themselves. They have always been open and willing to answer questions. They don't mind sharing and many give great hugs! The West Main Co-op is an outstanding venue. It gives artists space to work and display their artwork. Everyone I have talked with or listened to has always offered encouragement and constructive criticism to me and other artists. What a great place to get together with creative thinkers; look at innovative, exceptionally well crafted and designed works of art that can be purchased at reasonable prices all while being fed snacks and tasty beverages.”

Self described as “bespectacled, gray-haired, and salty,” Moore summarized her life and life’s work as…

“I was born in the Mitten State – that's why I talk funny. My mother claims she couldn’t keep me out of the mud there. I left as soon as I graduated high school. Moved to Florida, and married a handsome sailor. Moved to Georgia. Had three sons. Moved back to Florida. Pick up another son: a perfectly good kid whose parents threw out without even bothering to open the door. Moved to Mississippi, where I learned to love the Blues. But Mississippi is too far away from my family. So when half of them settled in South Carolina and started having children of their own, we packed everything up and moved to South Carolina. We have settled on the east side of Spartanburg. I have a great time introducing the grandbabies to South Carolina peaches and North Carolina zip lines! I still have that same handsome sailor too.”