Refreshingly, Art Moura does not have a significant online presence. I reconstructed my knowledge of him through various articles and time spent with images of his work.
Moura’s story is an interesting one – he traveled extensively in Spain, worked as an electrician and – until his demise in a demolition derby in 2018 – drove a Volvo 740 Station Wagon covered in doll heads, painted figures and mannequin legs. Growing up in Santa Rosa, I have seen this car many times.
Among other things, Moura creates dolls – I would call them creatures – from found objects such as fabric, paper and wire. Watching them is intense. I spent a moment with the images I found from Moura’s exhibition at the Good Luck Gallery in Los Angeles in 2015 and came out a little haunted, as if his gaze was on me.
Explaining her process, Moura says that a room is not complete until it has a soul. In an interview at the opening of the Good Luck Gallery 2015 exhibition, Julian Stern wrote: âMoura explains that while he doesn’t think his pieces really have a soul, he vividly imagines them and personifies them. Each of them has what he describes as a cheeky, slightly hurt personality.
I don’t think Moura doubts his plays really have a soul – I think he knows they do. Something truly magnificent about the motivation to create art is its root in the experience of inspiration, in its etymological sense, from Latin Inspire, meaning “to breathe life into”.
For the creator or artist, the experience of inspiration is a transfer of life force from an internal manifestation to an external manifestation, i.e. the transmission or production of a soul. This is what separates bad art from good art, and here the word bad could be replaced by death, or sterile. The âbadâ art signifying a lifeless art, devoid of this impulse of vitality which animates the âgoodâ art, or simply a living art. This is how the artist knows his work is real, even if he looks at it with mockery or with the x-ray vision that his art can sometimes have when it takes shape outside of his own consciousness.
It’s an alchemical process, taking rags and wire, or paint and canvas, and creating something vital out of them. No, the creature does not take a literal breath, independently reach out, or stand up on its own, but it is undeniably alive, inspired by the inspiration it was designed to be.
This soul transmission is what makes Moura’s work such a responsive pleasure to experience.
His latest exhibition is presented at the Hammerfriar Gallery in Healdsburg. The video that his daughter, Aja DeWolf Moura, an exceptional artist in her own right, made of her creative process is also visible throughout the exhibition, as well as on her website ajadewolfmoura.com.