Mario Moore Helps Unpack “My Labor.”

In Visual Arts by Akeem K. Duncan.Leave a Comment

To be moved by art is a necessity, a privilege and a process. There is a physical reaction that changes your very biological structure. The pupils dilate, serotonin hurries its way to the brain and before you know it, new neural pathways are being created and your hand is resting pretentiously upon your chin as you furrow your brow. Although many of yet to see the painting in person, “My Labor” by Mario Moore still manages to leap from the screen and change you, igniting an enrapturing experience that is as memorable as it is fleeting.

Ultimately every painting requires something different, otherwise what’s the point of making it.

– Mario Moore

With its back turned, the piece embraces its audience in a way that leaves them awestruck and enlightened. There is an understanding that speaks to and coincides with certain cultural sensibilities but also transcends into the universal realm of other societal nuances such as class mobility and ultimately self actualization. Not to mention the covert historical reference of the slave trade and fur trade that is present in the painting as well. However, even while existing under these weighty creative circumstances, “My Labor” seems unbothered, unfazed.

Detail of “My Labor” (Courtesy of Mario Moore)

“My Labor” is also an undeniable display of great skill and burgeoning technique that wills you to sing its praises. The way Moore overachieved in capturing the texture of the fur, properly portraying its glaze and luster.  “My Labor” is a homage to decadence and destruction. It stops you dead in your tracks and holds you there.

We had a quick digital sit-down with Moore and took a little time to pick his brain and discover what we could about the magic and meaning behind his latest reveal.

Akeem K. Duncan: Let’s start with the title, “My Labor”. Very strong. Tell us about its significance.

Mario Moore: “The painting is a continuation of a series I started with the piece ‘International Detroit Player: Sheefy’. It is about the history of slavery in Michigan and its direct ties to the fur trade and use of Black bodies as labor for that export. This painting also has a companion piece which I have not shown yet online, of a man in a similar position shirtless.

The labor is about the work and also the aspiration of Black Detroiters who have a very distinct style especially when it comes to furs.”

AKD: How did the concept for “My Labor” come about?

MM: “I was reading a book by Tiya Miles suggested to me by a friend, Taylor Aldridge, about the history of slavery in Detroit and how Native and Black enslaved bodies were used to transport furs in the 18th and early 19th century.”

“International Detroit Player: Sheffy” 2022 by Mario Moore.

AKD: What are some themes present? 

MM: “There is much there but it’s also a really simple composition. I have my intent on the work but I also want viewers to add to interpret what they see.”

AKD: Are most of your pieces up for interpretation despite your own intent? How is it maintaining that balance between intent and subjectivity?

MM: “I believe a work is not complete without someone to view it. I think all of my pieces are up to the viewer’s interpretation, but even so I hope I put all of my intent in there for them to gain some insight into what I was thinking. I think once the work leaves my studio it’s out of my hands and into the world. It has to survive on its own.”

AKD: The execution of the fur is stunning and an undeniable display of great skill. You recently tackled the texture briefly in “International Detroit Player: Sheffy” What was your experience this time around?

MM: “For that painting, it was the inside of the coat and a different type of fur. It required a different kind of approach. This composition is a really simple one and because of that all the attention is on the fur. Also the lighting and the kind of fur that it is gives a different look than the previous painting. Ultimately every painting requires something different, otherwise what’s the point of making it.”

AKD: The piece is being very well received. Notable artists such as Lucia Hierro, Steve Locke and Pamela Council have been singing its praises– with Council referring to the painting as “chilling.” What are your thoughts on its reception? 

MM: “All of those are either friends or people I know. Social media is a funny thing and I would be lying to say I don’t appreciate the praise but my paintings are things that need to be seen in person to be fully understood. I do love that the fam out in the world is showing me love!”

AKD: What’s next on your creative calendar?  

MM: “This work and the work that accompanies it is scheduled for a group exhibition at the Carl Freedman Gallery in the UK in April. I will also be showing at EXPO in Chicago. I have some more things coming up but I have to wait to reveal what those are.”

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