Margaret Morrison created a collection of oil paintings called Larger than Life that is composed of massive sugary images that make any of us feel five years-old. Morrison lives and paints in Athens, Georgia. She is an assistant professor of drawing and painting at the Lamar Dodd School of Art at the University of Georgia.
When did you feel you arrived as an artist? That’s an interesting question. I don’t think I’ll ever feel that I’ve “arrived.” Perhaps that’s what keeps me in my studio, searching for that elusive moment, the equilibrium between my work and my inner voice. The closest that I’ve ever come to a Cinderella moment was when John Woodward of Woodward Gallery in New York City called me out of the blue, over twenty years ago and asked me if I’d be interested in a solo exhibition at the Round About Theater gallery in Times Square. Believe me, I was pinching myself. The exhibition was received so well, that John and Kristine Woodward asked me to be in their stable and I’ve been represented by Woodward Gallery ever since.
Your series Larger than Life was so fresh and fun. How was it received in the art community? Just prior to Larger than Life I had been working on a series of gloomy, somewhat melancholy figure paintings full of portent and pathos. Right in the middle of this, I was hit sideways by a diagnosis of breast cancer. I realized that as part of my spiritual therapy, I needed to surround myself with subject matter that would positively feed my soul. I left the dark, brooding work behind and plunged full steam ahead with a brand new body of work based on my ultimate comfort foods. I quite literally surrounded myself with sweet energy. Larger than Life was exceptionally well received by the public, particularly because the economy had just bottomed out and people everywhere, were seeking healing subject matter. As a matter of fact, New Yorkers bought more candy during this economic down turn more than any other time, perhaps they were looking backward to the safety of their childhoods. I’m happy to report that I have fully recovered from cancer.
Do your two worlds as a Mormon and an artist ever not fit together? When people outside the Wasatch Front find out that I’m a Mormon, they tend to consider me as an interesting curiosity. They honestly don’t know what to make of me but that’s okay.
Smithsonian.com wrote about Larger than Life: “Food is nearly as ubiquitous a subject in art history as the Madonna and child. Artists seem to have been particularly fond of the simple bowl of fruit, from the Renaissance masters through Cézanne and beyond. And the still life with fruit is one of the first subjects art students tackle. It makes sense; fruit has built-in eye appeal, with interesting colors, shapes and textures. But instead of nature’s candy, Morrison satisfies our visual sweet tooth with the glossy, too-red glaze on a candy apple and the stained-glass-like transparency of gummy bears… Yet some of the paintings are almost scary. I mean, gelatinous gummy worms are kind of grotesque at normal size; magnified to several feet they are downright freakish. And a quartet of giganto gummy bears, so adorable at half an inch, seem to be marching menacingly toward us, bent on our sugary destruction.”
Images courtesy Margaret Morrison/Woodward Gallery/Mother-Musing.com.