Edited by Amber Sesnick • Photos by Doug Eng
Irish artist Maud Cotter came to Northeast Florida in July to install her first commissioned artwork in the United States for the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Jacksonville’s Project Atrium. Cotter is a prominent contemporary sculptor who lives and works in Cork, Ireland, where she cofounded the Irish National Sculpture Factory and is a member of the venerated Irish Association of Artists Aosdána. She has exhibited internationally and lectures extensively in architectural and arts colleges throughout Europe and America.
While at the museum for the installation of her work, Cotter was able to sit down with Senior Curator Ylva Rouse for a conversation about presenting her work in Jacksonville as part of the Project Atrium series, her artistic process, and the way she conceptualizes ideas into artwork more broadly. Her new installation, “what was never ours to keep,” is accompanied by four additional works that have been installed in the museum’s lobby.
Ylva Rouse: Can you tell me a bit about the process of creating “what was never ours to keep” and what you thought of the MOCA Project Atrium space when you were first presented with it?
Maud Cotter: It was a collision of opportunities, really, because I had been wanting to do something quite high with material falling, and it was just good fortune that MOCA offered me this incredible space.
My first consideration was, I felt I needed to penetrate the center of the space and induce a sort of tension around the lines. I had a structure in mind and Kevin Dolan, an engineer in Ireland, helped me tweak it so that it would be self-supporting.
I started with a very essential line that penetrated the space and inscribed it in a way that was minimal but at the same time induced a reaction and cohesion in the space. And I felt I should flow materials down off that point through the piece, so that the line entered into a full drawing with the space.
YL: You have used very particular materials for the installation: a waxed mild steel, birch ply, silicone rubber, string, stainless-steel cable, mirror. Tell me a little bit about the choices you made for the materials, how they work together, and what you hope to convey. I know that each item was carefully selected for itself, for its qualities, and for the energy it brings.
MC: When choosing materials for the work, I found myself naturally analyzing my choices. I chose to do two structures with single material bodies kind of flowing off each. I really wanted something to spill onto the floor. So, for the first structure, I chose something quite dry in the choice of birch and constructed pieces of timber that kind of meshed together, like something that’s come off an exotic plant and maybe, in the process of deterioration, evolved into a simple form.
So, the material for the first structure is sort of vegetative in a way. And then, for the second structure, I chose cast dragon skin, which is very flexible and natural and nontoxic. It is a pleasure to work with. I was pouring that and knowing that it was something I could add undulation and color to.