I’m skating on a pond filled with equal measures of gratitude, terror, and exhilaration and hoping the ice holds.
Interview with Visual Artist, Kelly Cressio-Moeller
Our featured artist for this month’s issue of West Trestle Review is Kelly Cressio-Moeller. I was fortunate to speak to Kelly over email; we discussed her background in Art History, relationship with both visual art and the written word, and the ways her life experiences have informed her creations.
Olivia Joyce (OJ): What inspired you to start making art?
Kelly Cressio-Moeller (KCM): I’ve always made things as far back as I can remember: painting rocks, t-shirts, flower pots to woodworking with my dad in the garage (both parents very supportive of creativity) and then began to paint on paper/canvas in my early 20s. Teaching myself as I went along—still a constant trial and error as I have no formal training. Several stops and starts over a few decades. During shelter in place, I painted on small wood panels for the first time, and think I’ve found my favorite surface.
OJ: As someone who has studied Art History, who are some of your favorite artists, and what do you admire about their work?
KCM: I’ve compiled a long list (no particular order) and am sure more than a few have been left off, too, but these are the ones who make the hair on my neck stand up in the best way. Love their creativity, craft, use of color, texture, form, sense of invention, movement, restraint but also fearlessness: Bronzino, Velazquez, Sargent, William Morris, Whistler, Gerhard Richter, Remedios Varo, Bonnard, Van Gogh, Palladio, Ruth Asawa, Patrick Dougherty, Martin Puryear, Franz Marc, Georgia O’Keeffe, Claire Åkebrand, Alice Brasser, Karen Kunc, Dan-ah Kim, Andreea Breascu, Carrie Mae Weems, Jan Van Eyke and a slew of Northern Renaissance painters, Gertrude Abercrombie, Hilda Palafox aka Poni, Joseph Cornell, Lyonel Feininger, Lois Dodd, Karen Green, Charlotte Sorapure, Markus Åkesson, Harald Nielsen, Cole Thompson, Amanda Clyne, Morris Louis, Clyfford Still, Amy Sherald, Louisa Mattiasdottir, Maxfield Parrish, Yayoi Kusama, Lorna Simpson, Irving Penn, Agnes Martin, Martine Franck, Caspar David Friedrich, Winslow Anderson, Jo Sweeting, Karen Williams…and on and on.
OJ: You write poetry in addition to creating visual art. How have you found the two to relate to each other?
KCM: They relate in that if I’m not doing one or the other, I am not my best self nor am I enjoyable to be around (laughing but not laughing!). Unbelievably, this is only a recent personal realization/acceptance/understanding. I haven’t been able to write poetry during the pandemic, but I have been able to make collage/erasure poetry and paint; it has made all the difference—for me and those who live with me. Years ago, a particularly wonderful day was when I discovered ekphrastic poetry existed. The marriage of two of my favorite things.
OJ: I read that while you've spent most of your life in San Jose, you've also lived in Hamburg, Germany, for four years. How did you end up living abroad? What was this experience like?
KCM: My husband and I got married in the US, and nine days later were on a plane back to his hometown in Hamburg. He was starting his Ph.D work there, and I was to finish my Masters in Art History. It was one of the most challenging times of my life. I was a very young 24, homesick, familysick, dogsick, and really struggled through those years. In hindsight, it was a tremendous period of growth and learning. Not only about myself but my husband: his family,
roots, city—and I learned another language and was able to spend multiple hours alone in the Caspar David Friedrich room at the Kunsthalle, which I remember with great fondness. Although I never completed my Master’s thesis (my greatest regret), I can honestly say I don’t think there is a poem I have written that has not, in some way, utilized something in all those classes and coursework in both Art History and Humanities.
OJ: Finally, your new poetry collection, Shade of Blue Trees, is coming out soon. Congratulations! How are you feeling about it? Can you tell me a little bit about your book?
KCM: Thank you! I’m skating on a pond filled with equal measures of gratitude, terror, and exhilaration and hoping the ice holds. The collection is an exploration of many types of grief and how grief (and, therefore, love) force us to map our losses onto the known world, by way of deep imagery, myth, and language—both transforming and conjuring, very much rooted in the natural world, particularly the Northern Californian coast. It’s heavy on imagery and heart. My hope is for someone, somewhere to connect with it.
*Cressio-Moeller's poem, "Blueprint of the Waiting Room," was published in the January-February, 2021, issue of West Trestle Review. Read it here.
Kelly Cressio-Moeller is a poet and visual artist. Her poetry has appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Gargoyle, Guesthouse, Menacing Hedge, North American Review, Poet Lore, Radar Poetry, Salamander, THRUSH Poetry Journal, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Water~Stone Review, and ZYZZYVA among others. Her debut collection, Shade of Blue Trees, is forthcoming from Two Sylvias Press in 2021. She is an associate editor at Glass Lyre Press.