Artist’s new pieces reflect experience during Japan’s earthquake, tsunami
By Karen Billing
Local sculptor Maidy Morhous expresses herself best with her hands, molding clay into meaningful works that later become coated in bronze.
“Artists want to hide behind their work, they want their work to speak for them,” Morhous said.
As such, she’s hesitant to sit down for an interview, even though once you get her started talking about art, she speaks enthusiastically and passionately and could go on forever.
“I get rather excited when talking about art,” Morhous said. “Creating for me is my whole essence.”
A member of the San Diego Museum of Art’s Artist Guild board, Morhous was also recently inducted into the National Association of Women Artists and will have a show of her work in New York in September.
A few years back, Morhous began a program called “Art for Us” as a way to use her artwork to give back. She’s donated pieces to Scripps Foundation (her work is on display at the Carmel Valley clinic), Rady’s Children’s Hospital and The Alzheimer’s Foundation. She picks organizations and places where her art can be enjoyed by the community, not hidden on an office shelf somewhere.
She was in the middle of Sendai, Japan, when the earthquake hit and watched the tsunami from their hotel room TV. They were unable to fly out for three weeks.
She is currently working with a representative to find placement in Sendai for the three sculptures she’s created by March 2013.
The first piece, “Mamoru,” portrays a woman running with a look of terror on her face.
“I would see these photos of women clutching their children and running,” Morhous said. “It was pretty devastating.”
The second, “Sendai,” is a figure crumpled on the ground with water rushing over it, representing how the city felt completely overwhelmed by the tsunami.
“Fukkou,” the last piece, represents resurgence, that the city’s residents will resurrect their lives and persevere. The figure in the sculpture is pushing itself up and rising from the water.
“The Japanese people are phenomenal,” said Morhous. “I dedicated these sculptures to the people of Sendai, so future generations and visitors alike will not forget the devastation the community endured.”
Morhous became interested in creating art at a young age. Her mother was an artist and would always have craft projects for her to do and she got used to making three-dimensional art. Art wasn’t something she necessarily picked or started to do, it was just something in her.
“To me, life is creativity,” Morhous said. “I can’t imagine being in any other field
Morhous received her masters of fine art in sculpture and printmaking, drawn to the challenge of the printmaking technique.
“I thought for sure I would get a job teaching at the college level, but at the time there were no jobs in California,” Morhous said.
With no teaching gigs available she moved directly into a job as a professional printmaker, represented by an international gallery in Beverly Hills that bought every thing she did. She was commissioned for print works, as well, through the gallery.
“I got burned out because with commissions you’re not doing what you want to do,” Morhous said. “I’m an artist’s artist. I want to do what I want to do, I don’t want to do something just to sell work.”
In time, life took over—she got married and had two children, which took her away from her art a little bit, but for the last 10 years she has been seriously devoted to sculpture.
Along with her husband, she’s a world traveler, finding inspiration for her art in different places and cultures.
In addition to sculpture, Morhous also enjoys photography and plays the cello.
“The arts to me are everything,” she said of her dabbling in the different art forms. “It’s just a high, it’s exciting.”
Morhous’ studio in her home is a small space that comes with an ocean view.
She creates all her work in clay and then they go through the lost-wax casting process before they are bronzed. She has a foundry that does all the molds and pouring.
Morhous has to be meticulous about crafting the texture of her clay sculptures because the bronze will pick up any crinkle.
“It’s not the ideas as much as the technique,” said Morhous of what takes the longest.
Most of her subjects are human as she is drawn to the “sensuous curves of the human form.” Her favorite piece is always the last piece she’s done and, these days, Morhous is trying to be more abstract in her work.
She typically spends about a month or two on individual pieces, usually having one or two in play at the same time, stepping back and making sure the sculpture is just right or good enough to be cast and bronzed. Some don’t make it past the clay stage.
Her artwork is in both private and public collections nationally and internationally, and Morhous hopes her fall show in New York is a step toward establishing herself more on the East Coast.
Recognition however, is not what keeps her working.
“The pride of being an artist is not from what one sells but the inner peace one derives from the act of creating,” Morhous said.
To learn more about her work, visit maidymorhous.com