Yes, and wall hexagons. With dancers in front. An Asheville mural artist has an ambitious collaborative show in the River District this month.
by Ursula Gullow . photo by Matt Rose
Molly Rose Freeman has a thing for patterns. “There’s just something about committing yourself to creating a pattern,” says the 24-year-old, gesturing to the illustrations peppering her studio. She’s committed, all right. Her breezy space, located in the Roots Building of the River Arts District, is full of pattern-covered paintings, illustrations and other objects, including a mirage of pink plaid “crystals” painted directly onto her wall. That project looks quite modern, but it was inspired by a mosaic-tiled floor she saw in an Italian Cathedral.
Freeman is drawn to patterns found in other cultures, and she enjoys figuring out how to reproduce them. “Patterns can be really overwhelming when you first see them,” she says. She can spend hours or days translating and breaking down the small parts. For now, Freeman is using her wall space to get comfortable painting at a large scale for her upcoming Asheville Rites Project, a collaborative performance piece that comes together on May 21. The over-arching theme is springtime—playing on the concept of transitions, rituals and celebration.
For the next two weeks, she’ll be painting five 10’ x 10’ panels for the Rites project, to be installed in amphitheatre format at the RiverLink sculpture and performance plaza. The plaza is an outdoor venue at 117 Riverside Drive, across from Cotton Mill Studios and 12 Bones. In its entirety, the mural will be 500 square feet. To create it, Freeman plans to paint every day, since it takes a good bit of practice and muscle memory to paint on such a scale. Weather permitting, she paints outside. “I’m looking forward to working on my tan,” she jokes. The mural will be temporary, but before it comes down, she and fellow artists will celebrate its completion with a dance choreographed by Ashevillean Garth Grimball and a dozen contemporary dancers from troupes around town. To raise funds for the project, she and Grimball created a Kickstarter video in early March and reached their goal of $3,000 just 27 days after posting it online. The show on the 21st will start at dusk and last about 45 minutes, Freeman says.
Though she has experience painting murals, this is the first time Freeman has painted on such a large scale and in such a public way in Asheville. Last winter, she joined a team of artists to create a mural during the infamous Art Basel Art fair in Miami, Florida. For the mural, Freeman painted a large ambling mass of organic shapes that served as a backdrop to painters Dustin Spagnola and Ishmael, who painted images of gas cans and Frida Kahlo. “The greatest street artists [including Shepard Fairey, Swoon, and Barry McGee] were all in a three-block radius of each other,” Freeman says. “It was so amazing to not only learn about mural painting but to be in the company of these artists.”
Freeman was born in Durham, North Carolina, and then moved to Arkansas, then Memphis. In 2006, she enrolled at UNC-Asheville, intending to get an arts and foreign language degree, but took creative writing classes instead. She is still an avid writer. Her abstract painting style embodies the non-linear aspect of her creative self, she says, while her fictional writings employ a more literal form of expression.
At the moment, she’s stuck on pink. Freeman has boxes of Prismacolor and Coptic markers of every rosy hue imaginable. In the corner of her studio, an old palette of dried paint looks a Bazooka bubble gum explosion, with all its shades of reds and pinks. “I needed to give myself some boundaries, so I gave myself a limited color palette to work within,” she says, noting that she hated pink as a girl. “Maybe now I’m embracing my inner princess.”
So what’s in store for one of the River District’s rising stars? She’s going big. “My goal is to just make everything bigger,” says Freeman. “I want to focus on public art, murals, and having more interaction with the public.”
Watch Molly Rose Freeman at work on her mural in the River Arts District during daylight hours until May 15. Then, she and Garth Gimball’s Asheville Rites Project dance performance, with music by Michael Libramento, is set for May 21 at 117 Riverside Drive at dusk. (Rain date is May 28.) The project is supported by RiverLink, Arts2People, Asheville Mural Project and Asheville Ballet. To see more of Molly’s work, go to www.mollyrosefreeman.com.