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Q&A With Natalia Moskwa for French Letter Society

N. Moskwa is a visual artist based in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Most recently, her work was chosen as part of a juried show at Definitely Superior Gallery in Thunder Bay. She is an active member of Mindful Makers Collective, an artists' group whose members identify as persons with mental illness and/or recovering from addictions. Among her influences and inspirations are Dadaism, Cy Twombly, Louise Bourgeois, Shary Boyle, Deborah Barnett and Lou Reed. Working on the images for FLS was a challenging and immensely rewarding experience for her, and she hopes everyone enjoys the outcome!

What are some of your influences for your FLS image series, Prize Inside?

I can honestly cite the artist Louise Bourgeois as one of my major inspirations for this. She considers spiders as maternal presences: helpful and caring, keepers of memories, weavers of stories, holders of safe spaces, and protectors of children. Louise Bourgeois' mother was a weaver and a tapestry restorer, and the artist never felt safer than when in the company of her mother in her shop. The spider has always been kind of a totem for me, in my life and in my thoughts.

How did the charms work their way into 'Prize Inside'?

I was thinking of the spider as a symbol of the protection of children, and it got me thinking about childhood, and incidents in childhood that imbue children with a sense of power that they may have otherwise felt like they didn't have. I remember summer, and packs of kids racing around the neighbourhood in bare feet. You'd see a kid standing beside a secondhand bicycle with snarls in their hair and ice cream dripping down the front of a faded t-shirt. And around their neck, they'd have a string holding up like... a little plastic skull with jewelled eyes. This item would have been obtained from a gumball machine or a box of cracker jacks. My feelings about these little charms were that they had a sort of talismanic significance. They were powerful, and important. This was something that adults didn't understand at all, and as soon as your mother would find one in the pockets of your shorts while doing laundry, she'd throw them out. So, of course, when you couldn't find it, you would go buy a box of cracker jacks for a nickel and do it all over again.

What materials did you use, and how did you choose them?

Artists are sort of hoarders, we see something that's sparkly, or has nice colours, or a nice shape, and we squirrel it away like magpies. I used price tags from thrift stores, vintage gift wrap from the sixties, postal receipts from parcels my parents sent to Ukraine in the 70s, vintage Laurentian pencil crayons, as well as some handmade paper. These materials are significant in conveying intentions. The images become like spells, almost. The charms are a little bit of protection magic for these darkest times we're living in.


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