Paul Moschell: Artist Shrugged
Listening to him speak you are at once intrigued and beguiled by the whimsical aloofness of the man and the pathos of the art. One thing Paul Moschell is not is a mermaid. That is what he wanted to be when he grew up when asked during a career day in the third grade.
I asked what happened when he relinquished the mermaid fetish and knew that it wouldn’t happen, when exactly did he know he wanted to be an artist? He replied surprised, “Oh, I thought I was a mermaid,” Moschell lets out a hearty laugh that is immediately contagious. “You just killed my childhood dream!” His banter is a stark contrast to the often sullen, questioning characters in his art.
Photos by Anthony Norris
“Seriously. I did a lot of drawing on my books and folders all throughout school. Anything to NOT pay attention to what was going on in class. I went into college as a business major and it was horrible,” he says quietly. “But I had taken an art elective,” Moschell adds, “and it was the only class I did well in so I changed my major.”
“It freaked out my mom, she was like ‘it’s a pipe dream, it’s ridiculous, it’s not going to work for you’. So I had to prove her wrong.”
Always curious about when someone recognizes they were doing the right thing, I ask Paul when he knew.
“Well I started out being an art teacher and I taught art in grade school for about five years in my twenties. I then started doing work and illustrations for like,Woman’s Day, product lines, etc., but it was horrible work.”
“In 1997 I did my very first show at the Hothouse Gallery in Indianapolis, where I was living at the time.” Moschell snickers. “Luck was on my side. It was crazy. A January night opening, freezing cold, like ten below zero… but all of these people came and packed the gallery and I sold the entire show,” he pauses. “And that was it right there, in one swift move.”
Photo by Anthony Norris
Moschell, an Indianapolis native and current Denver transplant, has shown his art across the United States and it has made its way to Europe and China. While at first glance the art has a level of deceptive simplicity, when you look more closely you can see the intricate details of the watercolors and fine nuanced lines. Even his assemblage work has a complicated layering that may take you several visits to the piece in order to capture all the things it can possess. There is something to be said about making the complex look simple.
If you look across his body of work, you notice there are many more paintings and works of women. “Most of the time I do paint women,” Moschell explains. Any reason for that? “You know, it’s more fun to do their hair.”
The interview comes to a halt for a moment as we both laugh out loud. I am perilously close to a hyena laugh.
“That’s part of it. I guess in the end they are more dimensional for me.”
Then it happens, I ask the question. The question Paul hates and I hate asking but quite frankly want to know. What inspires him to get up every day to get after the work and get it done? Damn, I said it so here we go.
Moschell laughs, “Well… it’s not like I work every day. I may go for a period where I work frantically for a month, two or three and then I really don’t work at all for a month, two or three.”
“A lot of what motivates me and ‘inspires me’ (hint of reluctance in the triteness of the question – but calm) has to do with how good or how bad things are going in my life or around me.” Moschell pauses and then adds, “I would say if I am not able to produce artwork, I need either something really good to happen to me or something really bad to happen. ‘Level’ for me, isn’t good. I need the ‘I feel so shitty I have to make art to release it’ and it becomes a savior. Or I feel so good by something outside of my artwork that I just want to add on to it.”
Photos by Anthony Norris
“When someone comes up to me and wants to know about the piece and says something like ‘tell me about this piece’. I ask them what they think about it. Then I can add something to their thoughts. My job is to create art. People will either like it or they won’t, my explaining it can’t make them like it more. I really don’t like that question, or ‘what inspires you?’ (see note about the dreaded question that Moschell managed to get through for me anyway!)
Currently Moschell works and operates out of a storefront studio/gallery in the arts district of Denver. He has been devoting much of his energies outside of his art to the development of the space with things like The First Friday Arts Walk.
Photos by Anthony Norris
For a kid that was nerdy throughout his school years, Moschell seems to have become comfortable in his own skin. Raising his son, creating art and a large online following. You can see the many faces of Moschell through his online presence, as you can see the many faces in his art. “I believe external changes bring internal changes,” he posits. “People who are in the creative industry, whether they are recording artists or visual artists, they have a need to create change, and it often begins with a external manifestation.”
“I feel certain that the older I get, the more eccentric I will become. And my work will become more and more relevant and revealing to me. I am working this lifetime in reverse. And I am loving that. I am getting a little more and more kooky,” Moschell says comfortably. “And if I live to be eighty, which let me tell you I will be lucky, I think I will just be a mad man.”
“It’s my goal!”
Photo by Anthony Norris
Rapid Fire Questions With Paul Moschell
When did you start playing with dolls? They are so prevalent in your work.
I started playing with dolls at a very young age. But it was secretly at a neighbor girl’s house. My parents would not allow me to have dolls (I am assuming they realized that I was gay at quite a young age). So dolls were a forbidden fruit you might say.
Shortly after college/art school I started doing assemblage artworks and puppets with "recycled" dolls and parts. It was actually very liberating. But if you look at the pieces you can see that the underlying story is quite sad.
Why is Sade your main music muse?
Sade. When I was 14 I was at a friend's house, (he had cable television and I did not at my house). MTV was on and I suddenly heard this beautiful, smoky voice. I turned to the television and saw this stunning enigma of a woman and that was that. Sade became very much the soundtrack of the rest of my life. She writes the most beautiful songs ever, I think.
Then a few years ago Stuart Matthewman from the band Sade purchased some of my work. I ended up doing a portrait for Sade herself. I met up with them here in Denver on their recent tour where I met her stylist who then purchased one of my doll assemblages. Three weeks later I flew to Austin to deliver the work and ended hitting a Texas Roadhouse with the band and Sade herself. It was surreal. I kept pinching myself thinking... Am I really eating cheese fries and two-stepping with Sade?! My idol and often my muse?!
It's still not real to me. It was perfection. And she was perfect and lovely and more cool and beautiful than I could have ever imagined. Heavenly.
Peter Pan or Michael Jackson?
I would like to have my art hanging in (blank's) bedroom.
I would like my artwork hanging in... the bedroom of anybody who would look at it and love it on a daily basis. And Chaka Khan.
First five things to grab in a fire.
In a fire? Hmmm... My dog Tootie-Lynn. My cat. My birds. My mouse and my tadpole.
I would like to create art with (blank - living or dead); eat breakfast with (blank); go on a date with (blank); and the one wish I want granted is...;
I would love to create art with director David Fincher who did Panic Room, Fight Club and The Social Network. I think he is brilliant.
I would eat breakfast with Grace Jones. But like 3 AM breakfast. None of that morning-time shit.
I would go on a date with Zachary Quinto of American Horror Story and the Star Trek movies. I think he is very handsome and courageous.
And If I could have one wish granted, it would be for people in general to have a more compassionate attitude towards animals and realize that we share this planet. It is not ours. At all.