Interview | Painter and Muralist Tessa Moeller

Tessa Moeller is spending the month in a lift, paint brushing and rolling a mural on the fascade of the St. Petersburg College Dowtown Center and American Stage’s Raymond James Theatre. Moeller took a welcomed break from painting in the afternoonŒæsun-glare to chat with me in the buildingäó»s cafe.
 
Eva Avenue: Have you ever done this sort of thing before?
Tessa Moeller: Iäó»ve done some smaller indoor murals, but nothing remotely this scale.

Tessa Moeller’s new mural in progress.

What are some challenges that youäó»ve faced doing a mural to this scale?
Iäó»ve never really been on a ladder, let alone a lift. So just learning how to drive and maneuver it. Also to be able to understand the scale – thatäó»s whatäó»s been the trickiest part. We got a lift that should technically be able to get to the top but with how you have to get over the trees, it doesnäó»t get all the way to the top so all the work Iäó»ve been doing is with rollers. I started at the very top where it was wobbling and I started out with the hardest thing–the face–with the rollers becauseŒæcause I couldnäó»t reach it with the brush.
Now Iäó»m zipping along. I just approached it like I would any sort of canvas painting. I havenäó»t actually changed anything about the way that I paint other than using rollers. I think thatäó»s what I find the most fascinating about murals. Iäó»ve always wanted to do murals. Thatäó»s sort of my dream because I love working large. Even my canvases – my whole life, theyäó»ve been huge. I think itäó»s much more of a humanistic approach to painting, like an emotional sort of pull.
 
Cause you engage your whole body when you paint large and so it feels more fulfilling?
Yeah thatäó»s why I like working big. Thatäó»s what to me art is – it should be something thatäó»s emotional and sort of connecting with that piece thatäó»s been in humanity since the beginning. So the larger the scale, the better. I know a lot of people use spray paint or a projector so that they have it very delineated and precise. So when theyäó»re doing it, before they go into itäó_.if I did it that way, I wouldnäó»t feel as involved in the processäó_. Iäó»m glad that on my first real mural to be able to be really immersed in it in the way I ideally wanted.
 
Do you have a favorite mural downtown or a favorite mural artist?
The Evoca piece!
 
The Evoca piece?
But I think he signs his work Evoca1.
 
The girl lying down with the dog, with the muzzle (see here)?
Yes!
 
Oh, thatäó»s my favorite! I love how you can see some of his red sketch lines in the paint!
Yes! Whenever I would come down there, even before I moved, it was so stunning. That’s the first time I had seen a painted mural. I had always wanted to do it but all the other murals you see are spray painted. I appreciate the spray painting because itäó»s so tied into street art originally. I appreciate the authenticity of it but I love fine art. ŒæThereäó»s something so beautiful. I like the transcendence, at least with what I do and the works that I like the most. I donäó»t like to set my pieces or images in a time, like I donäó»t like to date my paintings into one certain time. Like with a cell phone or a specific article of clothing because I feel like it loses that overarching humanistic quality.
 
Can you tell me about this mural youäó»re doing?
We cycled through a bunch of different options but this exactly ties into what we were talking about. Originally it was just one figure based on the Vitruvian Man, like the idealized image of humanity in a way. Thatäó»s also tied into all of his anatomical studies and then with the golden ratio behind it. I actually met with a bunch of the student government students and we had a long discussion about it: if we wanted it to be a man, a woman, something androgynous. It felt better to have two figures. It was more balanced.
I was actually happy to have the two figures because I like painting the human form. So we already have art, obviously, and anatomy and the sciences and then the golden ratio brings in art and humanities and science, and a lot of history and mathematics. I wanted to do something that actually had connection to the fact that this is a university and that itäó»s an academic staple in the community.
Iäó»m going to be honest: I thought the two people in the mural were for American Stage, I was like, äóìHow perfect for the theatre!äó
Iäó»m glad it ties in with the American Stage and that I didnäó»t paint some guy graduating.
 

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