Mountains for a Moment, 2018. Woven grass on mossy rock with distant mountains, 32 x 8 x 4 ft. Photo: Alice Momm

From the Smallest Scraps of Nothing: A Conversation with Alice Momm

Delight in the natural world permeates Alice Momm’s work. Transitory and ephemeral, her creations often consist of things that she finds around New York City and works with on site or in her Harlem studio. Her unexpected juxtapositions, which offer a fresh lens to consider the interconnectedness of all things and the impact of human action on the environment, aim not only to spark curiosity, but also to catalyze discussion through beauty, metaphor, and the power of the handmade. Momm’s painstaking and delicate fabrication processes involve minimal alteration to her original materials, often pieces of natural detritus. Changes, when they are made, may involve stitching, weaving, cutting, carving, watercolor, or assemblage. Each intensely metaphorical object offers wonder, care, and humor through an engagement with the ragged beauty of picked-up things.

Much of Momm’s practice revolves around daily exploratory walks around Central Park, where she engages in sculptural interventions and quiet activism. She is currently working on an artist’s book stemming from her immersion in the park and is collaborating with Alison Cook Beatty Dance on works to be performed outdoors in New York City in the spring of 2023.

Kay Whitney: There were hundreds of objects on display in your exhibition “The Gleaner’s Song” (2020), at the New York City Parks headquarters in Central Park. Most were small in scale—photo- graphs, objects made of leaves, pieces of wood, seed pods—but there were also large woven structures consisting of twigs, branches, and manmade scraps. What was this show about, and could you discuss some of the works? Several pieces, including Séance (2020), wall drawings made with catalpa pods, and long, somewhat colorful weavings, particularly caught my attention.
Alice Momm: The exhibition, which opened just a day or so before the city shut down because of the pandemic, was really my love song to urban parks, and to Central Park in particular. Parks have always been my refuge, and they have made it possible for me to live in this city. All of my works begin with a walk . . .

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