Photo by Peter Koloff. 

Matching the unrivaled charisma of the artist, the 3D paintings and sculptures of Brookyln-based, Iowa-born artist Calli Moore have a kind of mystical magnetism to them that transcend you into a ethereal land of blissful harmony. Think unicorns, lollipops, rainbows, sparkle and shine but in the form of a majestic cloud. Calli is able to create a magical world in her pieces that vary in temperament; size, shape and color, all being expressive of her mood. She uses acrylic paint, foam, faux fur, cardboard, spandex and other materials to create the aesthetic of an extraterrestrial life form. Moore is able to bring to life an exotic other-worldly creation in her work all the while testing the boundaries of what painting in form could be.

Were you always a sculptor or did you start with another medium?

No, sculpture never crossed my mind and always seemed foreign or perhaps an unattainable practice for me.  I strictly considered myself a painter up until the past year or so.  My work has always been very abstract, but until recently has it entered the realm of being 3-dimensional.   During my second year of grad school I started to experiment with different ways to apply paint. I made a rule in my studio to apply paint with anything but a brush as a way to challenge myself.  It was a really “freeing” experience.

Paint and the physicality of paint began to interest me and the paintings I was producing were extremely thick with paint –  this quickly cost me a fortune in supplies.  I decided to use spray foam to create the illusion of thick paint on the surface as a way to fix this costly problem;  but the foam surprised me in how diverse and fun it was to work with, and so naturally my work started to come off the canvas.

Unicorpse. Foam, fabric and acrylic mounted on two panels. 40x12x20 inches. 2017.

What materials do you use and how do you assemble the pieces?

I use some type of panel or frame to start with and then begin to spray foam on the surface, I will continue to build up the foam and add fabric on top of it, let it dry, repeat etc.  I then will use cake decorating tools to pipe paint on the surface.  I use an airbrush as well to create a patina-type affect. 

Untitled. Foam, acrylic and fabric on panel, 22×13 inches. 2017.

How would you classify your sculptures? What kind of style?

I like to think of my sculptures as “painting sculptures”.  

Entity I. Foam and acrylic on panel. 20x6x16 inches. 2017.

Why do you use different color sequences and what is the meaning?

Color is really important in my work.  I think the color palletes I use bring a sense of familiarity to the work. For example, the new work I have been making are all very light and airy, covered in mainly pastels.  They feel feminine or playful, but the shape itself is alien and grotesque.  I love that strange dichotomy.  I like to make the viewer feel uneasy or uncomfortable with my work, but the palette I use is a bit more inviting or accepting. 

What kind of underlying message would you like to convey with your artwork?

I want the work to feel visually stimulating so much so that it causes the viewer to want to engage with it on a physical level. The first thing people ask me when visiting my studio is, “Can I touch your artwork?” Haha.  I don’t want the work to be boring or a quick read, I love when you can spend hours with a piece and discover new parts you weren’t necessarily seeing before… that’s what I hope to achieve with my work.  

Photo by Peter Koloff.

What compels you to create and what kind of artistic legacy do you want to leave?

I think artists were born “makers”.    I will always find a way to make new work until I physically cannot.  I think it’s just how artists are wired.  I hope looking back on my career decades from now I can be proud of the sacrifices I’ve made to continue my practice, but what is even more important to me  is the community I’ve built around me and cultivating artist relationships. For me, community is everything and I hope that decades from now I will still be surrounded and supported by such fantastic artists as I am now. 


Alexa Modugno is an accomplished classically trained violist, performance artist, fashionista, social media guru and writer who is passionate about NYC, culture, film and the arts