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  • Writer's pictureSheila Novak

Welcoming our complexity

Maria Molteni (they/she) on realizing creative expression and self-realization for young artists

By Karol and Alex, 2020 Urbano Youth Artists

Courting the Sky, New Bedford, MA

Maria Molteni, a Boston-based artist, works as a multimedia or “interdisciplinary” artist. Maria works as an organizer, teaching artist, beekeeper, performing artist, etc. All of Maria’s projects, performances, and pieces express her unique style: “I would say I have not been very especially ‘conscious’ of my personal style. I just sort of work from my gut in a way, and color has been a huge motivator for everything in my life.” Many of Maria’s creations display varieties of vibrant colors, as they engage with the “ways the color affects us that we can't speak about and we can’t explain.”

Festooning the Inflatable Beehive

Maria expresses many different sides of themself through their artwork, “often bringing together two or more unlikely phenomena,'' such as sports and feminism. Maria’s work includes basketball court murals designed with community participation, paintings illustrating moments in tennis, especially a notorious match between Venus and Serena Williams at the 2004 US Open, and a craftivist collective, the NCAA (New Craft Arts in Action). On Maria’s basketball teams growing up, “you also learn teamwork, and focus, and grit, and it was… a window into a feminist show my power as a femme.” Maria grew up playing basketball and the sport became a major part of their identity. As an artist, Maria expresses her athletic values by centering basketball in her projects; “I have the experience in athletics to kind of talk and work around that.”

Some people have said that I try to show too many different sides of myself… I push back on that a little bit because I think the complexity is important.”

While working on projects, Maria gets feedback very rudely occasionally in the middle of creating a piece. “People generally like my aesthetic, it's really happy and nice... But I definitely get pretty sexist be a femme person working in public spaces, it's like people just don’t take you as seriously sometimes”.

Storming the Court / Tormenta en la Cancha

Equally important is the message she seeks to send out to all the young artists. Maria shares how she has come to “appreciate that complexity in myself and I did not pressure myself to conform” into one single art style. Young artists often struggle with finding their own art style, as well as finding the medium that feels best for them. Maria is the perfect example of someone who doesn’t stick to one art style nor medium. They have created murals, hand-made basketball nets, performance art pieces, site-specific installations, and more. They encourage young artists to do what they did: “accept complexity and let my style evolve.” As artists, and people in general, we don’t have to have everything figured out so early on in life!

Second Hands Bough House, Bauhaus The Hoop

Moreover, she recommends artists to ask themselves, “what are my skills, what feels good, what feels right… and sort of shape that into your art practice.” Art is all about trying new things and creating what feels best to you. So what if it doesn’t look the best? Art doesn’t have to be eye-pleasing. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Art is an experience, and one must explore as there is not “one process for art. There is no one way to do it.”

Another piece of advice that Molteni gives us is to remind ourselves that our work is valuable. People can criticize artists’ work in a harsh way, whether they mean it or not. Naturally, this will hurt our confidence in our work. Perhaps make us wonder, is my work even good enough to show? Should I keep creating art even though I’m not the “best” artist? Repeat after Maria: “My work is valuable. My work is valid. My work is important!”


Maria Molteni (they/she) is a Nashville-to-Boston-based multimedia & performing artist, educator & organizer. Having studied Painting and Printmaking at Boston University, her practice sprung from formalist roots and has grown to incorporate research, social engagement, and transdisciplinary experimentation. Exploring iterations of sport, craft, feminism, spiritualism, animism, utopia, glossolalia, and urban planning, they take interest in standardized shapes and systems that influence our experience of spirituality through everyday functionality. Embellishing psychic energy in her environments, they seek to expose unseen presences or predicaments, both cosmic and practical. Whether trapping such forces in wind-powered inflatables or posing a basketball net as a hoop’s phantom limb, she enjoys problem-solving via traditional methods of craft- the tactile and tactical.

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