Rights of the Child
Moira Villiard, Multidisciplinary artist
Exhibit March 5 – May 6, 2022
This series of digitally illustrated posters and surreal paintings explore aspects of childhood and our often conflicting definitions of human rights.
“The subjects of the paintings include a mixture of images of me as a child in different contexts and referenced photos of people I know (who also are mixed identity) when they were children. I felt like I could not adequately get consent from children to paint them for this exhibit so that’s why I decided to rely on permissions of people who are no longer children and who can consent to the use of their childhood photos. Some of the children, like Steveboyyi, have specific stories that the work tries to capture. Others will be pieces that explore the fun and curiosity of youth in a more general sense. The combination of depictions will allow for a broader illustration of the complexity of childhood and the rights that come with it.” – Moira Villiard
As an artist, I enjoy uplifting the nuance in both the mundane and the controversial aspects of society through projects like my recent “Rights of the Child” exhibit, which is a traveling exhibition consisting of a series of digitally illustrated posters and surreal paintings that explore aspects of childhood and our often conflicting definitions of human rights. In building the curriculum to accompany the show, I’ve designed the work to be showcased in conjunction with youth artwork showcases and panel/group discussions, as it’s important to me to bring more than just my own perspective to the arts experiences I create.
I’ve struggled with chronic pain throughout the majority of my artistic career, so the diversity within my portfolio when it comes to mediums and subjects is a result of me trying to explore the physical opportunities and challenges associated with this disorder. However, it was this condition that led me to branch out from strictly exhibiting in galleries to also working as a muralist, engaging community members as my “paintbrushes” – literal helping hands in the process of creation.
Today, I am a multidisciplinary visual artist, proficient in a variety of artistic genres, including illustration, graphic, traditional painting, animation, and murals – genres that are folded into my work as a community organizer. Using a wide range of engagement techniques, my work focuses on the process end of creation, and recently I came to the realization that my core medium is people and space – the cultivation of social experiences for community members to take part in during every step in the process, as their voices and skills become incorporated into greater collaborative works of art.
My artwork ebbs and pulls between portraiture, illustration and dreamlike surrealism, with a significant degree of overlap. This style draws upon a wide range of influences, including contemporary Indigenous artists like Jonathan Thunder, Karen Savage-Blue (whose work I grew up seeing in tribal buildings on the rez), Rabbett Strickland, Steve Premo and the like, many of whom have become not just influences, but collaborators and mentors in my journey as a visual artist. Beyond individual artists, I’m inspired by broad fields of study, ranging from Communication Theory (Media Ecology) to Macroeconomics. I’m fascinated by systems and specifically the life that functions within them, and I’ve found that surrealism allows me to visually break down and reassemble the parts of different natural and man-made systems (such the commodity chains that result in our everyday surroundings, our uses of architecture and urban planning, language, policy and law, etc.) into pieces of visual art that are more palatable and approachable than the concepts themselves.
Through public art collaborations across Minnesota, Moira Villiard is a multidisciplinary artist with a mixed Indigenous and settler heritage who uses art to uplift underrepresented narratives, explore the nuance of society’s historical community intersections, and promote community healing spaces. Moira (pronounced “Mee-Ree”) is a dynamic visual artist, proficient in a variety of artistic genres, including portraiture, illustration, graphic and digital design and as a muralist. She is also a community organizer, curator and passionate arts educator concentrating her efforts around issues of equity and justice including: arts access (creating platforms for underrepresented communities within the arts), creative placemaking, environmental sustainability, youth empowerment, and acknowledgement of Indigenous land, culture, and history.
Moira grew up on the Fond du Lac Reservation in Cloquet, MN and is a Fond du Lac direct descendent of mixed settler and Indigenous heritage. For three years she worked as the Arts & Cultural Programming Coordinator for the American Indian Community Housing Organization (AICHO), where she had her first art exhibition at 18 years old. She currently works as a freelance consultant, designer, speaker, and grant-writer and is the project director and lead artist of the Chief Buffalo Memorial Mural site in Duluth. Her educational, activism-rooted exhibits “Rights of the Child” and “Waiting for Beds” will be on tour in 2022, and most recently she was the featured artist at the 2021 Illuminate the Lock, where she animated and directed a 10 minute, 150’ projection piece titled “Madweyaashkaa: Waves Can Be Heard”.
She was broadly recognized in 2019, when she received the 2019 Duluth NAACP “Take a Stand for the Revolution” award, 2019 Emerging City Champions fellowship, Forecast Public Art 2019 Early-Career Project Grant, 2019 YWCA Women of Distinction award, and The Duluth News Tribune 20 under 40 award. In 2021 she received the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council Established Regional Artist grant award.
Her work has been featured in numerous shows in Duluth and around Minnesota, including her recent solo show, “Rights of the Child” at Zeitgeist, and group shows “Beyond Borders” at MacRostie Arts Center and “We the People” at the Minnesota Museum of American Art. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Communicating Arts (Global Studies Minor) from the University of Wisconsin-Superior in 2016.
This exhibit is supported, in part, by these organizations: