NOMAD: SHELTER AND CATHEDRAL
Los Angeles — DOMINIQUE MOODY’s NOMAD is ready for the road
after seven years of work, dreams and sacrifice — by ROSANNA ALBERTINI
Nomad is an itinerant artist studio opened to everyone’s desires. I don’t call it a house. House is word for a solid body that restricts the space around the people, brings isolation, separate lives. Being a living, active artwork, Nomad is an inside out private space: yet intimacy and dream and a touch of humor make it a place in which one feels at home. The Nomad’s eyes, the windows, are washing machines’ doors. The porch is a clearing in a forest where the wood in part has had been transformed, and in part keeps its natural shape. It’s a welcoming space.
The ups and downs of this art project during the last seven years have been more than I want to count. It can’t be skipped that the artist is legally blind. She can see only in awkward, movable sequences. A walking figure from far looks to her like a pair of legs attached to an anonymous bust. Legs have a voice, didn’t you know? Dominique laughs. The central vision is gone, the new world is flat. Such an uncomfortable condition, in a life that doesn’t go beyond a survival level, grew in Dominique an indomitable ability to dominate the change of landscape around her with expressions of her inner sense of order and beauty: art is her house and her house is art. In many ways, as an artist and as a person, Dominique Moody keeps alive the pathway traced by Noah Purifoy. But her cathedral is not stuck in the desert. It moves, it’s pulsing.
The construction is so accurate that she seems to have grown by herself, as if objects and forms had shaped around Dominique a smiling place. Feelings, remembrances from her entire family life twist together with every inch of wood, cork or metal, nail or screw. The nine Moody children moved all the time, they only knew a nomadic life although they also learned how to fix sweat-equity houses, under their father’s guidance. Dominique was number six, conceived on a ship on the way to a U.S. military station in Augsburg, Germany, where she was born. In the Nomad she brought back her father’s hands, as well as a basin, found in the mobil home where he finished his life, with both legs amputated.
In the back of her eyes Dominique saved and put in motion the sense of magic she felt as a little girl at the window, enchanted by the old garbage trucks in Philadelphia. The workers would arrange spontaneous decorations in the front of the truck with broken chairs, metal bars, broken dolls, pieces of bicycles, and all the leftovers they could collect which were to big to fit in the back. The joy of assembling found materials likely comes from there. Visitors, inside her space stripped to the minimum for her daily needs, rediscover their own magic, as if dealing with a peeled peach exploding with juice, and they try to bite the taste of the day.
Nomad is a space for happenings. The non-verbal dialogue between Dominique and David Hammons, at the end of a day filled with visits, is more real than any description.
The Nomad still full of people, someone steps on the porch: “I’m David Hammons,” he says. Dominique is very tired, she can’t say she saw him, only his great hat hit her vision, and the extraordinary glasses he wore. And she notices his body, maybe David’s hands, pointing at the globe and the basin, at the very end of the Nomad. He had instantly grabbed her father’s presence. Despite the exhaustion she starts the story, how meticulous her dad was about order, the old trailer where her parents started their family life, and the crutches in his solitary mobil home, and the globe they always had in the household, to navigate the world. Dominique feels, more than sees, David’s body becoming silent, his head bent toward her mouth. Pockets of visibility shrink. But she notices the lenses of David’s glasses separated. The whole visit is swallowed by the day getting dim, along with her brain. She remembers he said: “You know you have to do this, must tell the stories because it’s an epic journey you are on.”
As the nomad starts her journey on the roads of Los Angeles, if you meet her, remember her motto: embrace life with no anger.
“Praise to you, my Lord, for giving me bus rides and trains in Los Angeles with people who reveal their unique personalities, because I can’t drive.
Praise to you my Lord, for making me able to speak to other people when my eyes lost their central vision and the eye contact.
Praise to you, my Lord, for giving me the possibility to teach art to young children and ask them to look in their friends’ eyes, until they saw themselves in someone else’s eye!
And praise to you, my Lord, for helping me to love my blind eyes: because of them I can see my dreams.
(Dominique’s prayer as I made it up, in the style of Francesco D’Assisi’s Cantico delle creature.)
Dominique Moody and David Hammons:
Photos by C. Ian White – ©2015 C. Ian White