Molly Costello. 26. Artist/Activist. Lives in Chicago, US.
Tell us your story? How did you end up doing what you do? I started making art as more of a passion in high school, though I can remember it being a part of my life at an early age. My mother is an artist. I started connecting with bands and other art groups in high school which really gave me a sense of identity in the arts. I’ve been working with cut paper since the beginning! During my sophomore year my art teacher had us do a cut paper project and she brought in a bunch of awesome patterned papers. I kept sneaking scraps home and there was no going back from there. I think sometime my sophomore year of college is when I found the style I have stuck with. Early themes focused more on human interactions with the natural world but as I started doing more community organizing work I think the themes have switched toward themes I encountered in that work including; brokenness, community, resistance, and connectedness.
What's the best part? Oh! It’s been a long time coming to this point but I am excited everyday that I get to wake up and make art. Receiving the affirmation from people that it makes them feel uplifted though is probably the most rewarding part and make it all worth the challenges.
The worst part? Finances are pretty challenging. I think also the tendency to try and make something that will be “catchy” over something that communicates the messaging I truly want to focus on is something that keeps me from making things all together sometimes.
If you weren't doing this then what would you be doing? Ideally working with teens doing agriculture work in the city.
What makes you very happy? Cooking and eating with my friends, giving out food we have grown and fostering a sense of abundance, sitting in the morning sunlight and drawing.
What are your future ambitions professionally? I have a couple different goals artistically. I’d really like to get into children’s book illustration and work on story lines that challenge the status quo. I’d like to keep working with awesome organizations that are doing important change work in this world and support them with whatever art they need. I’d love to work with fabric more and make quilts.
3 words that capture the very essence of your artwork? Connectedness, community, healing.
3 most important things to you when working? I don’t tend to have too many specifics but I do like coffee! quiet music, and a large working surface.
3 best sources of inspiration? My garden, community organizing meetings, seed catalogues.
Why is art important to you? For me it has been an essential element in my processing of the world. When I started to move away from the religion I grew up with, there was a hole in my understanding of the makeup of our world. Art is where I was able to create some tangible manifestation of what I want to the believe our purpose is on this planet; to connect, to understand each other, and to heal the brokenness. One of my favorite quotes is by Thich Nhat Hanh; “We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness.”
Creatures of Light and Darkness
How does winter impact you? I am a worker. I always have lots of jobs and projects and work long hours during the growing season. During winter I try to honor concepts of rest, of moving into darkness and reflecting. I try to establish a balance and be easier on myself. This is constantly a challenge and so in winter, maybe I work on loving myself more and releasing the expectation that this capitalist society shackles us with.
How is winter in Chicago? It can be rough! Luckily all my best friends live just a few blocks away and we get together often. I live a few blocks from the lake and it’s nice to get out there. It’s a good time to stay in and get some work done. Luckily one of my jobs the past few years has been working in a greenhouse at a nursing home so starting in February I am back in the dirt!!
Do you integrate thoughts about life cycles, death and birth in you work? One of my little drawings that has gotten a lot of attention lately is one that says “We are all temporarily not dirt!”. I think that’s about as clearly as I can articulate my understanding of this topic. I don’t necessarily believe in reincarnation but I do believe that our cells and energies are constantly interacting with each other. Even after we are dead. There are so many invisible interactions that take place. And what we do to the soil we do to ourselves!