The mop as muse: Art inspired by locally made mops featured in Algoma exhibit
ALGOMA – Think of a mop — wet, dirty, sloppy, utilitarian, ordinary. But artistic inspiration?
For Milwaukee-based artist Melissa Dorn, yes, it is.
She'll show what comes from it in "Mopping Up," her solo exhibit of mop-inspired paintings, drawings and multi-media sculptures opening Friday evening at Yardstick, a book shop and gallery in downtown Algoma.
Besides its location, the exhibit has a local tie to Algoma Mop Manufacturers, which provided some material Dorn used to create the art in the show.
One usually thinks artists find their inspirations in beautiful things — faces or bodies, landscapes, buildings, flowers — or grittier scenes that make a statement or move for social change.
For Dorn, though, it was the word itself, rather than its look or use, that caused her to view the mop as her muse.
"It started with reading the word 'mop' in a book, '33 Artists in 3 Acts' (by Sarah Thornton)," Dorn said in a phone interview from Milwaukee, where she's worked as a professional artist for more than 20 years and teaches at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. "It's totally not about mops, but the word struck me as being humorous, so I wrote it in a sketch book. I wasn't sure how to use it."
Dorn added she found further inspiration in childhood memories, because her mother used to call her "Mophead." That led to her first mop-related artwork, about three years ago.
"I had never really done a self-portrait, except when I had to in class," Dorn said. "So, I did the mop as self-portrait."
The mop idea then grew when Dorn embarked on a drawing-a-day project, creating a drawing every day for three months.
"I ended up with 90 drawings of mops," she said. "I was thinking of ways to expand on the way I was looking at mops. I (expanded) with larger paintings (and) sculptures."
The resulting works were assembled for an exhibit at Frank Juarez Gallery in Milwaukee, which represents Dorn. And, thanks to an enterprising helper, and cooperation from Algoma Mop, they're coming to Algoma.
"That was all thanks to my intern at the time, Kim Mansolck-Bonnet," Dorn said. "She had done a little internet research, was sure there were mop factories out there. She reached out to (Algoma Mop), and they were very receptive."
Dorn took a tour of the company, which made some mop materials available to her. She used the mop parts to create new latch hook sculptures for her exhibit.
In exchange, Dorn led a workshop for employees of Algoma Mop, a subsidiary of East Shore Industries, which provides service and job programs for local people with special needs. Dorn helped the employees create collages with paper plates.
"Mopping Up" will feature "at least 10 sculptures and paintings plus a number of framed drawings," Dorn said. She hopes those who visit and view her work find a fresh, perhaps whimsical way to look at an otherwise ordinary item.
"I would hope people get out of it this opportunity to be with the work … think about how we think about everyday objects," Dorn said. "I hope people find some humor in it. It's somewhat abstract, so I hope they get involved with the texture and composition. I hope they think about things they normally don't think about."
The "Mopping Up" exhibit of art by Melissa Dorn is on display from Friday through Nov. 2 at Yardstick, 317 Steele St., Algoma.
An opening reception with Dorn takes place from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday. Yardstick is open from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, then noon to 4 p.m. Sundays and 5 to 8 p.m. Nov. 2 during the exhibit.
For more information, call 785-917-9628 or go to the "Yardstick" Facebook page.
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: The mop as muse: Art inspired by locally made mops featured in Algoma exhibit