The Idle Class artists-in-quarantine series features local creators and their spread of good fortune and creativity in a time of social distancing. What exactly are these artists doing to lift the spirits of our community while practicing social distancing? We’re here to find out. Next in the series: local artist Shelley Mouber.

The worldly Shelley Mouber began making art objects at an early age. Originally from San Diego, she currently resides in Fayetteville. With a renowned sculptor and set designer for an uncle, Mouber said he was one of her earliest influences. 

The fact that Mouber holds a Bachelor of Arts in sociology extremist behavior plays a major role in her use of repurposed materials for mosaic-like figurative collages that explore and celebrate the interconnectedness of humanity. It has been described as a “tactile experience,” allowing the viewer to not only see the image created, but the labor that went into the piece as well.

Her work has been included in group and solo exhibitions and is located in private collections around the world. Notably, her piece “Yayoi,” celebrating Yayoi Kusami, was a part of an exhibition in New York City at Printed Matter. 

As artists find ways to be creative during a time of social distancing, Mouber told The Idle Class what she is doing to spread light and art in a time of seeming darkness.  

What have you been doing creatively during the “self distancing” period?

It’s kind of funny because it’s really not a whole lot different, except in the aspect that I can’t socialize, but I am still very busy. My work is super labor intensive and right now I have back-to-back commissions. I had a show scheduled for December and I’m excited for that because I like to do my own work, but the commissions pay my bills. With commissions I always do a zoom conference beforehand and make sure that their ideas are solid and something that fit my style, because I always want a happy and returning customer. 

I think my artwork is a little more than collages… It is socially rooted. When I started making art and was flipping through magazines looking for material, I started noticing how much of a lack in representation there was for women. I try to promote body positivity, self-love, inclusivity. So that’s why I really love to do my own work because most of my commissions aren’t quite that. But I’m still incredibly fortunate to be an artist who can support myself, especially during this crisis. I’ve been in this community for almost 30 years and I’ve seen people come and go. It’s tough. 

Why are you doing it?

I’ve had other incarnations in this life as a full-time mother, as a social advocate for women and children and an advocate for mentally ill teens. When my art became my everyday I just felt compelled to create. Grief was a major component of the initial motivation as well.

Why is staying active in your art and finding new ways to express it important at a time like this?

Well I’ve been isolated and usually have doctors appointments to go to, or the grocery store, or lunch and dinner with friends, seeing my kids who are out-of-state, but right now I can’t do any of that. So I think right now art is saving my mental space… and music. I play music constantly while I do my artwork. I guess I’ve had a little bit more business this spring than I do normally. I hope that people are still, not just for my sake, but really for most people’s mental well-being, have or want the ability to look at something not overly sensationalized, something created by someone with their hands. 

I’ve been through many, many difficult times, although admittedly not quite this isolating. As an artist I think most of us have that ability to dive within ourselves, putting aside life’s complications to create. It’s what makes most art so fascinating–we are able to recognize depth in creation. We can see our own inner struggles, creativity and endless other potentialities in art. Since fear is a strong component during this time, I’m really interested in seeing how our artistic friends, within the Northwest Arkansas art community, react through their creations.