A Sea Bird by Maria Molteni
Created in collaboration with New Craft Artists in Action
About The Artist
Fort Point resident and former competitive athlete Maria Molteni combines their love for embodied expression, site specific installation and inclusive art and athletic cultures to create immersive works. In 2010 Molteni launches the international collective New Craft Artists in Action (NCAA); under Molteni’s direction, the group pioneered the field of community-centered basketball court “murals,” vibrant spaces that encourage a wider spectrum of identities to play.
Athletics, like religion, are a dominant arena for culture that generate monumental attention and emotional investment. I grew up ritually shooting free throws and praying the rosary, taught to do both by bead slinging, basketball dunking Dominican nuns. My current mystical practices have branched far from my strictly Catholic upbringing, but I still recall helpful non-binary structures such as the “Holy Trinity” that informed my queer identity today. My fondness of the ocean and island lore, particularly myths about near-alien, femme beings like mermaids and sirens, further shaped my complex expressions of gender and embodiment. Much of my work, including a 20 minute film “A Visitors Guide to Orientation on Spectacle Island” (in collaboration with Hermione Spriggs and Sue Murad) and performance “There Are Plenty of Single Ladies in the Sea” investigates reclaimed narratives of these mythic sex-less sea beings. There is a particular narrative about the Sirens, called Bird Termination, in which the goddess Venus was “so annoyed with their persistent chastity that she changed them into birds.” I also like to reframe them as protective alarm systems that sound a warning when we humans believe our bodies to be so separated from the land or sea.
Having lived in and visited the Fort Point neighborhood for over a decade, I spent a lot of time meditating on these concepts in the late Our Lady of Good Voyage Chapel. It was built in the 1950s as one of several “workers chapels” that gave access to various labor forces to a convenient place of worship. Because of my connection to sea goddess/witch culture, I felt comfortable kneeling before a mother-protector of the ocean and ships. Around this time I also joined the Boston Rowing Center through the Hull Life Saving Museum. When the original Our Lady of Good Voyage Building was removed (to be rebuilt down the street in the Seaport), I honored its ghost through a body of work called “Fall of a Sea Bird” or “Ruina Avem Maris”. One can see the hidden phrases “A Sea Bird” and “Bird Asea”, written in semaphore/nautical flag coding, painted into the four square and hopscotch sections of the court. The repeated cloud motif and other simple geometry echo the visual language of the original chapel’s stained glass windows. As with the ascension of Mary, the protective energy of the building rose and still soars around the neighborhood. This sea-court in the Seaport is named after and dedicated to Our Lady of Good Voyage, our proud and majestic Sea Bird and Siren.
Fun Fact: “Seabird” by the Alessi Brothers is also Molteni’s favorite karaoke song 😉