Meet triple threat Moriah Morton: Student-athlete-artist

Is there anything she can’t do?

If you ever have the privilege of walking around campus with Moriah, prepare to be introduced to every third person you see. She’s sort of a Dartmouth “Hometown hero,” as she hails from the nearby town of Lebanon, NH. Her charming smile, bright personality, and excellent sense of style are well known by locals and students alike.

Moriah is all over campus. You may find her out on the athletic fields throwing her javelin, or on stage at the Hop singing in the Student-Athlete Talent Show. You might see her eating a meal with a big group of friends at Foco, or on Beta’s first floor leading a Fellowship of the Christian Athlete’s meeting.

But if you really want to see Moriah in her element, you’ve got to step into her studio in the Black Family Visual Arts Center. 

Moriah working in the studio

Moriah working in the studio

What’s your favorite type of art? Sculpture? Painting? What type do you think is your best?

I love both sculpture and painting, but metal sculpture has developed to become my favorite. I learned how to weld last year in Sculpture II and continued through this winter in Sculpture III to really refine my skills.

I like using welded metal because it’s so easy to make pieces structurally sound, so size and weight are not limitations as they might be with other more fragile mediums. In several of my pieces, I’ve mixed both painting and sculpture and those have been some of my favorite projects that I’ve made.

Moriah with her work “Three Dimensional Canvas”

Best art class at Dartmouth?

Definitely Sculpture II and III. I only took Sculpture I because it was a requirement for the Studio Art major but I ended up falling in love with the physical aspect of it compared to other more 2-dimensional mediums like drawing and painting. Then taking Sculpture II/III really changed my life and showed me how much I love creating and how I’m really not happy without art in my life.

Moriah with one of her Welding Projects

A class you’d recommend for a beginner, or someone just wanting to give art a try?

Sculpture I is a lot of fun but it’s very time consuming–people usually love or hate it. But compared to painting and drawing I think it’s easier to excel even if you have no art background whatsoever.

Most time you’ve spent in the studio without leaving?

If you count leaving to get food from the Hop and coming back, then probably 20 hours. The most time I’ve spent literally not leaving the building is probably 10 hours. For both my Sculpture II and III finals I had to pull multiple all-nighters in a row to finish.

Favorite piece of artwork?

My metal sculpture “Global Chaos” from this past winter is definitely the best piece I have ever done. I’ve never worked so long on a single project and made it so resolved, and because I was in Sculpture III, I could choose my own projects without the limitations of specific deadlines. I worked on this piece for a little over a month, I wish I had kept a log for how many hours I was in the welding studio working on it.

I love it because I think it’s the first piece I’ve ever done that was interesting to both art lovers and people who think art is boring and dumb and subjective. This is really important to me because I want to make art that people have to and want to interact with, and not just walk past it in a museum and think “that’s nice” or “that’s strange.”

To be honest this piece really surprised even myself. I think I gained a lot of confidence from actually resolving the sculpture to a point where I had to do a lot of problem solving to perfect it.

“Global Chaos”

What was your experience like in Dubai as a recipient of the William Jefferson Clinton Scholarship? Did the buildings inspire your art in any way regarding architecture or sculpture? Was there anything about the culture that you try to incorporate into your art here in the states?

Going to Dubai really changed my life. I had never stepped foot outside the US so to leave and go live in the UAE for four months without knowing anyone was liberating and character building. I studied some design and architecture while I was there. It was interesting studying art from a completely different curriculum. My trip did become my inspiration for my sculpture “Global Chaos” because it made me look at the word in a different way, and through that I thought of how I could depict the world in a unique way.

Moriah was the recipient of the William Jefferson Clinton Scholarship to study art and design at the American University in Dubai

What were some of the steps you took to producing “Global Chaos”?

After traveling to Dubai I saw the world in such a different way, which I think subconsciously affected how I wanted this sculpture to come out. I knew I wanted to work with metal and light, something I had never done before. I made a rough model of the sculpture to see if the shadows would even work, and I learned a lot from that before going into the final piece.

Because welding is so permanent, it was scary starting. I was worrying I was going to mess up and have to start the whole thing over again, but it ended up working out and my professor helped me troubleshoot a lot of the installation and construction issues.

You also an incredible athlete – throwing javelin for the Dartmouth track team. In what ways do athletics and art overlap for you?

It’s been really fun and interesting being an artist and an athlete because people seem to put these two things into mutually exclusive categories. Whereas in high school sports were my life, throughout college art has taken its place into something that I depend on much more. I am naturally very competitive athletically, so I enjoy doing track where I can use up all that competitive energy in a way I couldn’t in the studio.

I think part of the reason I love sculpture so much is because I’m such a physical person that sculpture mixes my love for art and body movement and interaction.

Moriah at her last home track meet

Plans for the summer involving art?

I’m going to be around Dartmouth for the summer working in the Visual Arts Center on some projects. The Studio Art department gave me $1000 to work on an interdisciplinary project between studio art and the costume shop in the theater department to create a sculptural fashion show to happen when everyone is back in the fall. I’m really excited about this project because I’m currently taking Costume Design I and I’ve always wanted to get into fashion. I’m going to spend the summer learning how to make clothes and how to mix my love for sculpture and fashion.

A recent drawing for a Costume Design class

Plans for after graduation involving art?

I haven’t decided what I want to do after graduation. I think there’s a big chance I’ll go to graduate school for Fine Arts or Fashion Design. My dream job would be to own my Anthropologie-esque store where I can sell all my paintings, sculptures, fashion etc.

Moriah and friends at her most recent home track meet

Moriah and friends at her most recent home track meet

Be sure to check out more of Moriah’s work on her website.