Molly McGreevy (b. 1971) was raised in Buffalo NY, directly underneath an intense snow belt that, much like a distant relative from Cleveland, travels across Lake Erie in October and stays for a while but then never leaves. Since most inhabitants are trapped indoors most of the year, Molly spent much of her childhood drawing, painting, writing stories and arguing with her siblings over what channel to watch on the only television, meaning early evenings were usually devoted to shouting matches over two rerun classics such as Mary Tyler Moore or Bob Newhart.
She had her first inklings of a life in the mixed-media arts in first grade when, after gluing two black triangles on an orange circle, she stepped back and felt a deep satisfaction with the resulting Halloween decoration. The pumpkin—displayed on the classroom bulletin board for one glorious month until it went on loan to her family residence’s front door—was a novel mixture of construction paper and black string pieces with an overall Gothic vibe, and it rubber-cemented her reputation as classroom artist and bourgeois provocateur.
Several mixed-media commissions during the early school years include a life-sized unflattering portrait of her best friend’s family, which barred her from visiting her buddy’s house for several weeks; a magazine in the model of CRACKED where she depicted another friend as a member of the Little Rascals, later torn to pieces by this said friend; and a complete make-up catalogue filled with imaginary products with names such as “Strawberry Shortcake Blast” and “Flesh & Fancy” and included an innovative device that would let you apply mascara to both eyes at the same time. A handful of fellow students and friends put in orders for the makeup but, sadly, their requests were never fulfilled due to some manufacturing concerns.
Her first attempt at fiction was in seventh grade, when she entered a story in a school writing contest. The piece was a riveting work of art about a ghost who shows up early at a cool kid’s birthday party and pokes holes in the bottom of all the paper cups; when the McDonald’s drink was finally served, the whole party was turned into a watery, orange nightmare. The story won the contest and a once “serious procrastinator” was born into a “serious procrastinator with a mild bent towards writing.”
After reading an annotated Walden in eleventh grade and after realizing she could get A’s on her English essays without ever having to read the assigned books, she decided to take her skills more seriously and signed up for her first creative writing class. Here she wrote an intriguing postmodern script for an imaginary MTV video that accompanied the hit song “Circle” by Edie Brickell and the Bohemians. It featured a teenage girl nursing a beer on the same bar stool for the entire song, gazing out the window at the dark, rainy streets, waiting for a love that, alas, never showed up. It was enjoyed by most of the girls in the class.
As an undergrad at the University at Buffalo and still undecided in what direction to take her creative skills, Molly took both English literature and studio art classes. Long hours of gripping the charcoal too tightly in her hands during life drawing classes created mixed feelings of euphoria and an irrational fear of early onset rheumatoid arthritis. At the same time, she studied Milton’s Areopagitica in her literature classes, which influenced her rhetorical skills considerably. Her most famous and impassioned essay was to the Dean of Students, which pleaded for the exemption of a required Spanish class that was needed to finally get her BA degree. It was both a literary and practical success.
Turning to the world of low-wage menial jobs only an English degree can provide a young student straddled with enormous debt, Molly then worked as a book clerk, a coffee barista and a bartender before landing a coveted position as shipping manager of a hip graphic design company specializing in hand-silkscreened greeting cards. It was here that her trademark themes begin to appear in some of her journals, especially the hard-won wisdom that people your own age resent taking orders from you and that if you give someone an inch to be nice they get super entitled and expect more and more everyday, despite continuing to show up several hours late and still having the nerve to take long lunch and smoke breaks. So it was with both relief and trepidation that she informed the company she was moving to Miami with her boyfriend Robert. Her boss’s response was, “Wow. It’s really hot down there.”
Moving to cosmopolitan South Beach was a radical departure from life in a small city where plastic surgery was not the norm, and Molly began to exercise strenuously while simultaneously working nights at a local bookstore on Lincoln Road. She also began teaching remedial English at Miami Dade College, a job she recalls with great fondness in her emails and IM chats with her sister, though that correspondence is now lost. At MDC she wrote the first drafts of pieces she would eventually submit to Florida International University as part of an effort to get into their MFA program. She also spoke with a Chilean mystic who said not to worry, that if she threw some plantain chips into the ocean as well as collect rainwater directly into her mouth during a tropical rainstorm, the event would be very likely. All efforts proved fruitful.
Workshop life was difficult. What kind of person, really, would enjoy being criticized by eleven other people who are equally insecure and just as neurotic about their own work? But with a little help from her fabulous teachers and a somewhat high dose of Zoloft, Molly made it through, continuing to produce several stories and poems and plays. During this time she also produced, with her now-husband Robert, two beautiful human children. She began work on her thesis, Celestial Bodies, a novel revolving around her obsession with ghost stories, and then finished it between feedings and diaper changes, finally receiving her MFA in Fiction in the spring of 2007. The book still sits, unpublished, on her bookshelf, if anybody wants to read it.
“If you can find me I’ll give you one of Gramma’s windmill cookies!” Blizzard of 1977
Concurrent with this intense writing period, Molly designed and produced applique-style quilts, custom greeting cards, illustrations for a children’s book, large-scale collages and, her personal favorite, a incredibly cool paper-mache dragonhead sculpture with glass eyes and a twelve foot long poppy-colored silk tail. The dragon, while admired over the years by many, has proven impossibly difficult to install during Chinese New Year parties.
To breathe in new surroundings, and to be able to drop off both kids somewhere for longer periods of time without having to explain what she does all day at home to more ambitious working mothers, Molly moved her writing desk into a studio space in Little Haiti with two artists. These contacts led to several community related projects and the eventual founding of Meetinghouse, a gallery space and artist’s co-op once located in downtown Miami. She curated an art show titled Book+Form, showcasing bookmakers and printers from across Florida. At Meetinghouse, salon-like discussions across several disciplines included such topics such as aesthetics, similarities of artistic processes, historical preservation in downtown Miami, and whose turn it was to clean the bathrooms and mop up the gallery floor.
At the studio, Molly moved away from her writing desk and began to make large-scale collages again, this time for a gala event themed Alice in Wonderland. These 8×10 feet pieces of Lewis Carroll’s characters were assembled using all types of materials: newspapers, wallpapers, leather, jewelry, fabrics, ribbons, basically whatever was kind of lying around at the time, even if it was on other people’s work desks. This was followed by many more projects in mixed media, which began to take precedence in her time and attention.
Molly’s studio now sits in Liberty City where she works full-time creating artwork and writings. Her current works in progress include a commission of pieces for a children’s doctor’s office and a series of portraits of famous writers.
To hear the latest developments and adventures of this fascinating artist’s career, join her mailing list and stay tuned for more blog posts on this webpage. New writings will range from musings on particular projects to reviews of art shows to interviews with other writers and artists in Miami or to life in general.
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