“Polly’s Cradle” reflects on ancestral story as part of West Harlem Art Fund fall exhibition, Art that Marks Time. Reception on October 15 from 1-5 p.m.
NEW YORK, NY... West Harlem Art Fund and Artist Molly Must are proud to announce the exhibition of Polly’s Cradle, an interactive installation centering an adult-sized cradle and oversized mobile with original soundscape by Kyp Malone. Must created the welded steel sculptures at the Steel Yard in Providence, Rhode Island first before her Visual Muze Residency through the West Harlem Art Fund in the summer of 2022. The installation is on view at Governors Island until October 30th, with a reception and LIVE performance by Kyp Malone for Saturday, October 15th from 1-5 p.m.
Polly’s Cradle was inspired by a story passed down through Must’s Appalachian family for generations, about her Scots-Irish great-great-great- great grandmother Mary Moore – known as “Polly” – who was taken captive by Shawnee warriors in 1786, at the age of 10 years old. Following an attack on her homestead and the slaying of her family, Polly was taken by Black Wolf on a journey of 500 miles, as his clan retreated from ongoing violence of settler militia. She experienced tenderness once integrated in the group, but was eventually sold to an English fur trader in Canada where she lived in servitude and was severely abused. Three years after her capture, Polly united with a surviving family member and was brought home to the Appalachian Mountains. Later in life she commissioned an adult-sized cradle to help her cope with PTSD-related insomnia. The story is documented in a book published by her son James Moore entitled The Captives of Abb’s Valley.
“Polly’s story is one of intense sorrow that speaks to the complexities of colonialism and patriarchy, wherein thousands of traumatized people are pitted against each other in a fight for cultural and bodily sovereignty,” says Molly Must. “For Polly (who is my namesake) the cradle was a vessel of healing and comfort, a literal space to attend grief and trauma, cultural splintering and loneliness. For me, the cradle symbolizes many contradictions: innocence versus complicity, safety versus power, belonging versus otherness. It is an ongoing work exploring my whiteness and
personhood, ancestry and relationship to the mountains, acknowledging and reckoning with the colonial settler history that my lineage is connected to.”
The cradle is made of welded steel, muslin, and painted cotton textile, and people are invited to get into it and experience being gently rocked. The oversized mobile is made of welded steel and found iron agricultural artifacts. The soundscape is created by Kyp Malone, sampling Molly's voice reading from The Captives of Abbs Valley, and also her and her mother’s voice singing a traditional family lullaby.
Molly Must is a public artist from West Virginia with long-standing interest in storytelling, collectivism, monuments and public history. Her practice is rooted in painting, metal sculpture and installation. She spent ten years organizing and painting community storytelling murals in Asheville, North Carolina, and gained interest in sculpture through her work as a carpenter. She recently completed a masters in painting and sculpture at the New York Studio School in Greenwich Village. For more information about Molly Must, visit www.mollymust.com.
About Kyp Malone
Kyp Malone is an American singer, multi-instrumentalist and member of the bands TV on the Radio, Iran, Rain Machine, and Ice Balloons. Kyp Malone is known for It Comes at Night (2017), Never Back Down (2008) and Kill Your Darlings (2013).
About the West Harlem Art Fund
The West Harlem Art Fund (WHAF) is a twenty-four year old, public art and new media organization. Like explorers from the past, who searched for new lands and people, WHAF seek opportunities for artists and creative professionals throughout NYC and beyond wishing to showcase and share their talent. The West Harlem Art Fund presents art and culture in open and public spaces to add aesthetic interest; promote historical and cultural heritage; and support community involvement in local development. Our heritage symbol Afuntummireku-denkyemmtreku: is the double crocodile from West Africa Ghana which means unity in diversity.