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A Closer Look: Julie Molloy's 'Inside Voices'

Artist: Julie Molloy // Exhibition: "Inside Voices" // Through Jan. 5 in

For Julie Molloy, the human face is a source of deep fascination, a contested zone where our internal emotions often clash with an outward desire to tamp those emotions down.

This is especially true in public places, like the streets of bustling metropolises or the crowded waiting areas of airports, where practiced stoicism is expression of choice and internal conflicts only trickle out through the occasional accidental grin or furrowed brow. The way public space affects the public face is the subject of Molloy's series of ink and watercolor drawings, now on view in the nicely appointed surroundings of Rō, a home store on Elmwood Avenue.

Molloy calls the drawings "a record of my curiosity about the strangers I pass in foreign places when every detail of a street scene seems all the more apparent and poignant." Her work is an outgrowth of the feeling every inquisitive traveler experiences while boarding trains to exotic locales or queuing for their plane: Who are all these people, and what are their lives like?

"Occasionally some slight upward glance, twitch of the mouth or raise of the eyebrow gives away the stranger’s mood. But often I wonder what is really going on in their lives. Who are they? Do they have a secure job? Are they living alone? Are they generally happy? Are they happy today?"

For Molloy, it's easier, and certainly far more polite, to speculate on paper than it is to ask the question outright. And the results of that speculation are fascinating.

Here's one drawing based on a man Molloy saw in an airport over the summer while she was waiting to board her flight for Paris (click for a larger version). A quartet of tears betrays his otherwise inscrutable poker face, suggesting some impossibly sad story knocking up his dead eyes and struggling to make itself known:

A drawing from Julie Molloy's "Inside Voices."

And another of woman with a bemused look, the first of the series:


A drawing from Julie Molloy's "Inside Voices."

As she wrote in her statement, these pieces are Molloy's attempts to penetrate the unreadable emotions of vast public spaces, to stare out onto a crowded square or into towering skyscrapers and imagine to life a few examples of "all of the people living there and the collective emotion happening behind the windows."

If you find yourself walking past Rō, you might want to look through that window, too.

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