In the Studio with Artist Meredith Morabito
Meredith Morabito – figure sculptor, photographer, certified Master Gardener and animal lover – lives in Saugerties, New York, on an expansive property lovingly referred to as Mostly Magic Farm.
Meredith revels in landscaping her property and taking care of an assortment of farm animals, including rescued horses, chickens, ducks – and her most famous furry friends of all –a group of wild yet very social chipmunks.
Just prior to Covid, Meredith noticed a lively scurry of chipmunks frolicking outside her artist studio. One, in particular, would soon become her muse. Meredith and “Cali Bubbleyum” (as the inquisitive chipmunk would come to be known) soon bonded, and an unexpected photography project was born.
Inside+Out recently spent a few hours on Magic Farm to chronicle Meredith and the chipmunks – and what a day it was!
“My work and the creative process really transformed after we started our small farm in the Hudson Valley. I began to incorporate elements of what surrounded me including my horse’s hair, wood, and dried flowers all found in my own backyard. The community of artists and the incredible magic of the mountains continue to inspire me daily” – Meredith Morabito
In the Studio with Meredith Morabito
Meredith is well-known for her figurative sculptures and her work has been shown in several local galleries. After moving to the Woodstock/Saugerties area, she served as the Residency Director of the Artist in Residence Program at Byrdcliffe. She also co-curated the exhibition Up the Hill: Byrdcliffe Artists 2015 and has produced a number of outdoor art shows.
“I use the medium of clay to capture a certain mood, intention, or moment in time, rather than obtain complete anatomical accuracy. My work is created through direct observation of live models, and through that process, I have opened myself up to the entirely new concept of seeing instead of looking. We are often taught to take a quick glance, never stare…and in that space, I was limited. And through pose and gesture, I strive to capture the rawness and strength of feminine and masculine beauty.”
Meredith and the Chipmunks
People get such joy from your new body of work. Were you inspired by other artists, or, did this project happen naturally?
I’m always outside, either in my garden or with my farm animals. I soon began to notice a very friendly chipmunk and I started to feed her. She eventually came closer and closer, and soon she was either jumping on my lap or onto a nearby tree stump. I would put various objects on the ground and she would interact with them. The progression was very natural. The next thing you know, I’m collecting tiny furniture and props, and so it went from there. Even though I started this before Covid, the project ramped up during the pandemic as a result of being home more often.
Tell us about your subjects. How many are there, do you have a name and personality type for each one, and how long do they live?
I have one main girl, the aforementioned Cali Bubbleyum. She comes every day to visit, sometimes several times a day. Delightfully, she now brings her baby along to watch! I do have a few others that come by occasionally, but they’re more skittish and not as reliable as my girl Cali. Chipmunks live for two to three years.
Looking at your images, Cali’s personality shines through! What is the funniest and the most unexpected situation to happen before, during, or after a photo session?
I once had a little “battle” break out between two chipmunks, they ended up tussling right in my lap! They wrestled for quite a while before they realized where they were; once they did, they quickly separated and ran off. : )
You must have loads of fun shopping for props, setting up your dioramas, and then figuring out just where you want the chipmunks to go. How does that work and what are some of your favorite scenarios?
My sister and I go to many yard sales and hunt for fun props and dollhouse furniture. Friends and family also find things and give them to me – everyone gets in on the fun! I try to find things that inspire different scenes and then I build them in my art studio. When I tried to make them outside, curious Cali would crawl on set and knock everything over! One of my favorite scenes is when she is being beamed up by the UFO (see below). Another is Cali sipping a soda. But my favorite is the one where she’s holding the umbrella. The umbrella was hanging from the fishing line, and when she reached up to grab it, I snapped the pic. It’s a little bit of magic and perfect timing.
How do people find out about your work, this project and how do you market your work?
I often post on my Instagram account, @mostlymagicmer, and I have an * Etsy store * where I sell notecards.
What is one question you’re constantly asked about your work?
The number one question I get asked is: “Is that photoshopped?” And “is she your pet?” The answer to both is “no.” I don’t edit my photos and Cali is indeed a wild girl.
How did you wind up in Saugerties and what is it about this area that makes it unique to live & work here?
We moved here in 2013 from Westchester by way of Woodstock. We ended up in Saugerties to get more land and to start our farm. We love the open feeling here, along with the art and culture. It felt like a real land of opportunity for us. We enjoy living near the river and mountains and having access to so many other towns with so much to do. And the easy access to our friends and family in the city is such a bonus.
What does an ideal weekend look like for you?
We enjoy hosting family and friends in our renovated airstream. That usually involves being outside and enjoying amazing food.
What’s next for you? Sneak peek of new direction or body of work?
I’ve created a picture book and I’m in the process of trying to find a book agent or publisher. It’s the story of Cali, a chipmunk who falls in love with a shiny red wagon that she sees in a general storefront window. With the precision and speed her species is known for, Cali immediately sets out in pursuit of it. She takes on a series of odd jobs, earning enough money to make her dream come true. The book includes some of my favorite photos that tell the tale. I have such a large collection of images, I’d love to turn this book into an entire series.
Thank you, Meredith!
Artwork Photos supplied by Meredith Morabito
Interview Photos © 2021 Terry Dagrosa for Inside+Out Upstate NY
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Dutch Ale House
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Great British Bakeoff
The Man Who Listens to Horses – Audiobook
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