Kristin Malin makes landscape paintings that chart experience beyond the physical peripheries of seeing. She has lived in Utah, Louisiana, New York City, and Maine—all states with unique relationships to the natural elements that surround them. In response, Kristin developed a phenomenological method of processing and internalizing her environments. She began painting the full moon en plein air in 2015. In 2016, she started traveling back and forth between Georgetown, Maine, and her childhood city of New Orleans to oversee her ailing mother’s care. The significance of Kristin’s attraction to an event such as the full moon, so grounded in regeneration, is significant to the roles she held as daughter, witness, and head caregiver in charge.
VC: How did the move from Louisiana to New York City affect you?
KM: The visiting artists at Louisiana State University told me to go to New York City. I stayed in New York for almost a decade after graduate school (at Columbia University), supporting myself with jobs at the NY Council for the Humanities and the Environmental Defense Fund, while trying to do as much art as I could and seeing as many shows and exhibits as I could. After three random, very close brushes with gun violence, I decided I would move. If I couldn’t live in New York City, then it would have to be the woods. So, I moved to Maine with my fiancé.
VC: Is Maine where you found your plein air rhythm?
KM: . . . Maine is where I began plein air painting in earnest . . . nature is profound and ever-present in Maine. It sets the rhythm of life.
VC: How did your full moon series develop?
KM: My last two series were about the surface of the water, which I painted en plein air in one session on 16-by-16 inches wood panels . . . I then switched to painting the view of Robinhood Cove, looking at two islands. After thirteen years of painting companionship, Emma (my dog who had accompanied me in the field) died, and I lost my landscape mooring. I was searching for a new motif, somewhat rudderless, until I became aware of a total lunar eclipse that was going to be visible in North America on 28 September 2015. I live on the coast of Maine where the skies are dark at the edge of the ocean and the beach. I could witness this event. I carried my landscape easel to the beach and painted the moon two hours before and one hour after the eclipse. I watched the eclipse happen, and what a phenomenon to behold. I watched the shadow cross the moon, and at the totality, the moon turned orange, the sky became blue-black dark filled with millions of stars and the Milky Way, and a demarcation where the ocean met the sky, as the ocean did not have the moon’s reflection in it.
VC: How did painting the full moon every month offer a sense of constancy in a period of great unknowns?
KM: As my hand and I began to visually know the moon, I scheduled it on my calendar. After the presidential election in 2016, I began petitioning the moon for wisdom and help during the stressful months (for me) from 2016 to November 2020. The plein air sessions with the moon were meditative, quiet, and calming for me.
VC: How did this influence your perspective towards your mother’s health care?
KM: I’m not sure if this influenced my perspective, but she had an amazing view of the moon . . . which brought me great personal joy to paint . . . And, I suppose, unconsciously, I knew this view would be shared with me for only a finite period of time . . . My mother died in February 2019, the day after my daughter Bird visited. My grandson, Otto, was conceived around my mother’s birthday a year later, in 2020 . . . It just seems that as she was leaving, he was coming.
Kristin Malin is currently staying in Indianapolis, Indiana, helping to care for her Otto. She continues to paint the full moon. For an extended version of this interview, please visit Kristin’s website.
Image at top: Kristin Malin, Indy Oct A, oil on aluminum, 5 x 7 in., 2021.