PLAYING ATLANTA: Moriah Piacente Curates the Wild & Weird with Major Mars

Picture Credit: Alex Seibert

For Moriah Piacente, Athens-and-Atlanta-based artist, vintage fashion curator, and lover of all things weird, wacky, and wonderful, the lines between visual art and music are nonexistent. Blending the enigmatic charisma of Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka with the delicate, ethereal creativity of David Bowie, Piacente exists in a glittering, psychedelic, purple-tinted Victorian Wonderland where modern fashion caves to ’60s-Mod stylings and drudging normalcy is the only unwanted guest.

After her elegant yet visceral performance in Pip the Pansy’s “Siren Song,” I was thrilled to land an interview with Major Mars herself. Read on for a sneak peek into Piacente’s mystical world.

AF: Let’s start at the very beginning: how were you introduced to visual art? When did you realize you wanted to pursue it, or that it was your life’s calling?

MP: Oh my gosh I am insanely excited and blessed to have my first ever interview with you! Thank you so much for having me! I would say it first sparked my interest I when was introduced to Of Montreal. The way they created this insane atmosphere and brought their own world to life made me want to do the same. 

I’ve always been passionate about music, and, for a long time, I thought it was what I wanted to do with my life. I could never really fully express myself through it though. I started getting into fine art photography in 2015, and I was hooked. I worked with a photographer out of Athens, Ben Rouse, and he ended up introducing me to a bunch of amazing creatives in the Athens scene. That ended up connecting me with a visual artist, Dana Jo, who was kind of mentor to me. She asked me to be a part of her DJ set at the 40 Watt during Slingshot Festival 2016, and that was my first ever experience on stage! I realized that being able to express my passion for music visually was all I’ve ever wanted and more. As lame as it sounds, my soul ignited that night. 

Photo Credit: Beau Turner // All editing & design by Moriah Piacente

AF: Who do you consider your greatest inspirations? Was there any one person who made you say, “This is what I want to do with my life”?

MP: I’d say my greatest inspiration is David Bowie. I’m also very inspired by the director David Lynch, but I’d say I’m the most inspired by a good, strange film: Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, Weekend, The Holy Mountain, and Clockwork Orange are some of my favorite films to flip on when I want to feel inspired. I really love how visually stimulating and bizarre those films are. It made me want to create my own world outside of my mind that others could enjoy. I’m also just super inspired by the people around me. I’m lucky enough to know some amazing musicians and artists that inspire me on the daily.

AF: How has visual art allowed you to truly express yourself at times when you don’t feel like you can otherwise?

MP: I can be a pretty shy, awkward person when you first meet me. I can be really bad with words. I get nervous and shy and make myself feel small. However, when I’m creating or performing or whatever, I’m focused on that and putting my all into it. I put all of my emotion into it. And sometimes when I’m feeling super depressed or anxious, but don’t know how to say it, I can go and take that energy and create something beautiful from it. That’s probably why most of my art is a bit creepy. Depression and anxiety are feelings that sometimes don’t have reason backing them up, so when I can’t find the words, I just go be weird.

AF: You’ve been part of some incredibly powerful performances with POWERKOMPANY, as well as music videos like Pip the Pansy’s “Siren Song.” What experience has been your favorite?

MP: I’m super proud of everything I’ve done and been a part of! My favorite experience, so far, was driving down to Vero Beach with Pip The Pansy and three other girls to shoot the music video for Siren Song. I had never done choreography before, and I didn’t know these girls very well so I was super nervous! It ended up being one of the most beautiful and rewarding experiences ever. Pip is incredible, and I love that she’s always down to create and try weird things. Working with her is amazing!

AF: What’s your dream performance?

MP: Oh gosh, that’s a tough one. There’s a lot of artists I’d love to collaborate with, and I’d also love to do an art installation. Does that count? I’d love to do an art installation.

AF: Do you prefer to work alone, or in a collaborative environment? Who would be your dream collaboration, living or dead?

MP: I prefer to work in small groups. Two to four people is my sweet spot. I feel like I get the most creative when I’m brainstorming with others and having a good discussion.  I’d love to collaborate with a bunch of artists I’ve met over on Instagram like Danielle Hibert or Storm Calysta or Miss Lucy Fleur, but don’t make me decide, ‘cause they’re all too dreamy!

I’d absolutely love to collab with Jordana Dale. She’s a photographer out of Atlanta. I worked with her on a shoot for Pip The Pansy and she was incredible! Her work is insane. It was also my dream to work with Pip, and I’m so thankful that dream became reality! There are also lots of musicians I’d love to collab with. Hit me up, yo.

AF: You’ve also got a beautiful online vintage shop, Major Mars Vintage. Where did you get the name from (because it’s so rad)?

MP: Thank you so much! When I was first starting the shop, I was brainstorming with my boyfriend. He actually came up with the name! It’s supposed to be kind of like Major Tom, but it’s Major Mars, cause ya know that’s me! I’m Mars.

Photo Credit: Beau Turner // All editing & design by Moriah Piacente

AF: What part do you think fashion plays in visual art? Do you consider fashion design to be an integral part of visual art, or visual art itself? Did you ever consider going into fashion design?

MP: I think it plays a huge part. I think fashion is visual art if you want it to be. Fashion is a way to express yourself freely. That’s absolutely art. I mean, look at the Club Kids. Some of the coolest art I’ve ever seen! I’ve thought about it, yes. There’s just too much math there, though, honestly.

AF: What would be your advice to your younger self?

MP: Stop putting your energy into others that don’t give a shit and start putting it into yourself and your art. Speak up and stick up for yourself. Focus on making yourself proud of you. You’ve got this. Keep fighting the good fight.

AF: That’s beautiful advice! How can your followers and fans keep up with your work, and support you as you create even more magic?

MP: As much as I hate to say it, social media is huge for small artists like myself. It really helps a lot when you share posts and comment and all of that. I’m also on Patreon! You can follow me over there to support my art and keep updated on the projects I’m working on!

AF: What’s coming up for you and Major Mars?

MP: I have a few things in the works for the rest of the year! Podcasts and pop-ups and all kinds of weird. I’m not sure about the dates just yet, though, so keep an eye out on my Instagram!

Keep up with Moriah on Instagram, and shop her curated vintage store, Major Mars Vintage, for all the mod stylings and psychedelic pieces you could ever want.