Professor blends brutal sport with creativity
The worlds of art and Ultimate Fighting Championships rarely collide. One deals with beauty, the other deals with brawn. For Cris Moss, adjunct professor of art and visual culture and director of the Linfield Gallery, they are connected parts of his world.
In addition to curating the Linfield Gallery and teaching art classes, Moss makes a living as an artist. On the side, he produces weekly UFC highlights on “Sportfight.”
“Working in the arts is always kind of struggling to pay the bills,” Moss said. “I have a family … and I have to bring home the bacon. It’s hard to balance and find time to create art.”
Moss entered the business by accident. Shortly after moving to Portland following his graduation from New York University with a master’s degree in fine arts in film and video, Moss was contacted to film a UFC fight.
Taking the opportunity to make some money, he filmed the intense fight from ringside. Afterwards, to his surprise, he was offered a job. Now he is the executive producer for the show, which airs Saturday nights at 10 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet.
Though he writes, directs, scripts, edits and does the post-production for the hour-long show, he said it has a certain rhythm to it, similar to a “well-oiled machine.” He has an established crew and schedule that makes production easy to complete each week.
As a perk, Moss often has access to Trail Blazer tickets and seats for events at the Rose Garden because he works out of the Trail Blazer Comcast studio.
Though art and fighting seem to not have much in common, occasionally they provide inspiration for Moss. The two worlds crossed paths while filming in Reno, Nev., not too long ago. He was conducting an interview with an ultimate fighter when his cell phone rang.
Moss was filming an Los Angeles fighter who insisted on sitting on his corner guy’s lap. The fighter was putting on a big show to appear “badass,” but the other man stared straight ahead without blinking. When the phone rang, the fighter’s intense demeanor changed to apathy.
The picture of the fighter sitting on the other man’s lap with a blank expression became fodder for a five-minute video Moss made. He put a scene of pink flowers and slowed the video down to a ridiculously slow speed for comic effect.
This exemplifies Moss’ philosophy for his art: Inspiration can come from anywhere.
“My surroundings, my life, the news: I draw my inspiration from the life that we live in,” Moss said.
The video of ultimate fighters also illustrates a main theme present in Moss’ artworks: confusion.
“[I like to present] how odd and strange people act,” he said.
One piece depicted a life-size male figure stuck upside down in a sleeping bag, representing this theme.
When he isn’t filming UFC interviews and fights or showing his work, Moss curates the Linfield Gallery. He brings in artists and sets up the monthly shows featured on campus.
In his work at Linfield, Moss tries to bring in a diverse range of artists. He also strives to challenge the audience’s conceptions of art.
“I think a role of a gallery in an educational facility is not just to display beautiful art but to make viewers question themselves and what they’re looking at,” Moss said.
Linfield does an excellent job of publicizing the gallery, Moss said. Past shows, such as “Rapunzel” and “Apex,” led to each of their artist’s inclusion in the prestigious 2008 Whitney Biennial and a solo show at the Portland Art Museum, respectively.
“I love working with artists who are looking to use the space in a more experimental way,” Moss said.
Moss has had work featured in shows from Nottingham, England, to Melbourne, Australia. His next show will be part of the 2008 Prints for Portland Institute of Contemporary Work in December.