Steve Moseley’s craft all started with building ships in bottles. Moseley has a chemistry degree from the University of Louisville, but after becoming a stay-at-home dad, he decided he needed a hobby. As a child he built model aircrafts and decided to venture into the genre of ship building instead. He spent a lot of time, focus and frustration teaching himself this craft, until he perfected it. Moseley’s ships in bottles capture his patience, fortitude, and a sense of composure that allowed him to set sail on his journey to becoming a successful folk artist.
It wasn’t until 2006, when Moseley moved to St. Louis, MO from Cincinnati, OH that he discovered the concept of “whimsey bottles.” ‘Whimsey Bottles’ are small scenes and objects built inside of bottles. These are not the typical ‘Ship in a bottle’ pieces, but rather scenes or objects that are more meaningful to the artist creating them. This concept sparked Moseley’s imagination. If a ship could be put together in a bottle, almost anything could. Moseley’s bottles transformed from ships to scenes of various figures made from basswood and a two-part clay mixture.
The most common themes Moseley uses are religion, sex and politics. He uses religion as a base to portray current social and political issues. For example, his piece “The Last McSupper,” a rendering of The Last Supper, becomes a metaphor for the current issue of fast food in our society. Portraying Jesus and his disciples enjoying McDonald’s fast food and fountain drinks forces the viewer to think about what is sacred and what is profane. This piece is currently on exhibition with some of his other works in, “CELEBRITIES AND BOTTLES” as a group exhibition with Emiehl Paffel and Uwe Paulsen at Galarie Art Cru Berlin.
Moseley brings a highly intellectual component to his pieces. Viewers are not only faced with controversy of the subject matter, but the complexity of the infrastructure. Not only does he come up with the concept, but how to successfully build it inside of a bottle. He also is very careful to include the bottle origin; what the bottle was originally used for. Most of the bottles Moseley uses are alcohol bottles and as a native Kentuckian, most often they are those once used to contain Steve’s preferred elixir, bourbon. This in itself creates another level of irony when subjects as sacred as Jesus are shown inside containers as classless as a favored spirit. This juxtaposition is what makes the artwork so attention grabbing. Moseley loves to present his work in such a way that could be seen as humorous to some, and insulting to others.
Although most of the works are religious based, Moseley often made bottle scenes containing people he knew and cared about. After finishing a bottle portraying a friend or family member, he would send it to them, feeling no need to keep it. Steve has made bottles for artists such as Dale Chihuly, Ted Gordon, J.J. Cromer, and Theresa Disney.