The Set Decorator Behind Wes Anderson’s Small Nation of Meaningful Objects

Kris Moran Isn’t Not Not-Influenced by Instagram


ou may or may not know Kris Moran, but you definitely know her aesthetic. The artist, designer and set decorator (though even this lengthy list feels woefully inadequate to describe the breadth of Moran’s creative output) has helped to define the iconic on-screen looks of the likes of Wes Anderson, Barry Jenkins, Noah Baumbach and Todd Solondz. As a set decorator she populates those cinematic worlds with the objects that breath life into them and literally creates the wallpaper that backs the narratives.

“Moonrise Kingdom” set photo

She will be in conversation with author and film critic A. S. Hamrah at The Art Barge’s Artists Speak series in East Hampton Wednesday, June 19 talking about her work in film from “The Royal Tannenbaums” to the new Joker movie (the look of which she says is “lived in” and “intense” and “very real”), her art, space and event design and whatever else comes up. There’s no telling. But the conversation will be in front of a backdrop of Moran’s own design. The original idea was for the installation she did at the Art Barge to be based on color and color interplay, partially because her work is so strongly associated with bold use of color. The idea evolved though, she told Whalebone Magazine, and now is something of a scene of seagulls flyinging. Made out of socks. She’s unsure quite where the piece took such a turn, but “you know how old socks kind of look like birds?” she asks.

You know how old socks kind of look like birds?

Inspiration can come from anywhere. One place is no more or less unlikely than another in Moran’s mindset. So it’s easy to understand how she could have lost track of just exactly where the ida for the Art Barge scene came from. When she’s working on a project she’s always on the lookout, however subconsciously, and that inspiration can come from just about anywhere. Maybe it’s the color of a piece of chewing gum pressed against the yellow line on the road. Maybe it’s a random search through Flickr (“Flickr is a clunky thing,” she says, but a random search will turn up an artist she ends up working with), and it’s not not-Instagram. “I wouldn’t say I’m not influenced by Instagram,” she says. All of these things get filtered through her prism and come out in magnificently original ways.

Moran thinks of the set and spacial design work she does as painting in 3D, and her work with color and muli-layered texture add richness to and depth to the onscreen worlds.

“Kris is not influenced by other films, which is rare,” says Hamrah.  Every project she works on, he says, is different from other things she’s done and different from other films. The originality of her aesthetic is becoming not just increasingly rare in Hollywood, Hamrah says, but in the culture generally. With the reach of social media more and more people are imitating what they’ve seen and style become more homogenized. So the entire culture is beginning to echo Hollowywood’s imitation game, one thing trying just emulating something else that was sucessful. Against this backdrop (and that of a pretty original sounding art installation) Hamrah and Moran’s conversation takes on a broader relevancy and perhaps even urgency.

Tickets for Artists Speak events at the Art Barge can be purchased here. Kris Moran and A.S. Hamrah appear Wednesday, June 19.