INTERVIEW WITH KASEY MCMAHON
Kasey McMahon is a multidisciplinary artist who explores the relationship that technology has on the world. In his works she uses recycled and unconventional materials to give life to her works that often involve not only objects but entire environments.
Her ever evolving art manages to surprise and this interview reveals some of her new ideas and projects for the future.
How did you start your career as an artist?
As with many people, my creative path was a somewhat windy road. I had always created and I studied Art History at university but I didn't have a solid model or understanding of what an artistic career could potentially look like. I later moved to an artist community in Los Angeles and that influence and inspiration opened my eyes to the possibility of pursuing art further.
I simply began creating, not only pieces but also transforming environments. I was thrilled by the realization that living a creative life was possible and could sustain me. It was such a great feeling – I just kept moving forward, trying to push the limits what I could do with ideas and materials. I remain very grateful for the opportunities to exhibit early on.
In your works you exploit different materials, often recycled, how do you choose them? Are the materials to inspire you the idea of a new work or is the process contrary?
With most works, I begin by wanting to express a particular idea. I am working from the idea first, then will try to find or choose the material that will best relay that message or thought.
As far as physically acquiring the objects, for the recycled pieces I usually go directly to tech recyclers. I'm very happy when the recyclers have things well-sorted. That is not always the case but the treasure hunt seems to often be part of the process. I constantly have my eyes open for intriguing looking components.
Occasionally I'll find a material that is so new or original that it sparks an idea on its own. But that tends to be rare. It is lovely when it happens, though.
How important is the message about the human impact on the environment in your art?
It's very important to me to shine light on the human impact on the environment. It's too easy to forget how much our waste and actions affect the world when it's out of our line of sight. I'm extremely interested in creating experiences and visual narratives that spark interest and conversations about alternative use and sustainability. I don't necessarily want to raise a moral finger, it’s more important to me to create an experience of wonder and delight that can lead to shifting perspectives and reframing an issue.
How do you imagine the perfect setting to expose your works?
I'm drawn to venues that are off the beaten track. For my new exhibition, the ideal space is one that I can transform into a full immersive installation, where the environment itself is part of the work – allowing for the ability to play with all of the senses.
I love to transform environments through a combination of visuals, sound, smell, and touch. The ideal setting for me is a space that is publicly accessible with free rein to alter the interior and create an otherworldly experience.
In one of your interview you said that art is a solo research but that the importance of collaborations is considerable. Is there one that you consider particularly important in your artistic career?
Yes, I do believe that a lot of art is a solo venture. At least that's been my experience. Ideas need alone time to percolate - being still and giving yourself time, space, and silence are an important part of the process. I like the notion that many ideas are not necessarily our own but are looking for a place to land and ready hands to bring them to life. I feel as if my best work is not really mine but simply something that wanted to be expressed. There's a special type of magic that comes from letting your mind be an open container of sorts – combining your skills and experience with the unknown and pulling that into reality.
That said, I also love collaboration and feel like the combination of dedicated solo time along with collaborative production is an ideal situation. I've had great experiences creating sculptural pieces for films – the level of precision and dedication of the crews is consistently inspiring and impressive. One of my favorite long-term collaborations was a multi-year wearable art partnership called Psycho Girlfriend.
I find the Psycho Girlfriend project very interesting. Can you talk about the idea and the development of this work?
Thank you, Psycho Girlfriend was an incredible time of learning and experimentation. My collaborator on the project is a dear friend, Vanessa Bonet. She and I started working together on Psycho Girlfriend in the early 2000s as a way of exploring materials and applying that to fashion and wearable art. I absolutely loved the process and the collaboration. For both of us the project really opened us up to alternative ways of seeing objects and materials. I think the years working together and the freedom to apply a very different visual sense to the human form really shaped the way I approach my work now.
Do you have a collaboration in mind for the future that you would like to achieve?
Yes, I do have a collaboration in mind for the future. My partner is a Director and we've been talking about working creatively together. I'm not sure exactly how that will look - whether it will be more film or art based - but I very much look forward to combining our visions.
Is there any artist from the past that you feel particularly close to?
Yes. Louise Bourgeois' cumulative work. She was so expressive and had incredible range along with the ability to relay feeling through so many different materials.
Also, I find Alberto Giacometti very compelling. His figurative work has been very inspiring for the new bronze series that I am currently working on.
Anyone in the present that you like to follow?
Yes. Presently, I am dazzled and infinitely inspired by Neri Oxman's work. I love her perspective on art and nature and how she is pushing the boundaries and crossing over into biotech and design. Her use of materials and technology are prescient and such a beautiful blend of possibility. Deep respect for working on the edge like she does and her ability to so elegantly combine art, science, engineering, and design.
How is your work going in this Lockdown period?
It's a surreal time, as I imagine it is for everyone. Before the pandemic, I had nearly completed a new series of bronzes here in Mexico for an exhibition called La Luna. That's been postponed and I look forward to creating the immersive environment when the time is right.
While in lockdown, I've been putting the final touches on that series, working a large sculpture commissioned before the crisis, and also trying to use this quiet time to focus on new ideas. Like everyone, there are days that I feel more focused than others. I like the idea that this time is perfect for creating and pushing our own artistic boundaries but it also seems important to acknowledge that we're living through an unprecedented period. There isn't an instruction manual for how to proceed – we're adapting in so many ways.
With work, it feels right to give myself some time to process the enormity of what these changes will
mean in the days ahead. We're essentially being asked to question everything we know. Is the way we've been working and living sustainable? Is this how we want to continue living? What do we deem as necessary? What do we truly value? It's as if this crisis has brought us to a crossroads where we have the opportunity choose and adapt a new manner of living and perspective. Exciting but also daunting because there are so many unknowns. To let go of the illusion of control isn't a simple process!
My work was evolving down a more natural, organic road before this crisis started and all of this has definitely cemented that evolution. I look forward to seeing how it all plays out, both personally and collectively. We're living through a huge moment and transitional time in history. May we all move through it with grace and find calm through the chaos. Here's to brighter days ahead.