Recommended Bushwick Open Studio: MaryKate Maher

by Paddy Johnson on May 31, 2012 AFC Goes To Bushwick

MaryKate Maher (Studio View)

NAME: MaryKate Maher
MEDIUM: Sculpture
STUDIO LOCATION: 1182 Flushing Ave, 2nd Floor
BUSHWICK OPEN STUDIO HOURS: Saturday June 2nd, 2012, 12pm-6pm, Sunday June 3rd, 2012, 12pm-6pm
SHARED STUDIO: Yes, with 1 artist: Oliver Jones

[Editor’s note: Over the next three days we’ll be recommending artist studios we think readers should visit during Bushwick Open Studios this weekend, providing interviews with selected artists and compiling it into handy AFC maps you all can use to get around. We know the size of this event can be a little overwhelming. Hopefully, our work will make navigating the Bushwick terrain a little easier.]

MaryKate Maher’s work is a little like a Matthew Ronay sculpture minus the steroids. She’s got the hand-made abstract sculptures and the discrete arrangements of objects, but skips the cum finish lines and hanging anal cupcake beads. Instead, Maher opts for scary. In one piece, a lamb—covered in what appears to be human flesh—has had one leg transformed into gold. In another, what appears to be a witch’s broom is coated repeatedly with black resin. When Maher tells us there’s no intended narrative, it seems like the spookiest answer possible.

Your work is really dark. I sort of imagine it as a place where a contemporary Grimms fairy tale witch would hang out. How much of what you do is intuitive, rather than calculated or towards a narrative end?

Many people have used the term “fairy tale” or “fantastical” to describe my work. I don’t really think of them that way. They might suggest narratives to other people, which I don’t mind, but for me it’s more formal. I think that it stems from the fact that I create sculptures as objects based on memory, how I think they should look. The sculptures have their own space and identity which refer to objects in this world and have a kinship with forms we know, but the elements of abstraction or fabrication keep them from being tied to a specific place. So the sculptures exist as remnants of a place that resides between fact and fiction. The sources come from interactions I have with my surroundings. The blocks around my studio are very much involved in the inspiration for my work, as are industrial sites in general.

As for intuition, the work is always calculated from its inception, however part of the energy of physically making something is the moment when you drift a bit off the mark and make a gesture that wasn’t planned. Those intuitive moments happen often, but couldn’t exist if the calculation hadn’t preceded them.

How does making work for public spaces inform your decision making— or does it?

Creating work for public spaces is much more stressful. There are so many more things to consider, for example the interference of external colors, reflections, shadows. Size becomes an issue as everything is dwarfed if exhibiting outside. It requires a lot more planning from start to finish and doesn’t leave much room for experimentation during the process. It is challenging, but that is part of the allure— pushing oneself out of a comfort zone.

MaryKate Maher, For Privilege and Puerility, 2008

Do your drawings inform your sculptures, or vice versa? If so, how?

They both inform each other in different ways. Many times I begin with a drawing and decide that it would make for an interesting sculpture. It is usually the result of a formal element that I become attached to, like the outline of a shape or a smudge. I tend to continue to sketch while I am working on a sculpture, especially if I need to resolve a spatial problem. As I make sketches, some of these become their own complete drawings. Working two dimensionally allows me to ignore gravity, which opens up interesting possibilities. I have recently begun making collages that include slight reliefs. I am most interested in this hybrid of partially-flattened sculptural forms and fully-flattened images that play with depth perception.

What music do you listen to in the studio?

I usually listen to something upbeat during the week. My current go-to Pandora stations are Fear, The Cramps and Wire. On weekends I like to listen to oldies, or Leonard Cohen and Lee Hazlewood. I equate Sundays with nostalgia.

[Art Fag City Bushwick Open Studios coverage is generously supported by the Brooklyn Arts Council and reader donations.] 

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