Date of Submission

Spring 2011

Academic Program

Studio Arts


Medrie MacPhee

Abstract/Artist's Statement

Kim Shifrin

Artist’s Statement

Senior Project Title: Look/See

April 27th, 2011

When on my way to sleep early in my life, I would stare at the white ceiling above my bed and pick out faces created from the creases in the paint. After many nights of staring I developed a habit of seeing the same faces over and over again. It became hard to see anything new in the ceiling, the forms traced in my mind were less free and more automatic; there, again, was profile of the same man with the long nose and extended brow as the night before etc. When attempting to alter the familiar faces I was dissatisfied with my new creations and quickly disregarded them for what now seemed like the instinctual forms. These faces were so obvious to me that I even found it odd when no one else could see what I was talking about in pointing out the faces. This same sort of looking game is played frequently with clouds. People seem to naturally create associations from abstract forms found in everyday life, and this seeing process is subjective and behaves differently in everyone’s mind. This sort of gaze is similar to the way in which a viewer first confronts an abstract work of art. The initial sight is like a choice of what the mind will make of the piece, and only further observation can alter this primary sentiment. The pieces in the collection “Look/See” are intended to serve foremost as objects of free association and meditation. No references within the work are directly intended, the mind is left free to categorize and think. The way I have manipulated the surface with paint and fabric should trap the eye within the painting.

On a material level, over the past year I have been working on my way of relating to art making. I wanted to develop a new form of mark making and remove evidence of my hand more from the final pieces. I accomplished this by using sewing to create line and using fabric to create planes of color and texture. Subtle shifts in color have become much more important to me, so I sewed large pieces of color on the back of the of some of the paintings as a substitute for washes. My interest in fabric stemmed from its complicated history and beauty as a material on and off the canvas.

It is not difficult for me to imagine that everyone sees something different when looking at a piece of abstract art. In this way the works exists on two planes; the piece has a physical existence in the world and metaphysical existence (an emotional reaction) in the brain. For me the work symbolizes this process in two steps; the first glance one recognizes the piece as an abstract painting, and in the second closer glance, one sees that some of the paint is actually fabric, and the illusion is undone. In this way the pieces hopefully trip up that instinct reaction in order to gain a deeper level of insight from one’s own eye in the painting.

There is a difference between looking and seeing. One either sees and understands the intention of the artist, sees it for what it is on its own, or disregards it, looking but seeing nothing and probably walking away. Art often exists in the world and as a debate in our minds. Sometimes art is instinctually appreciated at first glance and sometimes it grows into liking. I hope I have created work that people find accessible, relatable, and worthy of contemplation, and I hope others may find something of themselves in the work.

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