Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Camey McGilvray Interview

acrylic on metal 24 x 36 x 8"
Camey McGilvray

Working with wood, metal, and paint, Camey McGilvray brings imagination into colorful three dimensional form.

When did you first realize that you were an artist? How long have you had the courage to identify yourself as such?

I guess at some unacknowledged level, I knew I was an artist ever since I was a very young child. I always "did" art - whether it was for my own enjoyment or by being the one called on whenever something needed illustration. In high school, my art teacher took an interest in me and even started saving my artwork and that nurtured the seed that was always in me.

In the early 90's, I began to make my three-dimensional wood and metal pieces. An artist friend happened to refer to the two of us by saying, "after all, we're artists." And that's when it finally sunk in. I have been referring to myself as an artist ever since. It took someone else to tell me I was an artist.

Where were you raised and how has it influenced your art?

I was born in New Jersey. I was raised in New Jersey, spent every summer in the Catskills of New York State and worked and lived in Manhattan before moving to Pacific Palisades. I love where I was raised. The people are colorful and with it. Growing up and when I lived in Manhattan, art was just so accessible. I was completely immersed in art. I spent a lot of time in museums and art galleries and roaming SoHo and Tribecca. Where I was raised has influenced my art. I think it has made my art bolder, more flamboyant, more edgy, more original and certainly more contemporary.

Did you attend Art School or are you self-taught? Does this experience serve you?

With the kind of art I do now - wood and metal wall sculptures and freestanding sculptures - I am mostly self-taught. I learned most of my woodworking skills by observing others. My grandfather was a cabinetmaker and later a homebuilder, as was my father. My dad also was a wood hobbyist and had a workshop in our home where he built furniture and all sorts of cool things. He could fix anything and had the tools to do it with. I have some of my father and grandfather's tools and use them today, although I use mainly power tools. I have also been around many construction projects (great source for material) both growing up and here in California, including the constant renovation that goes on in my own home. I am either observing the workers or doing the work myself.

I am also trained in welding, but now leave that to the experts when the need arises. I stick to using metal I can handle and mostly use mechanical means when fabricating metal pieces. My mom was an expert sewer and using a scroll saw is actually like sewing when you think of it. The blade, just as is the sewing needle, is fixed, and the material is maneuvered through it. So, I think I picked up that skill from watching my mother. Also, I had endless practice laying out and cutting the dress patterns with her. I often think of my mom when I lay out and cut the wood pieces for my work.

I have had formal training in art. I studied fashion illustrating in New York when I was in my teens. In college I majored in History and Government but also took all of the art courses the school had to offer. In fact, I took most of them twice. I studied art in New York City at both The New School and at my very favorite Art Students' League. I also studied art in Mexico City at the University of the Americas and continue to find attractive the flat, outliney style and use of bold colors of the Mexican muralists.

Who are the artists (no longer living) with whom you most identify?

Form is uppermost in my sculptures, which range from abstract to nonobjective. Even in my most non-objective pieces, there is at least a hint of the real life inspiration behind the piece. Also, I am not a fan of solid mass sculpture and my pieces are constructed or assembled into the final product rather than chiseled from solid material. That being said, among the sculptors I most admire are the constructivist brothers Naum Gabo and Antoine Pevsner, whose exquisite forms take my breath away. In Louise Nevelson's work, the whole was definitely greater than the sum of the parts, the parts being the scraps and bits of discarded junk, which she converted into one beautiful whole. I, too, am also a great admirer and collector of random objects (i.e. junk) and Nevelson is an inspiration for their potential value. Two other sculptors I admire are David Smith and Frank Stella. Frank Stella's sculptures amuse me no end because of the colors and the composition.

As far as painters go, I admire most of the cubists, especially Leger. To name just a few of the many artists who inspire me: Moholy-Negi, Lissitsky and Kandinsky as well as Klee and Duchamp. My overall favorite however is Picasso. I find Picasso endlessly interesting and inspirational.

acrylic, wood/metal 33 x 18 x 8"
Camey McGilvray

Do others in your family make art? Do you get the blessings of your family in your decision to make art?

My father was an artist and two of his brothers were artists: My uncle John was a commercial artist and my favorite uncle Tony was a terrific fine artist. My daughter, although she doesn't call herself an artist, does astounding collages. She truly has "the eye." She is the ONLY person whose opinion I ever seek on anything pertaining to my art. She likes my work and doesn't want me to part with any of it.

Generally, I have the blessings of my family in my decision to make art.
My mother would have encouraged something more economically supportive had I chosen it as a career while she was still living, which I didn't. My dad was really very proud and complementary of my work, especially since it involves wood working skills. I do have the blessings of my son, daughter and granddaughters, although the time-consuming nature of my art takes a tremendous chunk out of the time I could be spending with them. So, they wish me well but would like to see more of me.

How important is selling your artwork to you? What does it feel like when someone purchases your work?

When I start on a piece, it is because it is what I want to do and whether it will sell or not is not a consideration. My colors do not blend easily with most peoples' decors and so be it. My sculptures are one of a kind and I do not like to repeat any of my pieces. Nor will I take a commission for which the client has artistic input into the output. I have not as yet been able to completely support myself with my artwork.

I am pleased when someone likes my artwork. To me it means I have given them some enjoyment or reached their heart or soul in some way. When someone purchases my artwork I am thrilled that it touched them to the point that they had to have it. In both cases, whether purchased or merely admired, I am pleased both for myself and for the piece. I love all my pieces, whether admired by others or not. I am a cruel mother however and have destroyed or dismantled the ones I didn't love.

What fuels your passion to make art? What mediums do you use to get that passion across?

Once I get an idea for a sculpture, I need to get it made. My artwork comes directly from my imagination. I don't use photos or sketch from the actual object. I do usually make a simple line drawing of what I have in mind and if necessary make a pattern before beginning. Other times I work directly with the wood or metal to three-dimensionalize the piece until what I had in mind materializes before me.

My work as an artist is to use the materials and work through the construction and painting challenges to successfully create in the real world my initial images of each piece. I find the process enjoyable, exciting and rewarding. My goal as an artist is to create artwork that interests, amuses and excites the viewer.

Each art piece I create tells a story and since my artwork is evocative rather than representational, I rely solely on the shape and placement of the component pieces, the shadows that are cast and the color and texture of the paint to provide the viewer with the opportunity to experience a transformational moment that takes him beyond the parts to the whole idea.

Does any of this making of art that you do really matter?

The making of my art matters immensely. Art is the centerpiece of my life and is important to me second only to my family. I have so many ideas for pieces that I MUST do and I constantly feel the pressure to get them out of my head and into the world. To me, the pieces already exist and are waiting to be given life. I guess you could say I have a passion for my art.

Camey McGilvray in the studio working on Balance.

Camey McGilvray's upcoming exhibition at TAG Gallery opens on March 30, 2010

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