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Relive Marcus McDonald's Debut Solo Show In Seattle

New York City-based photographer and filmmaker Marcus McDonald is trying to reach your subconscious with his unique, and at times unsettling, art. Finding inspiration in clowns, daytime television and psychoanalysis, his work resonates in the midst of today’s marketing ploys and disturbing news cycle. Party Hat Gallery in Seattle seemed like a natural fit for his first solo show, considering the questions and themes McDonald spends so much time debating. Serving as a gallery, community workspace, and screen printing shop, and bringing attention to queer and under-represented artists, it too defies the boundaries of a particular medium or mood. Read on to discover why McDonald named the show “Ephemeral Panic”, where he draws inspiration from, and what’s next.

How did you get started?

I’ve always been interested in pushing the boundaries of “real” experiences. For me, that has always included all sorts of art. I went to school for poetry writing, all the while taking photos and making music and films. Performance art is a relatively new medium I’ve played around with as well. So I’d say I got started by experimenting with what different mediums can offer.

What and who inspires you?

Mysticism and spirituality from around the world, tarot, magic, surrealism, clowns, scary movies, teen dramas, daytime television, dollar stores, old stuff and most importantly my friends’ art.

What are the major themes and questions you hope to ask with your work?

I’d like to think that my work challenges the monotony that is forced on the world by the power structures in place. There are so many cool people with unique perspectives on everything from serious political thought to philosophical ramblings on reality, but civilization and humans discourage us to challenge anything. So perhaps an overarching question would be What’s the point (of anything)? and What does reality really look like?

What do you hope viewers take away from your work? What do you want them to think of when they think of Marcus McDonald?

I always hope that people have very personal and unique experiences with my work. I’d like to think of it as inviting the viewer to assume the role of dream analyst and connect the dots of whatever symbols resonate within them. That’s pretty much what a tarot reading is, but tarot has a more specific and referential set of symbols. Sure I’d like for people to recognize and be inspired by my work, but more importantly I want people to think about their relationship to the world around them spiritually, symbolically, realistically, and otherwise.

How did you curate and design your most recent gallery show in Seattle?

My friend Mary Anne Carter, curator of DIY gallery Party Hat, invited me to show my work during the intersection of 2 city-wide art events, while she was simultaneously installing her own show and planning her own wedding. That’s a really hard thing to do. I wanted to show work that paid homage to the people who have put themselves out there to help and collaborate with me and center it around that, as opposed to my ego or the ego of my art itself. Part of this was arranging and printing my work to fit into the gaudy, gay, and humor-oriented Party Hat notoriously described as “unpredictable, faggy, experimental, and hilarious”

What story were you trying to tell in the show? Why the title Ephemeral Panic?

Ephemeral Panic is a direct reference to Alejandro Jodorowsky’s transformative methodology in theater and performance very throughly discussed in his book Psychomagic. Basically, he describes it as the opposite of how actors in movies and TV act. Instead of having a set of rules in which your character must behave to turn into this representation of a “real” character, the Panic Actor sheds the rules and allows the howling of their subconscious to control their actions. This really resonated with me as I try to facilitate a new subconscious creature or being to be born out of a collaboration.

I love how you incorporated so many mediums into a photography show, like the mugs and old television screens. Why and how did you choose these mediums to express the show’s concept?

I like to think of my work as inter-dimensional. So the images happen inside of another layer of the world around us. Using very tactile and present objects, I hope to suspend the viewer in between dimensions, allowing the concrete and familiar parts of the work dissolve the borders.

What’s next on the horizon?

I’m always working on new concepts and reaching out to people to collaborate with. I’m excited to discover more strange worlds.

Images courtesy of Marcus McDonald

Stay tuned to Milk for more art we love.

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