Walthall Artist Fellow: Macey Ley

In the lead up to the 2017 Walthall Fellows’ exhibit at MOCA-GA this summer, we will be featuring an interview with each of the Fellows from this year’s cohort. This round, our intern Grace Gardner interviews Macey Ley.

Macey Ley is a mixed-media artist in Atlanta, Georgia. The form of her work follows the concept and ranges from painting and sculpture to installations and artist books. She completed her BFA in photography at the University of New Mexico, studied book arts at Studio Arts Center International in Florence, Italy, and earned her MFA in painting at the Savannah College of Art and Design. She is a Distinct Fellow at the Hambidge Center Creative Residency and is a 2016-17 Walthall Artist Fellow. Ley is a corporate event producer and creative director and has curated shows and exhibited her artwork throughout the United States and Italy. She recently finished the final editions of a collection of clear sculptural artist books about double entendre entitled Versions of Truth and has begun a loosely-related body of work centered around food relationships and the dynamics of family dinners.

GG: What would you say has been the most valuable experience you have taken away from WonderRoot’s Walthall Artist Fellowship?

ML: I’ve met so many wonderful art professionals and have really enjoyed the perspectives and insights from my fellow artists. I knew there would be a lot to learn, and they’ve been so helpful.

GG: Can you describe your process as an artist?

ML: I tend to have a handful of ideas brewing at any given moment and several seemingly disparate projects in different stages at the same time. I could be making artist books, paintings, videos, or components to an installation all at the same time. And I must, must, must spend time with my materials – manhandling them to understand their properties and what they’re (not) willing to do. You could say that my process is fueled by the synapses created through the connections among the concepts. As I push into one of them, I find solutions for another and vice versa. From the outside, it probably looks like total chaos in my studio with stuff all about and very little to show in the outset. But then everything comes together, and all of the projects start to manifest. I can’t say it’s the most logical method, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

GG: What do you do when you find yourself at an “artist block”? Do you have any methods of pushing past that feeling?

ML: Having multiple projects going at one time helps keep artist block at bay and allows my mind to free associate. When one piece isn’t working or I can’t figure out the next step, I work on another piece. In time, I’m able to go back to the piece that stalled with renewed energy and tactics.

GG: What advice do you have for individuals who are interested in becoming professional artists?

ML: I don’t know if there’s a really good way to plan for a profession in art. If you really want to make it a profession, you’re going to have to play by the rules of other people. If you’re cool with that, then by all means follow the rules. Instead, I recommend just making. When I stopped focusing on the profession and instead concentrated on simply making, my work became more fluid, more consistent, more authentic. Then I had the confidence to introduce the world to my work and could better navigate the system.

GG: In what ways, if any at all, is positive social change integrated into your work?

ML: The aim of my work is to reveal how belief in cultural and personal myths shape an individual’s perspective of the world and sense of self – that a person’s identity is an amalgamation of assumptions they have determined to believe. Self-reflection can lead to identifying personal biases and taking action to modify behavior. In every piece I try to break down barriers to offer a safe place for that.

GG: What do you plan to do upon completing the Walthall Artist Fellowship?

ML: Oh, I’ll still be making and learning new skills to make other things. I’m in the second stage of a community-based installation for a local school that debuts this fall, and I’ll be learning everything I can about glass for a new series I’m cooking up.

Building a Ship from the Shipwreck,…..a matter of finding our way, or rather, a willingness to be lost opens at MOCA-GA on July 13, 2017. The 2017 Walthall Artist Fellowship was generously and lovingly facilitated by Sarah Higgins, curator of the Zuckerman Museum at Kennesaw State University. Tickets can be purchased here.

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