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Alexis Mackenzie Interview
Written by Jessica Cusik   
Tuesday, 29 April 2008 05:28
Equipped with pointy scissors, an archival glue stick and a keen sense of the beautiful and bizarre Alexis Mackenzie is part artist, part treasure hunter and a one woman confetti factory.

Equipped with pointy scissors, an archival glue stick and a keen sense of the beautiful and bizarre Alexis Mackenzie is part artist, part treasure hunter and a one woman confetti factory. This Mid-West, East Coast, San Francisco transplant makes some of the most inventive collage we've seen. We had the pleasure of talking with Alexis last week when she told us about Victorian women, blue carpets and finding someone's whole life in a box on the sidewalk. We thought we'd share it with you:

Pretend we've never met, how would you describe yourself. Age? Location? Hometown?

Well, I'm 29 and I live in beautiful San Francisco... I never really know how to answer the hometown question because I feel rooted in so many places. I was born in Ann Arbor and spent a lot of time in Michigan growing up. I lived in Iowa City from age 2-16, moved to Vermont at 16 and that is where I go "home" now, to see my parents and for holidays. I also lived in Boston for about 4 years, while I was in school there.

Where did you go to school?

I went to the school of the Museum of Fine Arts, and Tufts University, it was amazing. They have a BFA program for artists, where I took all my studio classes at the museum, and my academics at Tufts. I really loved it for the academics, which were so creative and interesting; I took classes on things like 'Magic Realism', 'Deconstructing Disney', Colonialism, 'Genetics, Ethics and the Law', Hitchcock, 'Romanticism and Realism', 'World Religions and Sexual Ethics', 'Women and Madness'... I wasn't quite as thrilled with the studio side of things, it was hard to get into the classes I wanted to take because of how the registrations process was set up, so I mainly stayed home and did my own thing. There was no attendance policy for studios and we were awarded credit at the end of each semester, at a review board. It really allowed me the freedom to explore and focus on my collages.

How would you describe your work to a blind person, not just visually, but also the feel of it?

I always have a hard time describing my work, mainly because I feel like when I say that I make collages, people instantly get a mental picture of "collage" which is usually like, y' know... more hodge-podge than what I do. This is a difficult question always. Well, I would describe them as sparingly composed and seamlessly put together. They usually feel quiet to look at. I think they are peaceful, which makes sense because I feel like when I'm working, I'm meditating; it's very good for clearing my head of daily noise and clutter. They are generally depictions of ladies inhabiting and exploring a strange and beautiful world which is in a continual cycle of breaking down, decomposing, and giving way to new beautiful life. I like to combine elements from disparate ecosystems in order to accentuate their similarities, and to place things in a context which changes their function and relationship to the things around them. Surreal is one word for it. One thing that I strive for is to create things which are beautiful just to look at, and also rewarding to think about. That to me is what makes good art - accessible and challenging at the same time.

What materials do you use to put the images together?

I've been collecting books for years. When I moved here I shipped seven boxes of books, which wasn't cheap. At this point I have a very carefully assembled library of source material; when I go book shopping, I spend hours, and am highly selective. There are so many things to consider: I cut the books up (no copies) so I try to avoid anything too valuable, nothing rare. Paper quality matters a lot, color palette, subject matter, quantity and variety of imagery, obscurity and the ability of the images to be re-contextualized. To cut things out I use scissors, I think they are for sewing or something. The blades are very short and they are curved, so there's never a straight line. They come to a point (blunt tips=bad). They are basically an extension of my hand when I'm using them.

To hold things together I just use acid-free permanent glue sticks. The main thing I like about them is they are clean and easy to apply, and stay tacky long enough to work with something for a few minutes before sticking it down, which is really important because I do so much layering... (Click here to see some of her process)

What is the best thing you've ever found while looking for images? Best thing you've found on the street?

Hmmm... I've found so many wonderful things over time... The best thing I've found on the street has nothing to do with my art really. A couple months after I moved here I was walking down Page street and saw a box on the curb - on top were some good magazines so I stopped to look through it. Underneath the magazines were four family photo albums, full of someone's life: her baby album, her teenage years, her mother's childhood, her parents' wedding, an essay by a friend about her struggle with cancer, and tucked into the back, her funeral leaflet. (see a sample) The albums are amazing, often hilarious, heartbreaking and thought-provoking to look through. One thing I want to do is find the person and return these albums to them... I have some wonderful books that I just hold on to so I can look at them for inspiration, too... one of the funniest images I've come across is of one the old-fashioned ladies I use holding a parasol, and throwing horns with the other hand.

Why is Collage the best medium for what you do?

I was just thinking about this the other day... in a way I see the collages themselves as new worlds grown from the books I destroy to make them, just like the things I represent in them. The fact that they are collages is the foundation of what I see as layers of meanings/analogies for everything in life that breaks down and becomes new again. Our relationships, our bodies, our ideas, our feelings, the food we eat, the planet we live on... everything. All things living must take life from somewhere, all things dying contribute to the cycle... I sound like such a freakin' hippie... so basically I see the books and the collages as a life-death cycle which is pretty much what everything I do is about.

What did your first collage look like?

Extremely different from what I do now... I can show it to you, I have it here. It was part journal entry, part drawing, and one collaged element. In my early collages I used a lot of objects - feathers and light switch covers and ribbon and tape and glitter, a broken watch - anything I could glue down, really. Making collages started with keeping a visual journal in high school.

Do you have a narrative in mind when sit down to make a piece, or does the narrative evolve as you're working?

I usually have a very general idea of what I want to create when I sit down to work, but I can't plan them - the narrative evolves based on what I'm drawn to in the books and what fits together and feels right, and makes sense to me. It's almost eerie sometimes how things fit together in the most wonderful and surprising ways... sometimes I feel like I am just channeling something and finding things that are meant to be together, that were incomplete until they became part of the stories in the collages. Often times after I complete pieces, I find things that I didn't even realize were there. It's easy to spend time with them, I think... they are sort of like snapshots in a way, pictures of moments between other moments - something happened leading up to the moment in the picture, and something is about to happen that we won't see. I can't control them very well, so I don't plan for anything.

How do you know when a piece is finished?

It has to have a balance of many things - imagery, composition, and meaning. I lay everything out flat and work on them for hours or days, however long it takes (weeks for larger ones) until it feels right. I cut out a lot of things that never get used and I save everything, even the paper that I cut things from. I use it all, or intend to, eventually. The silhouettes of things and the remaining paper are often so beautiful just by themselves.

If your work could have a specific smell what would it be? A specific taste? Specific sound?

For an aroma... maybe it would smell like freshly cut grass, that lovely summery smell. It would taste like berries picked alongside the trail on a hike in the mountains - huckleberries and little tiny strawberries... or it might taste like homemade pie, a little tart - not too sweet. It would sound like the t-coil mode on my hearing aids, which picks up all the electrical signals around me. I can hear light switches and security gates and all sorts of things... exactly like this: cabinetmagazine.org/issues/21/kubisch.php

If you could have any person from all of history come to one of your openings who would it be?

Hmmmm, any person... maybe Dorothy Parker, just because she would be so much fun to talk to and go to a bar with afterwards. You know she'd be making the best wisecracks and drinking everyone under the table.

Take us on a tour of your studio.

It looks like a confetti factory! I actually made the decision to get rid of my furniture last weekend... I never sit on it and I need more room. I need a bookshelf too... if you walk into my studio there are lots of plants, mostly succulents but also an orchid and this crazy sort of butterfly looking plant that opens up during the day and closes at night... lots of little knick-knacks on the mantel among them, little bird statues that friends have given me, some fake sushi (Saba!), some playing cards, and some collages. I have a huge wonderful Nathan Cordero piece along one wall, and a painting by my friend Jane Kim, and several collages hanging on the walls. On the floor is an explosion of books - stacks and stacks of them, some half open and all in tatters, in a sort of halo around where I sit on the floor and work. I'm going to get a table when the furniture goes. mixed up in all this are empty glue sticks, paper clippings, all my old mix-tapes from high school, a broken space heater, a floor light, scissors and pens and pencils, CDs, empty water bottles... and more books.

And blue carpet!

Yes, very blue carpet! I'm not wild about the blue carpet but it makes for a nice quiet apartment and comfy floor sitting... it's sort of like being in Greece, all blue and white.

What things coming up in the future should we know about?

I have so many shows coming up all of a sudden (see list below)... The main thing on my horizon right now is an August solo show in LA's Chinatown, at a new gallery called POVevolving. the gallery was founded by Jeremy Mora who is also an amazing artist - POVevolving is a multifaceted thing he is doing, I was also part of a limited edition print project he curated about a month ago. He's been amazing to work with so I'm really looking forward to the show. I'm so excited about the work I've been creating this past year, I can't wait to see where things go as I work on this show... I'm also going to be part of a collage show this fall at a new gallery here in SF called Fivepoints Arthouse, it's in North Beach. The show is called "little paper cuts: contemporary collage from the west coast". As they put it, it's going to be "... an exhibition of the finest, most innovative, forward thinking examples of contemporary collage being made on the west coast.... artworks that challenge contemporary, conventional notions of what collage can be." so I'm excited to see who else becomes involved in that show.

... and lastly, as you know, there is the upcoming world tour for our new band Mauled By Boarlets... a tropical/concrete band which sounds like dolphins having nightmares, and parrots reading your mind... there will be Hawaiian dresses, torn fishnets, up-dos, chains, steel drums, savage whiskers and brutal hooves.

Ok, now for the meat and potatoes . . .what is your favorite sandwich, music, and thing that happened this week?

My favorite sandwiches are the ones at 'say cheese' in Cole Valley... the signature sandwiches are so fresh and tasty and have the best ingredients... for music, i really have always loved Holly Golightly best since I discovered her. I've been pretty obsessed with The National's album "Boxer" for the past couple months... and I don't know what I'd do without Sam Cooke to listen to. Favorite thing that happened this week would be spending time telling stories and sharing laughs and having dance parties with my wonderful friends here in San Francisco, the best place in the world to live if you ask me and a lot of other fine folks...

And lastly, just for fun, if you could live in any other time in history when would it be?

I would maybe live in the Victorian era... the crazy fashion and weird society would be too much fun... or possibly the 20s, the flapper era, living a completely Fitzgerald existence... all speakeasies and glittery dresses. Plus, if I could be in Berlin, I would have lived through the beginning of dada and would then be experiencing the post-dada era and beginnings of surrealism.

A great interview of Alexis from Art Adventures

Upcoming Shows:
May 17th: Savage Whiskers @ FECAL FACE DOT GALLERY w/Jessica Cusick
May 17th: 4th Annual Tree Show @ Giant Robot
May 22nd: (as-yet-untitled solo show) @ BellJar
June 7th: Hello Comrade! Bring a Friend @ POV
August 2nd: (as-yet untitled solo show) @ POV
October 10th: Little Paper Cuts @ Fivepoints Arthouse {moscomment}

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SF Giants' World Series Trophy & DLX
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I'm not sure how many people are lucky enough to have The San Francisco Giants 3 World Series trophies put on display at their work for the company's employees to enjoy during their lunch break, but that's what happened the other day at Deluxe. So great.

IMG_9585_sm

SF skateboarding icons Jake Phelps, Mickey Reyes, and Tommy Guerrero with the 3 SF Giants World Series Trophies


 

Alexis Anne Mackenzie - 2/28
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a_m


 

The Death of the Artist—and the Birth of the Creative Entrepreneur
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When works of art become commodities and nothing else, when every endeavor becomes “creative” and everybody “a creative,” then art sinks back to craft and artists back to artisans—a word that, in its adjectival form, at least, is newly popular again. Artisanal pickles, artisanal poems: what’s the difference, after all? So “art” itself may disappear: art as Art, that old high thing. Which—unless, like me, you think we need a vessel for our inner life—is nothing much to mourn.

lead

Hard-working artisan, solitary genius, credentialed professional—the image of the artist has changed radically over the centuries. What if the latest model to emerge means the end of art as we have known it? --continue reading

 

"Six Degrees" @FFDG
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17_ms

Work by Meryl Pataky

 

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Ron-Turner

Ron Turner of Last Gasp

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Solidarity
Thursday, 08 January 2015 09:36

charlie

 

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tiburonbridge

The San Francisco Bay Area is renowned for its tens of thousands of acres of beautiful parks and public open spaces.

What many people don't know is that these lands were almost lost to large-scale development. link

 

1/5/14 - Going Back
Monday, 05 January 2015 10:49

As we work on our changes, we're leaving Squarespace and coming back to the old server. Updates are en route.

The content that was on the site between May '14 and today is history... Whatever, wasn't interesting anyway. All the good stuff from the last 10 years is here anyway.

###########
 

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park_life

 

NYPD told to carry spray paint to cover graffiti
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nyc_graffitiNYC --- A new graffiti abatement program put forth by the police commissioner has beat cops carrying cans of spray paint to fill in and cover graffiti artists work in an effort to clean up the city --> Many cops are thinking it's a waste of resources, but we're waiting to see someone make a project of it. Maybe instructions for the cops on where to fill-in?

The NYPD is arming its cops with cans of spray paint and giving them art-class-style lessons to tackle the scourge of urban graffiti, The Post has learned.

Shootings are on the rise across the city, but the directive from Police Headquarters is to hunt down street art and cover it with black, red and white spray paint, sources said... READ ON

 

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Wednesday, 16 June 2010 17:39


Headlands Center Fundraiser -6/4/14
Tuesday, 20 May 2014 07:54

SAN FRANCISCO --- The Headlands Center for the Arts is preparing for their largest fundraiser of the year set to go down on June 4th at SOMArts here in the city. Art auction, food, drinks, live music, etc and all for helping to support a great institution up in the Marin Headlands. ~details

ABOUT HEADLANDS
Headlands Center for the Arts provides an unparalleled environment for the creative process and the development of new work and ideas. Through a range of programs for artists and the public, we offer opportunities for reflection, dialogue, and exchange that build understanding and appreciation for the role of art in society.

headlands

 

 

 


 

 

 

//////// INSTAGRAM ----- FECAL_FACE

 

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Interview w/ Kevin Earl Taylor

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If you like guns and boobs, head on over to the Shooting Gallery; just don't expect the work to be all cheap ploys and hot chicks. With Make Stuff by Peter Gronquist (Portland) in the main space and Morgan Slade's Snake in the Eagle's Shadow in the project space, there is plenty spectacle to be had, but if you look just beyond it, you might actually get something out of the shows.


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Gator Skater +video

Nate Milton emailed over this great short Gator Skater which is a follow-up to his Dog Skateboard he emailed to us back in 2011... Any relation to this Gator Skater?


Ferris Plock Online Show Now Online as of April 25th

5 new wonderful large-scale paintings on wood panel are available. visit: www.ffdg.net


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BANDES DE PUB / STRIP BOX

In a filmmaker's thinking, we wish more videos were done in this style. Too much editing and music with a lacking in actual content. Just because you can doesn't mean you should.


AJ Fosik in Tokyo at The Hellion Gallery

Matt Wagner recently emailed over some photos from The Hellion Gallery in Tokyo, who recently put together a show with AJ Fosik (Portland) called Beast From a Foreign Land. The gallery gave twelve of Fosik's sculptures to twelve Japanese artists (including Hiro Kurata who is currently showing in our group show Salt the Skies) to paint, burn, or build upon.


Ferris Plock - Online Show, April 25th

FFDG is pleased to announce an exclusive online show with San Francisco based Ferris Plock opening on Friday, April 25th (12pm Pacific Time) featuring 5 new medium sized acrylic paintings on wood.


GOLD BLOOD, MAGIC WEIRDOS

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Jeremy Fish at LA's Mark Moore Gallery

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John Felix Arnold III on the Road to NYC

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FRENCH in Melbourne

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Henry Gunderson at Ever Gold, SF

Ever Gold opened a new solo show by NYC based Henry Gunderson a couple Saturday nights ago and it was literally packed. So packed I couldn't actually see most of the art - but a big crowd doesn't seem like a problem. I got a good laugh at what I would call the 'cock climbing wall' as it was one of the few pieces I could see over the crowd. I haven't gotten a chance to go back and check it all out again, but I'm definitely going to as the paintings that I could get a peek at were really high quality and intruiguing. You should do the same.


Mario Wagner @Hashimoto

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Serge Gay Jr. @Spoke Art

The paintings in the show are each influenced by a musician, ranging from Freddy Mercury, to Madonna, to A Tribe Called Quest and they are so stylistically consistent with each musician's persona that they read as a cohesive body of work with incredible variation. If you told me they were each painted by a different person, I would not hesitate to believe you and it's really great to see a solo show with so much variety. The show is fun, poppy, very well done, and absolutely worth a look and maybe even a listen.


NYCHOS Mural on Ashbury and Haight

NYCHOS completed this great new mural on the corner of Haight and Ashbury in San Francisco on Tuesday. Looks Amazing.


Sun Milk in Vienna

With rising rent in SF and knowing mostly other young artists without capitol, I desired a way to live rent free, have a space to do my craft, and get to see more of the world. Inspired by the many historical artists who have longed similar longings I discovered the beauty of artist residencies. Lilo runs Adhoc Collective in Vienna which not only has a fully equipped artists creative studio, but an indoor halfpipe, and private artist quarters. It was like a modern day castle or skate cathedral. It exists in almost a utopic state, totally free to those that apply and come with a real passion for both art and skateboarding


"How To Lose Yourself Completely" by Bryan Schnelle

I just wanted to share with you a piece I recently finished which took me 4 years to complete. Titled "How To Lose Yourself Completely (The September Issue)", it consists of a copy of the September 2007 issue of Vogue magazine (the issue they made the documentary about) with all faces masked with a sharpie, and everything else entirely whited out. 840 pages of fun. -Bryan Schnelle


Tyler Bewley ~ Recent Works

Some great work from San Francisco based Tyler Bewley.


Kirk Maxson and Alexis Mackenzie at Eleanor Harwood Gallery

While walking our way across San Francisco on Saturday we swung through the opening receptions for Kirk Maxson and Alexis Mackenzie at Eleanor Harwood Gallery in the Mission.


Jeremy Fish Solo Show in Los Angeles

Jeremy Fish opens Hunting Trophies tonight, Saturday April 5th, at the Los Angeles based Mark Moore Gallery. The show features new work from Fish inside the "hunting lodge" where viewers climb inside the head of the hunter and explore the history of all the animals he's killed.


The Albatross and the Shipping Container

Beautiful piece entitled "The Albatross and the Shipping Container", Ink on Paper, Mounted to Panel, 47" Diameter, by San Francisco based Martin Machado now on display at FFDG. Stop in Saturday (1-6pm) to view the group show "Salt the Skies" now running through April 19th. 2277 Mission St. at 19th.


The Marsh Barge - Traveling the Mississippi River from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico

For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to quit my job, move out of my house, leave everything and travel again. So on August 21, 2013 I pushed a canoe packed full of gear into the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Lake Itasca, Minnesota, along with four of my best friends. Exactly 100 days later, I arrived at a marina near the Gulf of Mexico in a sailboat.


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