Artist Takeover: Kelsey McClellan & Michelle Maguire

This week’s StandardVision artist takeover on the SVLA1 screen at the Marriott Courtyard Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles features collaborative work by artists Kelsey McClellan and Michelle Maguire. McClellan and Maguire are the latest artists to be invited to take over the two week-long recurring 15-second spot to showcase their work to the public, with their works on view through October 22, 2017.

We had a chance to talk with the duo about their inspiration, nostalgia, and, of course, eating snacks.

How long have you two known each other and how did you meet?

MM: We first met back in 2013 while working on Jeni Britton Bauer’s Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Desserts cookbook — I prop-styled a portion of the photos and Kelsey shot. Soon after, we started creating our own projects — which allow us freedom to experiment and are always fun — and now we’re getting some really wonderful assignments and client work. It’s exciting. We make a really great duo.

What was the inspiration for your series “Wardrobe Snacks?”

MM: This series was inspired by diners lacking the luxury of being seated at a table: my stepdad who rests his sandwich on his thigh in between bites (hell with a plate!) while he blasts an action movie on his TV; a commuter cramped up on a crowded bus retrieving an item from a bag or pocket; a lunch-breaker on a park bench eating from her lap. They’re informal — perhaps even a bit awkward — spaces as far as eating is concerned, yet the diners always appear to be comfortable and perfectly satisfied with their chosen snack, almost Zen-like.

A lot of your projects have food as the focal point – I’m all for it, because I’m forever snacking, but I’m curious as to what your fascination is with it?

MM: I try to enjoy what I’m eating all of the time, even when I’m on the go. Aside from being such visually appealing props to slip into a composition, I associate food with pleasure. I’m also a big believer in taking breaks — to eat something that awakens your senses and brings you joy and comfort, to sit outside, get some air, listen to some birds, and re-charge. Stealing a moment to snack is a wise move.

KM: We’ve always enjoyed shooting food together because of how varied the subjects can be – so many foods are aesthetically pleasing in different ways, and also very nostalgic. Before we thought of this particular project we were thinking of how to shoot food without including a table surface.

Can you tell me about your collaborative process?

MM: We make wonderful collaborators, even if it IS a little tricky now that we’re cross-country — I’m in Columbus, Ohio, and Kelsey’s in San Francisco. We get together about 6 times a year and hopefully it continues to pick up. We’re constantly devising a plan to travel to each other’s home base or meet somewhere in the middle for a shoot. When we have a job coming up, we blast each other with photos and sketches, and as much as I wish we were in the same place, it’s nice that we have two cities to be able to scour for items.

KM: We rely heavily on our phones to send each other photos of different props and surfaces one of us finds. We would definitely be shooting much more often if we were in the same place, since currently we have to plan every shoot to happen whenever we can be together! But, like Michelle said, it is nice that we have two cities to explore to find props and we can each take the time and space to come up with ideas before sharing them with each other and figuring out what works and what doesn’t.

Some of your images evoke the feeling of Martin Parr and Paul Outerbridge’s photography – do you have any photographers/artists that particularly inspire you two?

MM: Oh, wow, that’s so nice. I love them both very much, plus so many others: Stephen Shore, Lee Friedlander, William Eggleston, Cindy Sherman, Samuel Fosso, Ruth Van Beek, Ed Ruscha, Rineke Dijkstra, Ettore Sottsass, Nathalie du Pasquier, Andrew Bush, Nina Katchadourian, Collier Schorr, Keirnan and Theo, Simon Porte Jacquemus, Malick Sidibé, Tata Naka, Lenka Clayton, Shio Kusaka, Jonas Wood…

KM: Martin Parr is a huge inspiration – I love his work and his humorous approach. I also love Ruth Van Beek, David Ligare, Grant Cornett, Taryn Simon, Agnes Martin, Yayoi Kusama, Josef Frank, Helen Frankenthaler, Richard Diebenkorn, Georgia O’Keefe, Sanzo Wada, Frank Stella, etc.

Something else that I appreciate about both of your work is that it feels like it could be from any time – it isn’t tied to the strictly contemporary photographic aesthetic we’re accustomed to. Is there a particular era you reference, and what is it that drives you to make images like this?

MM: I tend to draw inspiration from people I see out in the world, just going about their business. The way they talk, walk, and interact with one another while performing mundane transactions. They’re unintentionally yet so perfectly styled. I also live in the land of terrific thrift stores and estate sales, so I’m always gathering stuff — objects, clothing, paper ephemera, carpet remnants — that I think will photograph well, but I really hunt like crazy when there’s a shoot coming up. Styling combines my love of hunting, collecting, and organizing, and then thinking about ways of arranging those collected objects within a visual frame. I get really excited by color and form and texture, and I think I’m always trying to create environments that feel cozy and inviting and a little nostalgic, while at the same time maybe a tad uneasy.

KM: Thank you! What a great compliment. That’s something I think every artist maybe worries about a bit – not coming across as trendy while also making what is relevant and what you like. For us I think we really always just make what we like, and what we wish we’d seen before, or rather something that would make us mad if we hadn’t made it first when we did see it, you know? I don’t know if we really think of specific eras for reference… We enjoy pulling bits of things that inspire us from all over regardless of time, culture, or class – the mix is what makes an exciting/interesting visual.


You can see more of Kelsey and Michelle’s work on instagram – @kelseyemc and @pandahandler – or on their collaborative website here