About the Work

Appearances can be deceiving.  Seeing is believing.  Pictures don’t lie. Things are not always what they seem.  The paradoxes of our dominant sense—sight—and visual representations are at the heart of my work.  We know that our eyes and brain can be fooled, yet we often respond to what we see, or think we see, as highly authoritative. An interdisciplinary artist, my exploration of the relationships between appearance and reality and between the seer and the seen takes many different forms. I have done conceptual, performance, and social practice art as well as small scale sculpture emphasizing miniatures and a range of digital projects. Much of the work has implicit or explicit themes of social justice and ethics with racial and gender equity most central in these pieces and projects.

The work may exploit or emphasize the opportunity for deception with the intention of challenging our ready acceptance of the “truth” of what we see.  It may deliberately challenge or expand on our experience of commonplace visual references or everyday objects.  Or it may attempt to represent the complexity of perception.  While the questions are serious, much of my work is intentionally playful and humorous. 

At heart, my subject matter is the familiar, the everyday, whether it is language and signifiers of contemporary life in the US, or the everyday objects that we encounter or the now everyday experience of browsing the internet or having zoom meetings. While the work comes in various forms, the objectives are similar. I seek to challenge my viewer to see phenomena anew. I bring attention to experiences that are so familiar as to be rendered invisible and make them strange and unfamiliar by exposing something about them that causes the audience to reconsider their significance. This may mean creating a social intervention that disrupts people’s routines. It might be a short video critiquing a road construction project as if it were a piece of art. Sometimes, I will alter an object or make a new and surprising version. It can be as simple as the surrealist trick of juxtaposing usually unrelated objects or shifting the context.  It is in the reconsideration of our everyday experience that there is the possibility for new and creative solutions, or for fundamental social change. With this as the end in sight, I prefer participatory and interactive forms that engage my audience personally. Even my sculptural work, this could mean the viewer must turn on a switch, or open a door or drawer. Much of it is made to hand-held as much as for placing on a pedestal or mounting on the wall.

As noted, my work is not tied to any specific medium. Since childhood I have been fascinated by the miniature, especially when highly detailed. As a maker, this fascination is evident in my assemblages and boxes, few of which are bigger than 12 inches at the largest dimension. Even in my two-dimensional work, I have preferred small sizes and have used the 6”x 6” format frequently over the last 10 years or so. Small things tell a story.  Whether true miniatures or simply small objects each one speaks of its past, whether it is a found object crafted by an artisan or churned out by a machine. It was made with a purpose; it has had owners; it has been loved or taken for granted. Each one invites your imagination to wander. Even in miniature there can be the evocation of vast space.

The thread that runs through my work is a fascination with the ways that humans see the world. Why do some things please the eye more than others? What is it about the miniature that is so captivating? Why is it that we enjoy having our senses, especially sight, fooled? How can we remind ourselves to truly look at the objects in the world we inhabit? Are there differences between appearance and reality? These are just some of the questions I attempt to answer with my art.

Alec MacLeod