Monday, June 13, 2011

Paula McCartney - Photographer

Excerpt from A Field Guide to Snow and Ice, 2008-2011
Paula McCartney

Name: Paula McCartney
City/State: Minneapolis, MN

Paula McCartney creates photographs and books that explore the idea of constructed landscapes. She earned an M.F.A. in Photography from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2002. McCartney has received an Aaron Siskind Photography Fellowship and a McKnight Photography Fellowship. Bird Watching was recently exhibited at the Klompching Gallery in Brooklyn, NY and the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, IL. Princeton Architectural Press published a monograph of the project in the Spring of 2010.

Excerpt from A Field Guide to Snow and Ice, 2008-2011

Tell me about your work? What are you currently working on? How is this different from past projects?
I’m working on a project called A Field Guide to Snow and Ice, which is currently on view in one of the MAEP galleries at the MIA. The project is my interpretation of the idea of winter. After moving from San Francisco to Minneapolis I spent the first winters inside and afraid that I now lived in what felt like the arctic. Several years ago I decided to brave the elements and explore the snowy landscape, however, at times without being out in the cold.

The series includes images of snowfalls and wildflowers, frozen waterfalls and stalagmites, snowdrifts and piles of gypsum sand, as well as other icy forms in order to explore and reinterpret natural structures and the way they can reference multiple ideas on both micro and macro levels. The ambiguity of scale and substance helps the subjects transcend their source. With less there is more. I now see winter everywhere, in every environment, in every season and categorize it by pattern, shape, and line rather than merely by substance.

I’ve always been interested in constructed landscapes. This project differs from my last one, Bird Watching (in which I placed craft store songbirds in the landscape and photographed them), in that all of the elements in the photographs are natural. However the images don’t accurately document an actual landscape, but rather present elements that I have subtracted from it. I think a viewer would have difficult time finding the scenes that I’ve photographed. The photographs reflect how I want to see the world rather than how it actually is. The construction in this series lies in the suggestions that I am making through juxtaposition and sequencing.

"What is Art?" is certainly too big of a question to ask here, but what do you hope your audience takes away from your art? What statement do you hope to make?
I hope my work suggests and encourages a wider and more open way of looking.

Excerpt from A Field Guide to Snow and Ice, 2008-2011

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
Be disciplined in your practice. Being an artist is a(n amazing) job, and making the work is only a part of that job.

Tell me about your work space and your creative process.
My studio is in my home, which I love. I can spend a full day in my studio on the days my son is at school, or 10 minutes some other time considering new prints. Right now, I have a lot more time than I have had in the past year to make new work. I can work on a project in my head but sometimes it takes a year to get it out in a tangible form. I just finished two book mock-ups of ideas that I’ve had in the back of my head for some time.

Installation view of A Field Guide to Snow and Ice, 2008-2011, MAEP Gallery, MIA

Who are some of the Minnesota artists you enjoy?

Margaret Pezalla-Granlund
and Gregory Euclide ( are two artists that illustrate an environment in a really unique way.

I’m also interested in the books that Alec Soth ( has been making-both his own and other artists, and Location Books ( published by Ruben Nusz ( and Scott Nedrelow (

If I were to follow you around to see art in Minnesota, which places would we go? What would we see?
I recently saw the Goshka Macuga installation at the Walker ( and after reading the (free) catalog that accompanied the piece, I’m looking forward to going back and spending more time with it. Nan Goldin’s slide show, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency ( is also at the Walker now and is something I see every time I have the opportunity to. And of course, to Franklin Art Works in June to see the McKnight Photography Fellows exhibition that includes new work by my husband, Lex Thompson (

Where do you go online for good art resources, whether to find a new artist, or to see what is going on in the art world locally and otherwise?
I’ve been thinking a lot about books lately and these sites are good resources-Indie Photobook Library (, Buffet (, The Photobook (, Conscientious ( I also look at the New Yorker’s listing of current exhibitions so I can then go to the gallery or museum website to see an artist’s new work.

Installation view of A Field Guide to Snow and Ice, 2008-2011, MAEP Gallery, MIA

Do you have any exhibits to promote now?
An installation of A Field Guide to Snow and Ice is on view in the MAEP gallery at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts through July 3.


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