Wk9 – Artist Conversation – Maccabee Shelley

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During this week’s intriguing artist conversation I had the pleasure of meeting, artist Maccabee Shelley. Maccabee is an artist who currently works here at California State University, Long Beach. He grew up in LA, and then moved to San Francisco. He loved living in San Francisco because it wasn’t hot, but there was one thing about San Francisco that forced him to move an hour south. San Francisco classes and schools were too crowded to get into, and that’s when he decided to go to Humboldt State, because it still wasn’t hot there and it wasn’t crowded. He recently received his undergraduate degree from Humboldt State University focusing in studio art and a minor in art history. Maccabee claims that he was never interested in art until he started college. As a kid he was always interested in science and reading, but when he was receiving C’s and B’s in those classes and A’s in art classes, that’s when he found out he wanted to pursue an interest in art. He didn’t fully pursue it until 2010 when he started doing ceramics. He now uses ceramics in most of his work now, and he makes some really great pieces from glass ceramics including what I saw today in the Gatov-West gallery.

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There are multiple pieces in his showing and they all make up what he calls “Fragile Nature”.  Fragile Nature consists of plaster but mostly glass ceramics. In the past he messed around with some acrylic painting but that was all before he found his love for ceramics. Even though, he is an artist now, he has found ways to incorporate his love for science into his work. He says that in the process of making his pieces there is a lot of science that goes into it. The process starts off him making or buying a bowl of clay, and then fills it with glass and fires it for the first time. He then lets it cool, and applies more colors and finishes, then puts it into the kiln and then lets the glass cool again. He finishes off the piece by torching it again and applying more glass. Glass is expensive, and Maccabee has a very limited amount of money. He used to get a lot of his glass from the recycling center, or garage sales, but now the community brings glass to his studio and it’s ridiculous how much he actually has now. He has so much glass that it’s actually overflowing.

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“For every piece we see, there is probably 6 more just like it.” That is how Maccabee when asked which was his favorite piece. He said that he cannot pick one favorite because to everyone else they are all individual pieces, but to him all his pieces are a torrent of water and he just scooped up a few to show us. Maccabee doesn’t have a specific ultimate goal he says he just has a lot of practical goals, because as an artist he has to be flexible with the amount of money he has. Once he achieves one goal, he is going to have another and then another after that, but if he were to have an ultimate goal it would probably be to always have the opportunity to make and show his work. The person that has inspired him the most is Tony Marsh. Tony provided him with the opportunity to work here, and he is the reason for his success.

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Speaking to Maccabee was really interesting and he is probably my favorite artist to date. He spends a lot of time on his work, and puts in a lot of detail. I think each piece represents a little bit of his personality. In the picture below you can see part of one piece has a glass bagel on it that says “I love bagels.” I thought that was pretty funny, but there are other pieces that I thought were cool like how he stretched the neck of a bottle to be very thin but still left the top of it untouched. Maccabee was a very inspiring artist, and had a lot of words to pass on to us. If you all would like to see more of his great pieces you can visit his website or even here on campus.

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