Tripartite, 2006. Still with horse head, barn, and blindfolded performer from 8 mm black-and-white sound film.

Mobile Homes: A Conversation with Casey McGuire

Casey McGuire combines moving imagery of her own body, often in vulnerable positions, with architectural and animal forms to create installations whose atmosphere is both alluring and disconcerting. An Honorable Mention recipient of the International Sculpture Center’s Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Awards for her “Sand Mandala Series” (Sculpture, October 2005), McGuire was an Artist Intern-in-Residence at the Franconia Sculpture Park, in Minnesota, in 2002 and a resident at the Institute of Art and Design in Pilsen, in the Czech Republic, in 2007. In the summer of 2008, her work was featured in two exhibitions in Colorado: a solo show at the Dairy Center for the Arts in Boulder and a group show at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities in Arvada. A native of Shrewsbury, Vermont, and an assistant professor at the University of West Georgia in Carrollton, McGuire received a full fellowship award for a month-long residency in May 2009 from the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, in the northern Green Mountains.

Melinda Barlow: For your recent exhibitions in Colorado, you created two very different installations about transience. The Levitating Quality of Light, Through Closed Eyes included two house-like structures and used video projection, while Slow As… featured six portable video monitors stacked in a dog sled pulled by bicycle wheels. While the former generated a powerful sensation of temporary shelter, the latter seemed more concerned with aging technologies and modes of transportation. What inspired each work?
Casey McGuire: I grew up on a farm with lots of animals, in a mountain town of 1,100 in central Vermont. The surrounding area is full of lakes, rivers, and gorges and inhabited by ducks, wild turkeys, moose, and deer. Swimming, fishing, and hunting are popular activities, and taxidermy is a common profession. I bring elements of this outdoor environment and its associated architectural structures and cultural pursuits into my indoor work, often alluding to water, constructing small buildings, and casting models of fish or parts of horses. The Levitating Quality of Light, for example, consisted of two wooden ice shanties on 16-foot ski runners elevated on concrete blocks; an aluminum replica of a child’s inflatable swimming pool with a nylon polyester screen stretched across its interior; and a lawn chair re-woven with thin vellum and suspended from the ceiling. Twelve fishing poles of different sizes fitted with light sockets were mounted on the walls, hovering over the installation. In one shanty, a brown plaster-cast trout was displayed near a hole cut out of the floor.
Shanties are temporary shelters: they protect you during long days of ice fishing, and clustered on Lake Champlain, they resemble tiny communities. My father and I have gone ice fishing and trolling together since I was little, and all the poles in this work were from his collection, including the one I used as a child. The lighting design evoked the way we hang gas lanterns over the sides of the boat during night fishing, to attract fish to the surface. Ideally the light functioned as a lure, drawing visitors into the space.

MB: The lighting was striking—it came from both incandescent and fluorescent sources. The warm glow of the naked bulbs contrasted with the cool blue video imagery of a shadowy figure “swimming” in the pool, and the mood was more dramatic because of the bright light beneath the shanties. They looked like they were about to take off.
CM: The experience of light within a darkened shanty is amazing. You can see very clearly into the lake through the hole in the ice, and the light has an almost physical presence. I built the shanties to scale in my studio and fitted their undersides with fluorescent fixtures so they would glow like frozen blue lakes. James Turrell’s Skyspaces, like Blue (Tending) (2003), which I saw recently at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, frame natural light within architectural environments to create extraordinary perceptual events. The experience of contemplation generated by his works is something that I aim for in some of my own. see the entire article in the print version of October’s Sculpture magazine.