A metallic candle has melted on the coffee table in Kasey McMahon's downtown loft, leaving a fascinating layered pattern of shiny blobs. "Isn't it beautiful?" she says of the accidental tableau of glittery wax lying between decoupaged newspaper birds and a pair of clear Lucite human arms.
McMahon's ability to see the aesthetic potential of happy accidents like these is just one example of her keen eye, but the things that happen when she's actually trying are even better.
"It took me so long to realize that the filters that I see the world through are different than other people's. It's such a bizarre, kidlike thing to say, but I didn't know that my perspective was unique," McMahon says, her voice beginning to quaver with emotion. "Learning that, and realizing I could do this. ... Art has given me a way to connect with the world that I didn't know was possible, and I'm so thankful."
McMahon's primary fascination is with the way we interact with each other through, and in spite of, technology. Her breakout piece, Compubeaver, was a taxidermied beaver that she turned into a computer, and no, it wasn't intended as some grim commentary on animal welfare in the information age. It's offered more as an absurdist juxtaposition of nature and technology, and you're definitely allowed to laugh.
The sense of humor and whimsy that runs through McMahon's work also came out strong in her joint project with artist Vanessa Bonet, a wearable-art collection under the name Psycho Girlfriend. The collection included dresses made from baby dolls, binder clips, aluminum bands and hamster habitats, all functional as garments but completely mesmerizing as artworks.
McMahon's recent solo pieces have been more evocative, containing visual representations of her absorption in the online world, and her ruminations on the impact of that absorption. An old-fashioned typewriter spews out a long tangle of Facebook update gibberish, but upon closer examination, the typewriter's qwerty arrangement has been replaced with the words "I want to know you better." And Connected, a self-portrait, is a life-size female figure constructed entirely of data cables. Is she bound by the wired world, or unleashed in it?
Next on McMahon's smite list: Re/evolution, a festival that celebrates emerging technologies through the filter of art, planned for this fall.
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"I'm really interested in the way technology is shaping and forming us, and expressing that artistically," she says. "It's changing how we interact. We're changing so quickly. That would feel as if I've succeeded, if I can put together a body of work that speaks to that. I hope I can either do that in a beautiful way, or in a humorous way."