I met Alex McClay during our sophomore year of college in a special studio class, awarded to outgoing freshman the previous year for exemplary work. We gravitated towards each other because we follow a similar philosophy when it comes to creating– we are both very passionate photographers. Alex just graduated recently from the University of Cincinnati with a BFA and a minor in Psychology. In her work, she focuses in book-making, sculpture, and photography and uses her knowledge from all three to create dialogues between traditional and contemporary formats and aesthetics, as well as between “objects” and “art objects” .
When it comes to the shift towards the digital era of technology and creativity, an artist must ask themselves why they choose the material or medium in which they work. Sometimes we may find ourselves magnetized by the appeal of digital formats, moreso because the artist can make a prolific amount of work. Alex is a very talented book maker; in fact, she traveled to Italy this past year to perfect the craft of hand-bounded books. This is a very “analog” and traditional method in crafting a book and lends an insane amount of detail to the final piece. Alex explains that although this task may be tedious and often difficult, the long and intense process is very meditative for her.
However, she asked herself what more could be done to a book. What could show the shift in how a book is made or what a book is made out of? Or more importantly, how we interact with books now that digital media has eclipsed how we even relate to a book. Alex answers these questions in her plexiglas book sculpture series by using her traditional knowledge of book-binding and a Rapid Prototyping Machine. The machine cuts the design into the plexi-glass and Alex binds them together in order to emulate the traditional idea of a book, yet still giving it a new context to exist. The result is an uncanny version of a book, still tangible yet transcendent from “object” to “art-object.” It may have pages, but the way in which we read the text has changed entirely: it is difficult and sometimes impossible to read these books, lending them useless in the traditional context. This could be interpreted as a commentary towards how we relate to reading in an almost purely digital-only format; therefore rendering making bound books useless.
The constant upward curve of technological advances indeed makes aspects in our lives easier through communication, documentation, and even creating. But what it also does is propel a movement back to the old school, but not out of spite: to breathe life into something that may be considered “kitsch” to most and make it new. Traditional and old methods can now live in a new context within our technologically-centered society, rendering them somehow both ironic and sentimental. Nostalgia is not just for geeks, but for people who simply enjoy resurrecting the obsolete in a world where easy can be redundant.
To see more of Alex’s works, including her newest series featuring obsolete machines “In Media Res,” check out her website.
If you would like to purchase a one-of a kind artwork from Alex, you may reach her on Facebook .