Studio Logic: inside the studio of Marcus Kenney


For the next post in our Studio Logic series, exploring the studios of professional artists and designers, we interviewed Marcus Kenney (M.F.A., photography, 1998). In a two-story Victorian in the heart of Savannah, Georgia, Marcus works across mediums - sculpture, paint, photography and collage - to mastermind reflections on wildlife and Americana. In addition to being among a collection of artists responsible for the aesthetic of Savannah College of Art and Design’s micro-house experiment, SCADpad® North America, Marcus recently completed a residency at Lux Art Institute and is currently showing his paintings at Georgia College Museum.

Thread: What is your ideal work environment?
Marcus Kenney: I am pretty flexible when it comes to working space. I have worked in a variety of studio of spaces, from 5000 square feet warehouses, to a 100 square feet garage. My current studio has a bit of a domestic appeal as opposed to an industrial one. I enjoy the neighborhood and interaction with the neighbors. I have a large vinyl collection and during the workday I am constantly flipping over records and listening to random recording artist.

SCAD: Do you work best surrounded by objects that inspire you?
MK: Studios tend to reflect their owners and I admit that my studio is a mess and full of lots of contradicting objects. There are thousands of books, hundreds of small sculptures and boxes full of interesting objects like ladies dresses, wigs, fur coats and hats from around the world and rolls of wall paper. There are some cobwebs in the corners and surprises to be found; things I have forgotten I had and things that I haven't used in years. There are lots of reasons to create art and my art is about our culture. Historically, the way to study a culture is by the objects it produces. I find it responsible to study our ephemera and detritus and edit and shape them into valid cultural conversations.

I enjoy turning the world into my art supply store and making a game of searching for the right elements to create a work of art.

SCAD: Did your studio change when you evolved from 2D TO 3D work?
: I currently have four horses living in my studio! Honestly, it has not changed much. I have always created sculpture and so there are large amounts of materials lying around. I still paint occasionally, so all of my painting materials are there, as well. I like to keep lots of things on hand because I never know how the day is going to unfold and where inspiration may strike. Some days I may start a painting and other days I may work on sculpture. Often, I won’t go to the studio at all, but spend the day photographing or searching for materials to work with. The pleasure of being a contemporary artist is that there are no set rules.

“My studio is a super buffet with all kinds of options to feed my creative hunger.”

SCAD: What’s one thing you can’t work without?
: Recently it has been a thimble on my finger. I have worked with one so much the last several years that my forefinger feels a little naked without it. For many years I carried a camera with me 24 hours a day, and before that it was an X-Acto knife with a box of new blades. It changes as my work changes. 

SCAD: What's another unique aspect of your studio?
: I only work on the first floor. Upstairs has been reserved for other artists to work in. I have had some really special and unique artists work upstairs. Monica Cook (B.F.A., painting, 1996), Scott Griffin, Lorie Corbus (B.F.A., fibers, 2002), Paige Russell, Cedric Smith, Jameid Ferrin, Tobia Makover (M.F.A., photography, 2001) and others have all created inspired work upstairs.

Here's to creating inspired work and the places where we make it.

On the trail of SCAD artists at ABMB


Dotting the massive and brilliant landscape of Art Basel Miami Beach and surrounding fairs are the bright lights of artists who have studied or exhibited at Savannah College of Art and Design. Whether you’re in Miami or following the fairs from afar, here’s a guide to their piece of the action.

At SCOPE, Eileen Braziel Gallery is showing Marcus Kenney (M.F.A., Photography) taxidermy in a booth that previews the artist’s upcoming collaboration and exhibition with artists from the Navajo Nation. Marcus is also showing at North of Modern, presented by Florida Mining Gallery.

In a neighboring booth, Elizabeth Winnel’s (B.F.A., Illustration; M.F.A., Painting) work is featured in curator Lori Zimmer’s project Message in a Bottle. Elizabeth’s captivating vessels are coming soon to ShopSCAD, where you’ll be able to collect one of your very own.

Though showing at SCOPE, Elizabeth’s days are filled with NADA, hosted by the New Art Dealer’s Alliance. Elizabeth nabbed a gig as a floor manager for the fair after reuniting with Charlotte Walters (B.F.A., Photography), one of NADA’s two fair managers. Charlotte, who manages the domestic dealers showing at NADA, has her hands full year-round with fairs in Miami, Cologne and New York, but also works in her craft by officially documenting the fair through photography.

Joining Elizabeth and Charlotte, also as a floor manager at NADA, is SCAD senior Kyle Joseph, candidate for a B.F.A. in painting.

The three regularly pass by the booth of American Contemporary Gallery and the work of Mariah Robertson, who previously exhibited at SCAD Museum of Art

Further down Collins Avenue, on the beach at UNTITLED., you’ll find Mary Lum and Dario Robleto, whose work has also graced the galleries of SCAD MOA.

In the same corridor at UNTITLED. hangs Tony Orrico’s Penwald: 4. Tony will be featured at SCAD deFINE ART in February.

Showing both at UNTITLED. with Anna Kustera Gallery and at the M Building, Wendy White (B.F.A., Fibers) has tread the well worn path between the beach and her exhibition, CURVA, in Wynwood.

Please keep us posted on the SCAD treasures you find along the way.

Art Basel Miami Beach: an artist's perspective


Art fairs are uncharted territory for me. So as I prepared for my first trip to Art Basel Miami Beach (Dec.5-8), I caught up with Marcus Kenney (M.F.A., Photography) to see what ABMB looks like through an artist’s eyes. I was relieved to learn that even for the most seasoned ABMB participant – Marcus has exhibited at various fairs there for most of the last ten years - this annual phenomenon can be overpowering. If you’re in Miami, look for Marcus and his work at North of Modern, presented by Florida Mining Gallery, Eileen Braziel at SCOPE, and at Savannah College of Art and Design’s Artistic Professional Practices panel on Dec. 6 at The M Building.

TM: Describe ABMB? What’s the atmosphere like for an artist?

MK: It’s kind of crazy. It’s hard not to be overwhelmed because there’s so much art. As an artist I am around art all the time, but when you see it in a setting like this where there’s a dozen art fairs and each fair has probably at least 50 galleries and then each of those galleries has at least three, four, five artists do the math on that.

It’s like going into a museum and never leaving for a week. It’s hard not to be overwhelmed. From an artist’s perspective, it’s kinda hard not to question where you fit in with all of this. You see things that you like and you see things that you don’t like. I think it’s kind of a requirement for any serious artist to know what’s being made.

You can see dead artists' work, you can see people from Jeff Koons, you know top-shelf artists, all the way down to students’ work and people just getting out of school. So it kind of runs the gamut of what’s available.

TM: Have you had a particular ah-ha moment at ABMB? Has it influenced your work when you go back home?

MK: I’m sure it does. I don’t know that there’s been anything specific where I’ve been like, “Wow, let me try something like that.” As a visual artist, you’re basically influenced by everything. Last year I went and there was a lot of taxidermy stuff, so it has kind of influenced me not to want to do it as much (laughs). Basically you have the world’s art market represented in one location for a week. You can see what’s being made in China, you can see what’s being made in South America, you can see what’s trending in design. You can see everything all in one location, so it’s pretty fascinating.

TM: That's why it's so iconic. What’s the perception of ABMB among artists?

MK: It’s love-hate. As artists you want your work to be down there because the whole world is there, all the major art dealers, all the major art collectors, all the major museums, all the major magazines, not even major, anybody who is connected to the art world is there that weekend. So I think it’s important from an artist’s perspective to have some sort of representation there because it’s all about getting your work seen. At the same time, it’s there to be sold. So that’s always difficult from an artist’s point of view because it’s kind of like a flea market style. There are booths after booths after booths, and they’re not selling used vinyl and old bottles, they’re selling art. People’s attention spans are very small and it’s different than having a show in a gallery that’s going to be up for a month or two and people are able to spend time with it. In Miami, they’re just looking and five seconds and they’re out because they know that there’s a million other things to see. So you really have to have something that really stands out to get people to look at it. If it’s a real serious work it’s hard to get the attention it deserves.

TM: On a lighter note, who throws the best parties at ABMB?

MK: Artists’ parties are the best ones, where the artists will get together, get DJ’s and stuff. Usually a lot of the party scene…there’s so many of them and it’s kind of like I was saying with the art fairs. You go to one and somebody will say, "There’s another one over here." So you don’t ever really get to settle in. It’s kind of like bar hopping, but you’re party hopping. Some of the best times are when you just get a group of people together and go to a restaurant and have a conversation.

TM: There's plenty of good places to eat in Miami for sure. Would you say ABMB is more business or pleasure?

MK: It’s both. That’s why they do it in Miami because Miami is such a great place to be, especially in a…what is it 30 degrees here today? We’re in Savannah, so imagine people coming from New York and London, you know, the cold parts of the world. Who wouldn’t want to go to Miami for a week? It’s a beautiful place to be. It’s both. As an artist, it’s both. It should always be both. Every day it’s pleasure because you get to do something that you love to do, but it’s also business. If you’re doing it right, I think.

TM: Is there an artist that you’ve either met or learned about at the fair that you follow now because you first encountered them at ABMB?

MK: Last year I met a photographer who I was familiar with - Lori Nix - and I was at Pulse sitting outside and met her and started talking about her work and my work. We were familiar with each other’s work, but had never actually met. Now she has a solo show in New York. It’s always nice to put a face with the work. You meet a lot of people. Tony Fitzpatrick out of Chicago, I’ve been in shows with him and seen his work before and he does these nice little collages. But I had never actually met him. So it’s nice to be able to put a face to the work.

TM: What do you have your eye on this year? What’s your agenda for this installment of ABMB?

MK: The more you go somewhere the more you feel comfortable with it and you know you’re not gonna see it all, so you’re able to slow down and enjoy it. Having gone so many times now I don’t feel like I have to see everything. This year I just want to enjoy it and really take my time, try not to get to every single thing because it’s impossible anyway. Just to enjoy looking at other artists’ work and see what’s going on in the art world right now.

TM: Tell me about the two exhibits you’ll have going on?

MK: Florida Mining is a gallery in Jacksonville that I just had a show with. They have a project – there are tons of these things, too. It’s not just the actual fairs, but there’s all these little independent projects that people do. It’s called North of Modern. Mine will be a mix of installation, sculpture and painting. I’ll have a good bit of work there, which is nice. At SCOPE, I’m showing with a lady out of Santa Fe that I’ve shown with in the past. She works with the Navajo Nation and we’re gearing up to do a project with them next summer. They’re doing a site-specific installation. There’s Navajo artists and they’re also inviting outside contemporary artists, so I’m really excited about this. Eileen Braziel is the gallery.

TM: I'll definitely stop by. What’s your advice for getting the most out of the fair?

MK: It would benefit you to do a little bit of research before and figure out what you want to see. There’s the big far, Art Basel, which is huge. You could spend many days there. When I was first going I would go there and try to do too many fairs. If you researched it and had an itinerary – though it’s hard to keep one while you’re down there – that would probably be helpful. And then just make sure you have some down time because it can really turn your brain into mush. Coming back is always difficult.

TM: How’s that?

MK: You’re exposed to so much. It’s so much to process.

Because I’m a visual artist, everything is so visual to me that when I come back I am just kinda overwhelmed, over-stimulated might be the correct word. It just takes a while to figure out what you’ve seen and how you’re going to put it to use going forward.

I really like that. It’s the end of the year. After Art Basel, then it’s the holidays and I tend to not do a whole lot of work during that time, so by the time January comes back around I am ready to get back at it. You’re gonna love it, it’s great.