John was born in Brookings, S.D. in 1959. He preceded to get his B.S. in Fine Arts with an emphasis printmaking from S.D.S.U in 1981. Then continued his education at University of Iowa receiving a M.A. in Printmaking in 1984 and M.F.A. in Painting in 1987.
The title "A Layered Existence" came to me automatically as creating these images is exactly that: an existence consisting of multiple layers, both in theory and action. By no means do I expound this as something unique to me. I believe we all accumulate layers, which affect us and direct our actions directly or subliminally. The layers of experience we accumulate affect our outlook and direct our actions. Through both my education and my various travels, I have embraced the grace to be exposed to various people, cultures, and geographies and to integrate them into my life. The exploration of world music, language, alphabets and points of view opened my mind to new perspectives or layers, both in my worldview and artistic expression. I also have had a lifelong interest in maps and cartography and had a minor in geography in my undergraduate studies.
I believe that layers of artistic process can deepen the structure of an image, both informing and enriching it. The cross-pollination of techniques has informed me of new avenues to explore. Sometimes when adding collage to an art piece, lines or textures on that piece suggest a painting technique or printing method to add to it.
Dreams are a primary source of my inspiration, especially when directed by deliberate methods or lucid dreaming. Frequently, when ideas of an artwork are swimming in my mind, I go to sleep with the intention of working on it in my dreams. I keep a pencil and pad of paper at my bedside and often wake up with an idea for a work. [Sometimes, it doesn't make it that far, as I get up and start working on it immediately.]
I have also always found that the vicarious experience of films -- especially foreign films -- offers an insight into other ways of seeing, thus entering into the visual vocabulary I draw upon when creating. Foreign films, especially older ones, seemed to have a unique way of looking at the world: the angles of vision, the use of perspective, the overlay of one image upon another in montages & the use of light & dark. I often come away with ideas to investigate in art making whether directly or indirectly from the movie.
Obviously, artworks can have various layers of meaning, some explainable, some not. I always revel in the fact that when others look at a piece of art, they all see something different. Those layers and discoveries are what making art exciting for me. Curiously, though, layers can sometimes get in our way of seeing. You may have to peel back layers in order to see the truth, because there, too, discoveries can be found.
Interview with the Artist
We sat down with John McCarthy and talked with him about his collection here at the Haldan Gallery. Below is his full interview with Phyllis Shafer. We also got him to talk about a handful of pieces to give you more insight into his collection. Go through the gallery to look for each piece that is posted below.