Natasha Vita-More Interviews Kasey McMahon
Kasey McMahon is a multimedia artist. With 3D animation and video, she has covered inspirational themes with a finessed artistic quality that is indistinguishably “Kasey”. Applying her conceptual artistic background to her video works brings an inner depth that is easily recognizable.
At “Ignite Los Angeles”, Kasey describes her work as seeing the world in color, from text to fashion to photography, always aware not to take life too seriously.
Several months ago I came across one of her videos and was charmed. This one video titled “Technology Wants My Sandwich” was my introduction into Kasey’s world, and led us to our recent collaboration “Body by Design”. During this time she stayed at our home in Scottsdale. I remember waking up and making coffee, only to notice that Kasey had already been up for hours. Each morning at sunrise she would take long walks. I enjoyed her delightful humor and I admired her steadfast, calm nature as she worked throughout the day editing video footage.
At this very moment, Kasey is in Florence, Italy. “It’s funny; I thought I would find direction/focus/inspiration in China; yet, it’s here” she tells me. “Feels like exactly where I should be – creating art and beautiful things. I am thrilled and happy about carving out a life here.” To know Kasey is to feel her warmth and sense of life.
Natasha: I know you have a background in the broader spectrum of the arts, including art direction and photography. But why steered your direction toward video?
Kasey: I began working with video animation as a way to learn 3D – initially to sculpt and print 3D models. I then began playing with the other methods and fell in love with the particle systems and animation capabilities of Maya. Any visual medium is of interest to me – I see video as a tool to combine with other more tangible elements. I love the notion of working solely in digital, but I find that it lacks the presence… the sense of space and experience that dimensional objects relay. Thus, for me in the long term, video is a tool to complement tangible sculpture.
Natasha: What are the narrative scope of your works that ties them together?
Kasey: A general curiosity about life and about what constitutes iconic beauty. Recurring themes in my work are fashion and abstractions of the female form. I am also interested in exploring our ever changing relationship with technology, yet continually circle back to simply wanting to create beautiful, elegant and often otherworldly things.
“CONNECTED” (Multimedia: Steel, CAT5 and other data cables // Life size ) Photo by Kevin Rolly
Natasha: How have your travels influenced your narratives?
Kasey: Travel opens my eyes to the fact that the way I am doing things may not be the ‘right’ way, that there are many different approaches to life. I love that beauty resonates across cultures and find our shared human experience infinitely fascinating. Travel is stimulating and thought provoking in so many ways … the sense of place, sounds, colors, and overall spirit of every city having a different rhythm. I am currently living in Florence, Italy and inspired daily by the city. I expect work in the years ahead to reflect the deep cultural and artistic roots here.
Natasha: Your video studio is mobile and packs up nicely in what seems to be a wearable case. In using state-of-the-art tech, you seem to be at ease in the artistic process while traveling with your mobile unit. How do you assimilate your ideas into a narrative script?
Kasey: Yes, my studio is surprisingly portable. My favorite recent addition is a thin portable USB second monitor – the best tool for technomads yet. On narrative, to me, the story is always the beginning. There is such power in words. From a well written script, many times visuals simply emerge. As with most creative projects, video work morphs along the way, but starting with a strong idea and narrative helps guide the process.
Step by step:
1. Narrative / story.
2. Develop visuals to complement the narrative.
3. Incorporate sound.
3. Work and edit to seamlessly connect all parts – there is no real explanation for this part aside from the technical aspects. Visually, some things work, some things don’t. You just know. And for the things that don’t connect, you work them out until they do.
Natasha: Do you prefer short, few minute pieces, or longer pieces? For example, This is independent videomakers, such as yourself show on Vimeo or Youtube, which works well with shorts. The other option is to exhibit them at festivals, galleries and museums, which often are more apt venues for longer-length pieces.
Kasey: I’ve only worked with short video pieces to date. I do like that they are digestible bits, particularly since anything longer than five minutes has trouble holding folk’s attention these days. When I begin combining video with sculpture and installations there will be more of a need to extend the length.
Natasha: Can you tell us about the media you combine in your videos? For example, your use of photography and graphics, and animated forms.
Kasey: I use anything I can get my hands on that is visually interesting. Still photography, video, graphic design – the final image is often a combination of many things. For example, with the sandwich video, I simply needed something to work with that would make me laugh while learning 3D, but I also wanted to make a silly film about some rather deep subject matter. Using a sandwich fit the bill perfectly. Even when I was knocking my head against the computer screen in sheer frustration at the learning curve, I could look at those sandwiches dancing across the screen and laugh. It helps to laugh when things are challenging!
When creating visuals, I generally see a vision in my head and want to bring it into reality. I then try to figure out how to gain access to or learn the tools I need in order to properly bring that vision to life. The solid ideas don’t leave, they just hang around on the sidelines waiting until my skill level is up to par to pull them into reality. Often things morph along the way, but if the initial idea or spark is strong enough, I do everything I can to maintain that when creating the piece.
Natasha: What is your technique for video?
Kasey: I use Maya 3D for animation and Adobe Premiere Pro for editing. Maya is by far the most complex tool I’ve ever had my hands on. I chose Maya because of the multitude of customization options. If you can code, the depth and capability of the software are incredible. Limited only by imagination and skill – you can build entire worlds in there!
Natasha: What image-makers and story-tellers have influenced your works?
Kasey: John Cage for his Zen approach to life, for living his art and for the consistent reminder to pay attention. Alexander McQueen for his keen eye, style and incredible work. David Lynch for his inspiring window to the weird. Neil Gaiman for his fantastic imagination and words. Bucky Fuller for dedication to his vision and making every day count. Coco Chanel for her defining style and spirit. Louise Bourgeois for her individuality, dedication to her art and for being in it for the long haul.
Natasha: What is your goal as an artist?
Kasey: My goal is to create beautiful and engaging imagery that celebrates the lighter side of life. I am interested in moments – the bits and pieces that make up our lives and the whole of human experience. I am inspired to create moments, sometimes ephemeral, that break the mundane patterns we carve out in the day to day. Amazing imagery violates our expectations and forces us to step back momentarily, to take notice, to recognize. It’s that point that I’m interested in. That split second that makes you stop. That brief instant that your brain is questioning what it’s seeing because it’s new, it’s different and it might possibly resonate in a way that you can’t particularly describe, but that you are drawn to. That is the moment, space and experience I am deeply inspired to create. To intentionally break patterns through art and beauty, to encourage people to explore different ideas and side step reality through imagination. To get beyond routine ways of thinking, if only for a hot second…