Forrest MacDonald

Up and Out by Forrest MacDonaldThe alt_space gallery presents Recipe for Disaster, a solo exhibition featuring diorama photography and large-scale digital collage by Tampa artist, Forrest MacDonald. The exhibition will be on view from May 3, 2014 through June 14, 2014, with an opening reception on Saturday, May 3, 4 - 7 PM.

Forrest MacDonald's exhibition, Recipe for Disaster, draws inspiration from natural and man-made disaster imagery sensationalized by the entertainment and news industries. MacDonald meticulously constructs small-scale models of domestic environments devastated by destruction and disaster. Stripped of context, the dramatic disaster zones are haunting. At first glance, MacDonald's photographs can be mistaken for a documentary account of real-life disasters. However, upon closer examination the artist's cinematic compositions reveal the fictitious nature of the images. "My work responds to the phenomenon of disaster by creating grand, almost sublime, fictionalized photographs of active and violent destruction in order to inspire wonder and perhaps of touch of fear," states MacDonald. Despite the implied loss and despair, Recipe for Disaster is an auspicious reminder that hidden among the ruins there is potential for renewal.

Artist Statement

 I create and photograph miniaturized landscapes of deconstructed or destroyed domestic environments. Displaying the fragile and transitory nature of existence, they are insidiously elegant tempests of transformation, violent, instantaneous metamorphoses of discernible elements into chaos that invite the viewer to participate in the fantasy of living through their own death and more, the death of an entire neighborhood or perhaps the destruction of humanity itself.

The work is not only a reflection of my fascination with natural and man made disasters but also a recognition that through telecommunications we are a world audience that is bound by our collective viewing of images of death and destruction from across the globe. Detached from the outside world and in the comfort of our own homes, we view the tragedies of others. Tornados, earthquakes, tsunami’s, floods, terrorist attacks, war, nuclear melt downs, famine are all now brought to us in high definition in ever more dramatic footage. The attempt in my work is to respond to this phenomenon with the creation of grand almost sublime fictionalized photographs of active and violent destruction to inspire wonder and perhaps a touch of fear.

Utilizing double and triple photographic exposures, I’m able to create conflicting perspectives and form a sense of movement or the appearance of chaos. Using a mixture of other photographic techniques such as long exposures, shifts in scale, varying alterations of the depth of field, combination lighting sources such as strobe lights and flash lights, I am able to significantly alter the appearance of my materials and the interpretation of the set.

In my larger works, I use photo-shop to digitally combine over 100 of my photographs into eerie surreal landscapes that transition from a dense tracery of abstract debris into distinguishable elements. I use repetition or patterning in contrast to the static forms to create a sense of order and confusion. I’m also interested in the juxtaposition of irreconcilable elements in terms of scale to challenge the viewer’s perception of what they are seeing. I like to complicate the boundaries between artificiality and believability or sincerity with the representations in the work, which I believe speaks to the complexity of the experiences of photographic images in the 21st century.

Envisioning the wretched as beautiful these works are a play of opposites: repulsion/desire, fear/courage, and order/chaos producing art out of the tragedy of mortality. Perhaps they are an attempt to relinquish my fear of natural and man-made disasters through the acting out of terrifying fantasies. Although these created sets are from my imagination, the nightmare these photographs represent is not that far from the images I see on the nightly news.

Artist Bio

Forrest MacDonald earned a B.S. degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and an MFA from the University of South Florida. He has participated in solo and group exhibitions throughout Florida. He has received numerous national and international awards for his photography. MacDonald is currently an adjunct professor of photography for the School of Art & Art History at the University of South Florida.


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