Resurgence art opening: Carl Sean McMahon

Salt Spring Island-based sculptor Carl Sean McMahon turns waste into art.

Credit: Rob McMahon

This week, Art Darts blogger Rob McMahon hits the Island to attend his brother’s art show.

Discarded swing sets, burnt barbecue grills and rusty dartboard frames: most people see these items as waste. Salt Spring Island-based sculptor Carl Sean McMahon sees them as raw material for art.

Last Friday, May 1, Sean had his first art opening at Victoria’s Xchanges gallery. (Okay, full disclosure: Sean is my brother.)

Titled Resurgence: (re)Visioning Scrap, the exhibition is a series of sculptures welded from pieces of scrap metal that Sean pulled from recycling depots and landfills.

Carl Sean McMahon describes his work

Carl Sean McMahon (right)

The idea for the series came from Sean’s belief that many modern consumer products are manufactured with a relatively short life expectancy. When thrown away, these products add to the skyrocketing amount of waste on the planet. To rescue them from this situation, Sean decided to transform them into art, as a kind of—ahem—“resurgence.”

“During the creation process, I work with individual objects to form the complete piece,” says Sean. “None of the sculptures are preconceived—instead, I create them using the existing features of the materials I find. Certain attributes, like the sharp angle of a chair arm or the curve of a tube, help dictate how the pieces flow.”

While recycling programs give some of these products new life, many are trucked away to landfills. That’s where Sean finds them, collecting familiar objects to chop, shape, polish and weld together to create metal sculptures of masks, animals and human figures.

He continues, “I’m hoping that the details in the pieces challenge viewers to identify cast-off items that might have once decorated their homes or lawns. Every sculpture is produced using only ‘found’ material, some of which is formed and reshaped to produce the intended effect. The human-like characteristics found in some of the pieces serves as a constant reminder that humankind created the waste.”

Carl Sean McMahon artBased on Salt Spring Island, Sean works from his studio/workshop and searches for discarded scrap metal for future works of art.

Xchanges Gallery is one of Canada’s longest-running artist-run centres. Founded in 1967, the gallery hosts studio space, arts events and classes, and a non-commercial gallery for Victoria-based artists. Entrance to the exhibition is by donation.

Visit Sean’s website to see more of his work.

See Resurgence at Xchanges gallery, 2333 Government St, Suite 6E, Victoria, B.C. May 2–24, Saturday and Sunday, 1–5 p.m.