Week 2 Artist Interview : Maccabee Shelley

Art 110

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This week, Maccabee Shelley discussed his work, “No Redemption Value”, with the class

Maccabee was quite an interesting person to meet. I arrived before the show so I had a chance to talk to him one on one for a while, and the thing that struck me most was how he seemed to never stop creating, if not with glass or plaster, then on paper or in his mind. He said his mind is usually where the works start; he envisions how he wants them to look and then goes about creating the physical forms, experimenting with different things until he’s satisfied and the vision is fulfilled. He said he dabbled in nearly every art form, as most artists do, and loved how the forms overlapped and overall taught you to see from new perspectives. He also seemed to be very drawn to doing and trying new things; he frequently said he did not like to be bored or unexcited with the work he was doing. From this, the multitude of interesting, at times even unbelievable, forms and mixtures of glass have sprouted.

His works may seem to be slightly unpredictable, much like the process of creating them can at times be, yet an overarching juxtaposition seemed to be at play. Within each work, there was an unexpected cohesion of the delicate and the indestructible. He mentioned the thinner pieces being, of course, very fragile and hard to work with, much less to transport to the gallery. But he also mentioned the fused glass bricks being relatively unbreakable; he even threw one work in progress off a building and instead of shattering as expected it significantly dented a sheet of metal. Taking his concept to a further extreme, he said he was currently thinking of incorporating machinery into his next show, so the works would threaten to destroy themselves as onlookers got close.

It was interesting to hear of the process behind the works; most of which Shelley described as something close to creating muscle memory. He suggested we should avoid working consciously, as our bodies and minds are incredibly capable but we limit ourselves with our conscious thoughts. Therefore, it is important to do cognitive research (in his case, study the chemical makeups and history of glass), but the  physical experimentation and practice is truly the most important so our subconscious can be well informed. From there, the process of creating becomes more intuitive and less held back by our logical minds, allowing creation and ideas to flow much more smoothly.

His main hope seemed to ultimately be to encourage us to fully express our creativity, to get rid of the limitations we ourselves place, and to expand on our capabilities both within our own art and the way we view the art of the world around us. As Shelley said, “If you’re not taking your art as far as you can take it, what are you doing?”


This small tube was one of Shelley’s first successful attempts to combine ceramic and many types of glass materials. It was also the first time he attempted to form a cylinder and he found the glass began to climb and become its own strange shape rather than conform to a perfect cylindrical shape. Many aspects and influences of this young piece can be seen in his later works, including the climbing glass element, the dense bottom, and pink base.

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The works had many levels of interest from nearly every angle; some are even hard to imagine as ever being just fragments of glass

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By firing, over firing, cracking, cutting, smashing, refiring, and even spray painting, what was at one point a bunch of unwanted bottles with “no redemption value”  has become a strange mingling of technicolor lava flows and icebergs, as well as tubes resembling weird deep undersea creatures, clearly showing his background as an environmental science major and his inspiration from the earth and nature.


Shelley said he hated typical gallery pedestals and therefore wanted to create a softer transition from the work to the gallery space. He used spray paint, typically pink (he explained ceramics typically are not pink so it was a neutral color for the work; plus it was his favorite color) to show a hard contrast between the fragile, elegant work and a more inexpensive base to make the glass seem “glassier”.


He admitted he has become somewhat obsessed with bottles, and now has researched not only their history, but the different chemicals that make up their appearance. He explained that the bright greens and blues typically come from cobalt and some other bright colors are made with the introduction of iron. He experiments with combinations of many kinds of bottles, from the typical beer and wine bottles from the redemption center to the more expensive, more opaque and brightly colored glass tubes made especially for art purposes. He said his favorite bottles were the Sapphire Gin bottles, as they created a beautiful light blue hue (this blue can be seen in many of his works, as he began using them frequently after discovering the new color).


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