Artist Turns Castoffs Into 'Shrines'

December 03, 1993|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,Contributing Writer

Shawn McRaney says he would continue to create even if he never received a dime for it.

It was during his college years, he said, that he realized, "I wasn't worried about making a living, I just wanted to make art."

Art lovers will have a chance to view the products of Mr. McRaney's passion this month at the Carroll County Arts Council Gallery, 15 E. Main St., Westminster. There will be a reception from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday for the opening of his show, "Contemporary Shrines: Mixed Media Sculptures."

Mr. McRaney specializes in process art, in which found articles are transformed into art pieces.

"Coming out of college," he said, "I didn't want to pay for materials but I wanted to work."

To him, the act of creation by an artist is closely tied to emotional and intellectual evolution.

"By taking a mundane object and transforming it, you realize that you are transforming it in a way that you yourself will be transformed," he said.

He calls his works "shrines" because they so encompass his feelings and spirit.

"I'm interested in feelings and emotional intuitives," he said.

"That's what modernism is about -- spirituality, emotions, the quality of life."

Mr. McRaney works as an exhibit specialist for the Renwick Gallery, a museum of American crafts at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. There he is responsible for installing artwork, keeping exhibits clean and organized, and removing the art after showings.

Prior to that, he worked at the National Museum of African Art, a job he acquired right after graduation from Virginia Commonwealth University.

He works out of a studio behind his home in Baltimore. He has participated in the New Talent Art Show at the Antoine Gallery in Washington, and the Maryland on Review show in Baltimore. This will be his first showing in Carroll County.

"The people [in Carroll County] seem very appreciative of art," he said.

Hilary Pierce, executive director of the gallery, sees something in his exhibit that everyone will enjoy.

"When you look at his stuff, although it's abstract, you can tell it means something," Ms. Pierce said. "His work has an enormous amount of strength to it and he has an ingenious approach to his use of found objects."

Many of his pieces have one word titles such as "Pool," "Furious" and "Skin." Nothing is off-limits as work material.

"He has a very broad use of mediums," said Ms. Pierce. "The show list I got from him represents everything from railroad spikes to photographs to gold leaf.

"What we throw away, Shawn makes into art."

Mr. McRaney especially likes woods, metals and wax.

"There's something about wax," he said as he touched one of his creations. "It's so opaque and translucent.

"It's sensual," he added.

He said he hopes people will see a meaning in his pieces.

"It's like a sign post in the road," he said. "Someone else who sees it and has gone through something similar can say 'Gee, there's something here.'

"Maybe it can help them figure out the direction they are going in."

"Contemporary Shrines: Mixed Media Sculptures" will be at the Carroll County Arts Council Gallery, 15 E. Main St., Westminster, from Sunday through Dec. 24. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and from noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays. The reception will be from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. There will be an Artspeak lecture, "Treasures of Faith" from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 11. Registration is required. Information: 848-7272.

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