This week we welcome Marc Alain. Alain is a visual artist who was born in rural northern New Jersey. He holds a bachelor of fine arts degree in photography from the Maryland Institute College of Art. After relocating to New York City, a collection of his collages, writings and drawings was self-published in the zine Love: Volume 1. In addition to directing several music videos, he also managed the Manhattan studio of photographer Ryan McGinley for over a decade. This summer, Alain has two collages in the Wassaic Project’s group exhibition A Tournament of Lies.
“I studied photography in college. In the decade that followed, I continued to make staged portraits in New York City. Over time, the creation of my hand-made sets and props became just as important as the final pictures. Recently, I completely eliminated photography from my art practice as I began to focus on the medium of collage.
As with a photoshoot, my collages start with a concept in mind. I only use found imagery. For this, I browse through books, magazines, and websites. I am drawn to nature images that remind me of my rural upbringing in northern New Jersey—flowers, plants, animals undergoing transformation. Images may be of ice melting, a rock breaking open to reveal its precious gem interior, or a delicate flower blooming. As an artist, I am inspired by the Hudson River School painters and their appreciation of this area.
Once I have gathered enough source material, I start cutting these pieces by hand. Although I am a skilled retoucher, I prefer working analog. After a long day of cutting, the process becomes meditative. When performing a manual task like cutting, your mind can journey elsewhere. Cutouts are already a set size, so compositions form out of necessity to accommodate an image’s existing scale.
Cutouts are then layered together to form dense landscapes, heart-shaped forms, or abstract skies. Similarly to my previous experience as a portrait photographer, working in collage allows me to speak about the human condition, but without involving actual figures. Using discarded objects, I show the aftermath of human actions. Examples of this include elements like blown bubbles, or a statue in decay. As a suggestion of something human, occasionally parts of the body are visible, but rarely an entire person. My collage materials sometimes include playing cards and sheet music, items that have a clear human connection. I also recycle holographic papers, foils, and vinyl from my old photography backdrops. These materials are meant to make you stop and look.
As a result, I hope the viewer considers their impact on the world. For a significant portion of our planet’s history, all living things have coexisted peacefully with nature. It is both fascinating and appalling that we are the first to upset this balance. My shame at being a part of the problem is present in my work. I seek solutions like love. Perhaps one day, our love of nature will motivate us to take action. That is, if nature doesn’t fix it first.”
See more of Marc’s work on his website and instagram.