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Meet John McVay

Today we’d like to introduce you to John McVay.

John, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I have always had an interest in art and been involved in art, usually in the form of doodling and listening to music in my earlier life. When I started community college in Tucson, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with my life, but I decided to take an introductory art course.

This initial dabbling in studying art in college was an important experience because it made me feel like I was good at something and it seemed like a more enjoyable life path than other more stressful professions. It felt like me, and I feel fortunate that I made a choice to become an artist. After community college in Tucson, I came to Tempe to study printmaking at ASU, and I’ve developed my skills into a real visual language that I now use to speak my message to others.

I’ve become interested in collage in my studies, and now collage is an essential component of most media that I use to express ideas. Collage-turned-print, audio collage and video collage are the media I utilize most often. I try not to limit myself to one particular medium (although I specialize in certain forms) because I think you should use the medium that is best suited to expressing your idea rather than forcing expression in a way that maybe doesn’t make sense or a way that doesn’t feel right.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has not been a smooth road because I come from a financially disadvantaged family, and I grew up thinking that my choices in life would be limited due to my limited opportunities and resources. I thought that I would never be able to go to college, that I would never be able to afford it. I’ve had to take out student loans to make my dream of studying art a reality, and now I am in debt, but I feel like I’ve bought my way into a field that I will enjoy.

We’d love to hear more about what you do.
I focus my attention on exposing outdated ideologies and myths in our American culture by re-using old printed material in collage. By remixing and re-positioning iconic imagery and symbolic visuals, old-fashioned ideas seem like they not only exist solely in the past, but that these stale mores have never really gone away and that sexism, fascism, racism, and oppressive control are still plaguing society.

I make paper collages, which are then sometimes transformed through various printmaking processes. Another body of work deals with sound art in relation to collage.

Whether visual or sonic, my work tends to favor obsolete/out-dated equipment or printed/recorded source materials; with printmaking I use traditional techniques such as lithography, and with sound art, I use cassette tapes and guitar pedals. Sound is either performed or will be incorporated into a sculptural or video-based installation.

How do you define success?
I think success would be maintaining a consistent level of happiness, working hard at doing something rewarding and not having fear hold you back from doing and accomplishing the things you want to do in life. Monetary accomplishments rank lower on my scale than traveling and having fun, but I do understand that to get the things that will make me comfortable, money is a necessary component. It’s easy to let any type of stress get you down, but constantly reminding myself that I have it pretty good and that I’ve had a good life always seems to lift me back up.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Emily Sarten

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