Max Cleary

Apr 4th, 2017

Max Cleary


Max Cleary is a visual artist from Honolulu, he is currently living and working in Seattle.  He combines photography, sculpture, and video with the visual and conceptual language of image production and construction to explore how and why conventional experiences, environments, and understanding come to exist and function.

Tell us about the images that we’re featuring?

I’m sharing two different bodies of work that all center around themes of the built world, development, and illusion.  Geographic License digs through the spectacle of contemporary townhouse development.  I was thinking about the way homes and buildings portray themselves with as little index to the people that created them as possible, so these pieces do the opposite and purposely leave all the marks, tools, and unfinished surfaces that usually only the crew sees. Building A Thing To Forget is a series influenced by land rights and development.  The pieces depict broken landscapes in an ambiguous state between repair and demolition.  They’re in the direct center of the tug of war rope between those wanting to preserve land and those wanting to develop it.

How does technology affect your photography?

Everything I do touches the digital world in some way.  I do most of my research on the computer, outside of shows I house all my work online, and though I sometimes shoot on film, I scan the film so really technology is making everything I do possible.  I’ve also been making it a point to rent new gear as I continue making work because I really love learning about new tools and techniques through experience. Shoutout to technology.

How does social media affect you and your art?

I find a lot of artists through social media, especially Instagram, whose work I love and who influence me.  On that note, I’ve been increasingly more cognizant of the compulsion that comes with social media to constantly share and that has definitely been a driving factor in how I think and make.  It’s like a mindset that says you have to be documenting and sharing all your experiences and that’s something I’ve actually been trying to separate myself from.  I used to beat myself up for not having a camera when I happened upon something that would make a great photograph, but that notion doesn’t sit well with me anymore.  I think it’s important to not get caught up in seeing every experience as a potential photo or post, to allow yourself to focus on the present moment outside of the public domain.

What are you working on right now?

I just finished up that body of work called Geographic License and I’m in the research and planning stage of either adding to it or continuing it through more supplementary work.  I’m also collaborating on a collective project called CACHÉ with two friends, Alex Boeschenstein and Jackson Baker Ryan that we’ll be showing in Seattle in April.  Lastly, I’ve been gathering footage for the past year in preparation for a video that I’m about to start editing.  The general idea is that it’ll be a real estate home tour video that leads viewers through a skeletal, unfinished, fictional space.  I’ll most likely bribe my roommate with Sparkling Ice waters and Safeway spicy chicken strips to help me score it.

How do you determine if a work has been a success?

Anytime anyone shows interest in what I’ve done, regardless of how much, I think that’s success.  If someone spends time with something I’ve made and  genuinely tries to figure out what’s going on, that’s huge to me, even more so if they ask me about it.  If someone simply thinks that a piece of mine looks cool, I totally appreciate that too.