15 January 2024

Underfoot

Tyler Macko’s anthropological
approach to sculpture

 

by Kate Mothes

Photographs by Leila Spilman
and Alexandra Kern

A fascination with anthropology underpins Tyler Macko’s interdisciplinary approach in the studio, a rustic barn in rural Montana. Raised in Ohio, he traces many of his stylistic choices to an aesthetic he associates with the Midwest, merging with his surroundings in the West. He describes the relationship between his process and those individual experiences, observations, or connections to local history as “sort of like a mesh that is woven for your specific time and place, and then the channeling of whatever that magic is while making work has to flow through that mesh.”

Resisting work that is literal or biographical, he takes a philosophical macro view of daily life, considering it within the context of existence itself to broach cosmic questions and metaphysical quandaries. “(I) instead try to think about everything that’s ever been and will be, and the patterns in that,” he says. “When I think about ideas like infinite regress—it’s impossible for me to actually grasp the concept of infinite—but when I find a good rock or a painting is vibrating in the right way, it all makes sense to me, and you can kind of feel the infinite, and everything feels okay.”

In Macko’s large-scale assembled titled Underfoot, biscuit-like shapes cut from plywood are painted into the likenesses of mallards, pileated woodpeckers, dragonflies, leaves, pennies, and the Liberty bell, and layered on a gauzy, resin-like surface. “I had been listening to talks about the genetic mutation in ducks and how the ‘wild’ duck is becoming more and more rare, and hypothetically at a certain point, they won’t exist,” Macko says. “Then expanding that idea to other things, like pennies, and how they still serve a purpose, where if you have enough you can purchase something. But people don’t even look at them as relevant, and they take on other meanings, such as good luck, almost disposable—how everything is subjective, and the facts of today become the myths of tomorrow.”

Find more on Macko’s Instagram.

All images courtesy of the artist

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