Student Feature: Chipper McCall

April 18, 2013

By Joshua Kelly Published in The Tiger Newspaper

When you go to this spring’s upcoming BFA Student Exhibition entitled “Metamorphosis: A Natural Embellishment” (on display at the Lee Gallery from April 29th to May 3rd – mark our calendars now!) you might find yourself looking at the work of senior Chipper McCall and thinking, “This…this is garbage.” And, what you may find surprising, is that you would be completely right.

“I have always been intrigued by the vast scale, and seemingly unstoppable development of humanity,” Chipper told me this week when I sat down to interview him about his studio practice. “Specifically, I have been drawn to the byproducts of [human] growth; the waste that it produces.”

Despite the fact that the majority of his sculptural work is constructed from found trash and his paintings focus on neglected areas and subjects of human development, Chipper’s work is far from something you would find in a city dump. His sculptures demonstrate a keen attention to detail and an effective combination of humor and wit that challenge the viewer to think critically about the impact human society has made on our world in the name of development. Best of all, Chipper’s work has a captivating aesthetic that does not leave you with the feeling that you are being preached at; it merely encourages you to ponder the relationship between our expansion as a species and the environment we are displacing as a result.

This is what he had to say when I sat down with him to talk about his work:

Perspective: Why come to Clemson for art?

Chipper McCall: I originally came to Clemson to study architecture. Although I realized after about a semester that my real interest, and talent, was in studio art. I guess it helped that I couldn’t pass math or physics to save my life, and those are essential tools to constructing a building.

P: What is your concentration, and why?

CM: Technically I’m concentrating in sculpture, although I also spend a fair amount of time painting. As simple as this sounds, I’ve always enjoyed making things. As a sculptor, one has the ability to use literally any material available, and make just about anything you can think of. That level of freedom is hard to come by these days, and the thought of spending my life turning ideas into physical reality is very appealing to me.

P: What is the main concept behind your current work?

CM: My current work addresses the somewhat untamed nature of our societies’ growth, and the many physical byproducts that are a result of that growth. As pessimistic as this sounds, I try to draw similarities between our growth and that of a mold or virus.

P: Do you have any special methods or techniques you use when making your art?

CM: Haha, I wouldn’t say there’s anything special about my methods. I generally spend very little time planning, and just try to see where my work ends up taking me. It is easy to waste a lot of time sitting around thinking about how something could turn out, so I usually try to make decisions as I go along and just see what happens.

P: Why do you work in several mediums?

CM: Well my passion lies in sculpture, but that is not always the best way to get across an idea you know? With sculpture you can make a physical object, but things get a bit complicated when you attempt to create an entire scene or landscape. With painting, drawing, and printmaking you can create or depict an entirely new world. Where as sculpture is often placing an imagined object into our reality, other mediums allow you to make a window into another reality altogether. I like to think its good to be flexible when it comes to making art, so I try to mix things up every so often. It really just depends on the idea I’m trying to get across as to what medium I work in.

P: You work a lot with trash/found objects, why is it that you find yourself drawn to these materials?

CM: It all sorta goes back to this idea of growth I have recently been interested in. You see, some of the best evidence of our expansion lies in the physical waste we leave behind. To put it simply, more people more trash. I am not trying to come across as a society hating tree-lover, but it is simply the facts of life. What I am really trying to critique is how much of this stuff we take for granted; something that is an “absolute must own object” one day ends up in the dump the next. I like to use these discarded items in my work in order to bring them back into the public view. Plus, I think there is something manly and barbaric about digging through the trash.

P: Are you showing work anywhere?

CM: I’ve blessed the public by putting my junk all over the place. I currently have a piece installed on the outside of Lee Hall, as well as all over my front porch and living room. Seriously though, I have a print in a show at the Patrick Square Gallery, and at the end of this semester ill have my senior thesis work on display in the Lee Hall Gallery. I have also enter a number of pieces in competitions throughout the southeast, and with a shred of luck may actually get an email back from one of them.