An interview with mixed media artist Shawne Major

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Expect an evening of art, wine, cheese and music tomorrow, when several Julia Street galleries host their monthly art walk. "Collective Memory," a show by New Iberia native Shawne Major, opens at Callan Contemporary (518 Julia St., 504-525-0518). Gambit interviewed Major to learn the process and intention behind her richly detailed, lushly imagined mixed media pieces.

Major's pieces on display at Callan Contemporary
  • Major's pieces on display at Callan Contemporary

Gambit: In your artist statement, you say you choose objects for their “visceral qualities.” How do you know when you see an object that will end up in your art?  
Shawne Major:
I choose my objects intuitively. If an object reminds me of something more than itself, it has a good chance of ending up in one of my pieces. It also must be able to be sewn, because that is how I physically connect the elements in my work. I get materials from garage sales, eBay, junk shops ... and people often give me things.

G: When I look at your pieces, I feel like I am getting drawn into a complex little world. What is your process? Do you start with an end in mind?
SM: I create mixed media abstract drawings. I usually start with a base layer of clothing or some other flat object that I want to respond to. The clothing or other fabric or plastic is attached to poultry netting or windowscreen and hung on the wall. The rest of the process is drawing by pinning and sewing objects until the surface is built up and the layers appear to float on each other. The average time for the completion of the works is six months — so, although I don’t know exactly what the work will look like at the end, I do know how I want it to feel.

Detail shot of Bower.
  • Detail shot of Bower.


G: As a New Iberia native, does Louisiana inform your work?
SM: The natural environment of Louisiana has always informed my work. The density of the landscape here is mirrored in the work, but only as an accent to my language of objects. My work is not about the landscape, but the build-up of surfaces reflects the kind of natural diversity and density to which I feel connected.

G: Your show at Callan Contemporary is titled “Collective Memory.” How do the pieces reflect this?
SM: I believe people shape their perception of reality with the filters they’ve created over their lifetimes. These filters are made up of belief systems like religion, politics, culture, superstitions, fears, dreams and memories. I think that over time our filters get so clogged with what we expect to see that we lose clarity and objectivity. My works exist as metaphors for these filters.

G: What experience do you want people to have when they look at your art?
SM: I want to trigger personal memories and stories in the viewer. Since the work is abstract, I don’t think it is necessary for the viewers to know exactly what I was thinking while creating them. My work, after all, is about how people create their own realities by seeing what they expect to see. 

Parthenope, mixed media
  • Parthenope, mixed media


A reception for Shawne Major's Collective Memory show takes place from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 3 at Callan Contemporary (518 Julia St., 504-525-0518).


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