Adamo Macri: Sculptural Chameleon

ArtBookGuy | Michael K. Corbin

Adamo Macri is a formidable artist who lives in Montreal. His work is highly conceptual and he uses himself a lot as an expression of living sculpture. He’s a sculptor, performance artist and photographer and as you’ll quickly learn by reading below, he’s also a brilliant thinker and observer.

“Most people don't like to be confronted with an actual fact-of-life because it's difficult to metabolize.  A painting of a bowl of fruit is much easier. It's for the same reason why we don't like going to the doctor. The diagnosis and x-rays are too honest. This is what creates the perception that contemporary art is shocking or suspicious.”

MICHAEL: Hello Adamo. First off, your work is very conceptual and you use yourself a lot in your work with a lot of costumes. Why? What's your inspiration?

ADAMO: Hello Michael. Thank you for the invitation and your interest. Yes, that is accurate. I've always been conceptual and abstract. It's how my brain works and the way ideas come to me. Anyone who knows me personally is well-aware that I've been dressing-up in costumes all my life. My favourite time of the year is and has always been Halloween. When I'm conceiving art I always think 'object.' My mind is set to sculptural mode. I strive to resolve it through drawings and notes, while asking myself "What is the thing?" I don't perceive it as costuming and makeup as much as sculptural components. All elements created and applications must be true and pertinent to the form.

MICHAEL: And what about using yourself in much of your work?

ADAMO: I try using myself as often as possible because photography in general is a tricky medium.  It's difficult directing models, especially specific facial expressions. Every glitch, slight movement or small detail changes what's being communicated. This is why I have a love-hate relationship with the camera. I'm also the model due to my practice in self-portraiture. I enjoy that unique challenge. I'm known for being chameleon-like and mysterious. The idea of how one person can stretch and change into many forms illustrates a truth about human nature, alludes to metaphors, as well as portrays a will or capacity. These works also involve identity, ambiguity, and the essence of individualism. I see this as semi-autobiographical because it reflects the public and isn’t exclusively self-representational.

All this occurs naturally, it's second nature for me. I'm always thinking about new ideas regardless where I am or time of day. I don't know where to fit the word 'inspiration.' As an artist, I'm constantly asked this question. I do reference art history, literature and mythology at times, which become a process in redux layering. This can be considered inspiration. I basically consider everything in my life experience to be inspirational.

MICHAEL: So, you consider yourself as a living, breathing sculpture that evolves. This means that anyone and everyone is art, does it not? And so, is the photograph of you the actual art object that people can acquire?

ADAMO: For now, and for a short period of time, we are all physical beings here on Earth. Whenever we transfer over through death, we shall change form, as in translucent opaque spirits or sweet-scented vapours or colourful strobe lights or who knows what? My point is that we are tangible, we can touch each other, therefore we are sculpture. We are three-dimensional objects that change over a short period of time and constantly. If you would simply open your photo album and look at pictures of yourself a few years back, that particular person no longer exists. All this is the basis of my particular viewpoint of perceiving sculpture as occurrence and not static presence. An ephemeral, three-dimensional occurrence located at a specific point which conjures up atemporal art. This relates to my process, which goes as follows; first sculptural work is created and secondly it gets documented with the use of a camera. In doing so, the sculpture vanishes, just like those photos of you in your album. In answer to your question, yes, the photographic final of the sculptural work is the outcome and what can be acquired.

MICHAEL: What's the difference between what you're doing and what everyone else taking selfies on their cellphones are doing? Everyone is posing and documenting these days. In other words, what's the difference between snapshots and true art?

ADAMO: I define the selfie as the following; it communicates first and foremost a 'live' snapshot of you, wherever you are and whatever you're doing. Everyone is taking part including President Obama, as social media encourages this viral phenomenon. I've read that an estimated 900 billion will be taken in 2014. Now, will the selfie mark itself as a contemporary and legitimate art form in the same manner as Henri Cartier-Bresson was to photojournalism and candid photography?

MICHAEL: Let’s hope not.

ADAMO: Years ago, I joined social media with the intention of showcasing my art, which prompted my interest in self-portraiture. I wasn't interested in utilizing it for what it was intended for. Back then, it was too new for anyone to know what to make of it. I was intrigued by how this new platform was becoming increasingly more mainstream and how it can work well with the construction of identity art. Nowadays, we've got the selfie photo fad. Ai Weiwei and James Franco are famous for posting selfies ten times a day. Many artists question what this serial activity is for? Myself included. My self-portraits are part of my program. It's important to understand the 'what' and 'why' of an artist, understanding the ideas and philosophy within a body of work. Each artist occupies a very particular space. My portraits are conceptualized and produced. For each final artwork published, there were many photos taken, lots of thought and configuration involved. Complete shoots were trashed and later reshot. Self-portraits and selfies might be related, but may be bifurcated in time, we shall see. We currently live in the digital age, where complex technologies and devices are made simple and user-friendly. Anyone without photographic skills is given a chance at expressing themselves. It's great fun for all, but I don't take selfies.

MICHAEL: Adamo, What were you like as a kid? Are you now doing what you dreamed of when you were a child? I mean, looking at your work now, I can't imagine you were dying to go to football or soccer practice back in school. Am I wrong?

ADAMO: Haha! That's a funny one. I was a hyperactive child. Way too energetic and annoying for adults and family members. I was always busy doing something. If I was at home, I'd be drawing, constantly. I spent a great deal of time outdoors playing street-hockey, baseball and cycling although I wasn't interested in joining any official, local team. I'm totally not a team-player in all sense of the term. Maybe that's what you're noticing in my work! But you have to separate the stage and real-life, to be aware that those are artworks, I actually look normal daily, I don't dress-up as a Greek-Mytho to go to the grocery store.

MICHAEL: Crap! Why not? LOL.

ADAMO: I'm also not one who enjoys sitting around and relaxing either. I'm the worst person to go on vacation with especially to hot tropical places, to say the least. I'm living my childhood dream in the sense that I'm still creating art and plan to do so ‘til someone shoots me. But you can't measure dreams when you're a dreamer, because most often the caliber is unattainable. I feel blessed.

MICHAEL: What's the inspiration behind those apparent, bodily orifice works? Some of the uncomfortable, disapproving comments of your photos that I saw on social media cracked me up!

ADAMO: Oh yes, the Verboten piece consists of six images across three rows, totaling 18 frames. Canadian author Kenneth Radu wrote a great essay on it, Art of the Orifice, which can be found on my site. This artwork did garner an array of commentary. My initial thoughts were geared toward the insatiable nature of sexual appetite, the strange erotic mind and the measures required to satisfy its carnal needs.

It was inspired by the introduction of the internet to the general public. It was the time when we all got access to the World Wide Web, where just about anything anyone was interested in could be searched! But, the main topics and debates on news channels were the issues with 'easy access to pornography' which got my brain cells working on the subject matter. The idea of sexual fantasies, taboos, human nature, plus the internet was the starting point.

I designed it as a multi-frame so that each image would flow like a film-strip and yet remain compartmentalized. I thought of it as a human trunk without limbs, with a top and bottom opening. Basically, the idea of enclosure and internal. I assigned the first and last image to be the only two in black and white (mouth and anus) functioning as questionable enclosures, encapsulating what exists within.

This is why all the other images are in colour, representing visceral components, per se. I also wanted a visual distinction between 'person' (outer) and his 'desires' (inner, secret mind). Meaning, the first and last are of me, the only two 'real' photos, the others aren't. The idea was to make the colourful images look retrieved as though through the internet, or within the deep sea, or completely contrived by the mind. They remain guarded, as in restricted to public knowledge. As colourful as they may seem, they would be described as your dark-side or one's shades of grey. I used the symmetrical mirroring technique, to make them look fake, unrealistic. The relationship between what is real versus fantasized, tangible versus cyber space, cellular versus pixilated.

I had this funny mantra-song I made up and kept repeating in my head while I was developing this artwork. I imagined myself as a school professor in front of a classroom with a pointer stick in my hand saying "Pick a hole.. any hole.. pick.. pick.. Pick a hole.. any hole…"

MICHAEL: You know, what you just said really captures one of the reasons why I interview artists. It's so easy for people to jump to conclusions about an artist's work without first knowing the intention and message behind it. People are always so suspicious of contemporary art. However Adamo, surely you knew that some people would react as they did. No? Were you being provocative?

ADAMO: Publishing a finalized artwork is a provocative act, although the process doesn't begin with a provocative initiative. This is because art is 'telling' by its nature. I'm rendering and publishing a truth. Lots of art isn't ever shown publicly for this exact reason. Most people don't like to be confronted with an actual fact-of-life because it's difficult to metabolize. A painting of a bowl of fruit is much easier. It's for the same reason why we don't like going to the doctor. The diagnosis and x-rays are too honest. This is what creates the perception that contemporary art is shocking or suspicious. As an artist, I don't feel like an innovator. I create from the knowledge, observations and experience acquired and reinterpret visually as a journalistic act. You can create whatever you please, but publishing it is the daring and courageous part. It has always been this way in history. Artists were shunned, incarcerated or put to death for their work.

MICHAEL: What I've seen of you work also seems to be really focused on the living, evolving and mainly, organic nature of things. I can see you doing live gallery installations that make use of video and time lapse images or even other people engaged in ethereal activities. No?

ADAMO: My work dictates that everything in nature is complex and organic - even the very small things that appear dead and insignificant. If we would examine them closer, we would find life, energy and importance. Some things will even move, very slowly, unnoticed like zombies do. The registration of dead or alive is relative to our limited capacity at seeing things. Human eyesight isn't bionic, we can't see microscopically. Therefore, lots of stuff is easily dismissed as worthless. Anything that seems aged, dry and faded will be treated without value. Dismissed! Why bother with remnant. This can be used as a metaphor on how we treat and perceive old people. The dry tiny flakes on the ground receive as much attention as our elderly in nursing homes do. The level of abandonment and loneliness are equal.

My ongoing project Exuviae is very much about these notions. It places equal value and respect on both the outer shell and whatever is or was inside of it. Meaning, what gets cast-off should be given the benefit of the doubt, a second chance, a closer look for consideration. Fruits and vegetables hold more nutrients in the rind. Seeds in general give the impression of uselessness, until they begin to germinate. A complex organic system functioning by the motto 'let nothing go to waste.' Everything is there for a reason. What one organism sheds is a delicious meal for something else.

For the second part of your question on exhibiting, yes to all you've mentioned.

MICHAEL: Tell me about Montreal. Are you from there? Does the city itself inspire you? What's the art community there like?

ADAMO: I'm a born and raised Montrealer. I was brought up in a suburb of mainly Italian immigrants where people held a common bond due to similar challenges and interests. Italians love to share and flaunt customary practices where the basis is usually food-related. The act of eating is religion. For instance; provided that you eat and appreciate whatever was served, you shall be loved and cherished even if you hold a criminal record and are keeping uncle Gino hostage for ransom. "Finish your plate and all shall be forgiven."

These strong, highly-spirited personalities, unwarranted assertions, temperaments, along with stereotypical bravado, did begin feeling very much inbred. The collective cultural identity and pride had a fixed mould to it. Any other form of deviation would be perceived as threatening or deformed. But as a teenager, I was becoming increasingly more aware of how homogenized and drone-like my district was and started gravitating toward the downtown area. My childhood experience constitutes much of who I am and forms the ground-basis of what I consider to be the inspiration for creating identity-based work.

Montreal today is a mosaic of ethnic diversity with French dominance. Montrealers are stylish, free-spirited and friendly. The creative vibe is infectious where it's difficult to discern the artist from the accountant. This generates a pulse of lively people with a visible “joie de vivre.” It's a sexy city with beautiful bodies and has got to be one of the best places to be single, because it’s easy to get some action, regardless of what you're into. Now I'm sounding like a travel agent.

MICHAEL: You use a good amount of nudity in your work. Why? Also, any artist's exploration of nudity does not always have to be about sexuality - although it often may be. Thoughts?

ADAMO: In the field of culinary art, the process of water evaporation and flavour concentration is known as reduction. It's a form of distillation which is basically my mindset process as a sculptor. The medium known as sculpture encapsulates all the content pertinent within the object, in the same manner as the ingredients a chief utilizes for his dish. Some elements are more apparent than others. But, if something doesn't belong as part of the story, it won't be incorporated. What I'm trying to say is that, only components which carry forth an accurate narrative will be administered. It must evoke a truth.

Nudity in my work isn't about the lack of attire. Rather, it’s the human, physical being and psychological state. If I'd look at an artwork where the figure were wearing a suit and tie or any other kind of wearable item, I would ask … Why? The communicative nature of visual art functions in that manner. Therefore, anything added to the subject will alter the meaning. It's difficult to incorporate clothing because it says too much. Many artists use nudity as an art form, it's considered a marketplace category, usually based on sensual photos of captivating women. I've always questioned the work of male photographers creating images of radiant women, without living female sensibilities. This is my dilemma with photographers and their nudes. Eye-catchy special effects don't resonate with me. The 'study of a nude' simply doesn't interest me. It holds little content. There are tons of beautiful women and men and if you were to line-them-up in single file you can produce massive amounts of photographic works per week. My mind is programmed to detect personal style versus special effect. All must be justified. Especially in photographic work. Many different tricks are used to compensate for content. Nudity is one of them, it attracts the eye instantaneously. The usage of very bright colours is also another special effect issue with me. My colour palette is based on earthy tones because it relates to nature. People like art with high impact, as though it’s popping out at them. Makes a bold, colourful impression. Some contemporary art requires dark shades to view it. If you were to hold an outdoor exhibition of Jeff Koons’ work, I'd be more than certain that it would attract humming birds.

The human body is an attractive aesthetic linked to sexuality by nature. As an artist, I only produce work that I feel qualified for. I was born male. I know what that is physically, socially, professionally, sexually, mentally and beyond. I'm a purest and organic that way. It's uncompromising. I'm aware of the issues with male nudity by a male artist and the immediate assumptions. But my work is male derivative. The stigmas with male nudity in general, have been etched in our minds since the beginning of time. This is why I believe God invented the fig tree … for its leaves. He knew artists would need such coverings for male art. The perception and issues with the naked body are the overtly apparent features viewed as focal sexual parts. The common censored attributes are similar to one-eyed-targets, guns, as sexual ammunition. In the male, it’s the penis and the female it’s the nipples.. shoot shoot.. bang bang!

Art exhibitions would be less censored if they were rated, G or NC-17, like movies. People in general see galleries and museums as family-appropriate excursions. Censorship is a provided system which caters to lazy parenting, which is publicly-funded and socially accepted.

MICHAEL: Absolutely man. Adamo, I could go on and on with you, but I'll make this the last question. You know, with all of the challenges that contemporary art faces on a daily basis and the daily difficulties of being an artist, why do this? Why not do something else that brings a steadier paycheck and a more "respectable" and conventional life? Don't you feel like you're always climbing some ridiculous mountain?

ADAMO: Most parents dread the day when they ask their children what they'd like to do in life. The concerns are usually if the response is associated with any field in the general arts.

MICHAEL: Yes indeed.

ADAMO: The average person is content with a formalized lifestyle and career that seems mundane to most artists. The lack of substance and vacuity is overcompensated with money and materialism, which impresses their friends, relatives, and the neighbourhood. It's an accepted standard or mode of thinking and living. "Just fill the hole with lots of money because it'll seem like success."

MICHAEL: Absolutely.

ADAMO: This is why choosing the arts would register as less respectable or ridiculous.

Society in general will accept any type of career choice provided that it's lucrative. But, all this works well for non-creative people because there isn't much going on in their head.

Artists have to live with constant imagery and ideas forming in their mind and the only way to get rid of them is through execution. In life, I personally need much less than most people. I couldn't care less for sports cars and big, empty houses. I just need a big, lofty space to make a mess.

Being an artist is a marginalized position to be in. People react differently toward you as though you're an alien with magic powers, or that you might say something that'll blow their minds up. There is somewhat of an intimidation and the expectations are higher. It's kind of great and peculiar at the same time. "Approach with caution, he's an artist!"

Art programs in schools are disappearing. The conditioning to veer away from the creative fields is ingrained from childhood. I can't begin to tell you how many people I know, such as bankers, engineers, etc., who would love to quit their jobs for something more inspiring and self-gratifying. It's like selling-out. Your soul.

I live to make art. There is no greater feeling than completing a new piece. It must be the equivalent to the birth of a child. I have created something that didn't exist before. Other things pale in comparison. The euphoria is intense. Art has a sense of longevity. Artists are less concerned with finances and more determined with establishing a legacy.

By the way, I'm allergic to the word 'conventional.'

MICHAEL: I understand.

ADAMO: Being an artist is intrinsic. I'm compelled to create. It's a lust for life and all things, without taking much for granted. Scientists and researchers must hold a similar passion. Life is art, and we artists care a little more, which places us amongst philanthropic activism.

There is nothing more ambiguous than the concept of time. It's like the wind. Artists have a need to make and leave a mark. Money is fluid vs. the permanency of art? Only art can resonate.

So … vocation or occupation?

MICHAEL: Preach brother. Adamo, I enjoyed this immensely.

ADAMO: Thank you Michael. It was a great pleasure.

Check out Adamo Macri at

Published August 2014
ArtBookGuy - Michael K. Corbin