Alison MacDonald grew up in Scituate MA. on the ocean. While having travelled extensively, and having absorbed the color palettes and artisanship and cultures from Sri Lanka to Mexico, she prefers to stay close to the sea. MacDonald moved to Nantucket 40 years ago this spring and has worked 30 of those years as a tile and stone Contractor, morphing into a designer, fabricator and artist who works in ceramic and glass. While her own aesthetic focus has been clear, it has been influenced by her many commissions and custom work, ranging from the creation of original mosaic panels, to the casting of dozens of glass “lights” for the Graves Light Station in Boston Harbor, to the recent collaboration with the Nantucket Historical Association to create a gold-lustred anniversary commemorative disk in ceramic.
While largely self-taught, MacDonald honed her art skills and ideas while designing and producing custom tiles and decorative pieces in ceramic and glass. She has taken many classes to expand her knowledge and techniques, among them, at the Brookfield Center in CT., with Kaiser-Lee Glass in FL., and a stained glass class at Chartres Cathedral in France. Like many other artists, her commercial disciplines, in mold making and glass casting, bas relief carving and glaze creation have traveled into fine art, where they are celebrated, refined, and expanded into creations that range from abstract to functional, and everything in between.
One of MacDonald’s recent ceramic series is titled “Nantucket Relics”. While living on an island surrounded by the sea offers a remarkable and sumptuous visual palette to work from, one is also deeply affected by the cultural references that surround us, in this study that would include basketry ranging from whale ships to Native American traditions.
In the same aesthetic context is a new series of glass pieces that refer to weaving, mosaics, and which embrace organic shapes found in the water, suffused with light.
In these works is a creative play on the concept of a relic itself: the literal one, what we leave behind and what is its meaning, and a more abstract version, a fictional narrative or poem. The re-imagined result of an archaeological dig, the basket reference both serious and lyrical, the glass weaving bright-hard but yielding, the resulting objects and their alchemical glazes and the irid glass fusings are compelling artifacts of the present.
MacDonald is drawn toward the fusion of industrial materials and more refined components, between the mechanical and functional and something more poetic and heartfelt. “The touch of the hand, the search for the original, the commitment to the essence of the materials, these are my goals.”
MacDonald has shown her work at the Spouter Gallery, The Looms, Made on Nantucket, Room no.8, The AAN, and is presently showing at Robert Foster Fine Art .