Marcus Menefee is an interdisciplinary artist and photographer born in Hot Springs, Arkansas to a family of painters and sculptors. He received his BFA from Memphis College of Art and he has exhibited work across Arkansas and Memphis in group shows at the Circuitous Succession, Taylor’s Contemporanea, No Exit Gallery, Rust Hall Gallery, Brode gallery, and Gallery 409.
How did your interest in your medium begin and how did you arrive at your current style?
I was born in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and come from a family of painters, sculptors, and art educators. My parents made sure that I was surrounded by art from a very young age. When I was thirteen I lived in a turn of the century church that my parents bought and renovated, turning it into an art gallery and studio for local artists where we also held art classes for children in the surrounding area.
Growing up I tried my hardest to distance myself from southern culture. Having come from such an unconventional family, I felt like an outcast at most of the schools I attended, so when I turned eighteen I moved to Memphis, Tennessee, to attend Memphis College of Art. Most of my early photographic work was centered around the use of Photoshop, focusing on manipulation and abstraction. As I lived in Memphis I began to develop the ability to look back upon my home state with a new perspective and felt a longing for the small town I left and its eccentricities. During my last year at MCA I began to focus less on constructed images and more on going out and finding them within my home state as a way of reconnecting with and understanding my past which has lead me to the work I’m making now.
How do you feel about the relationship of an artist to their city or surroundings?
My work is very much been influenced by the culture and landscape I am surrounded by. It has allowed me to create work that feels genuine to myself and allowed me to understand where I am from. By moving from my small hometown to a large city I was able to see things from an entirely new perspective. Now that I have graduated and received my BFA I plan to move again so that I can once again gain a new perspective and make new work.
How do you choose your subjects?
Most of my subjects have been found through friends of friends or by getting lost on the back roads of small towns from my childhood. I’m interested in the cultures and customs of these small towns as well as the professions and ideals that have been carried over through several generations.
Who have been some of your biggest influences or your best teachers?
Ryan Steed and Houston Cofield were my two most influential teachers during undergrad. They helped me create work with purpose and direction and have continued to help and guide me in the months after I graduated.
Jordan Whitten is a good friend and extremely talented photographer who I met during undergrad. He is an MFA candidate at Eastern Tennessee State University and has always offered me technical advice and honest critiques of my work.
Do you have a creative or artistic peer group in your area that you're a part of?
Having just graduated with my BFA I am still surrounded by a plethora of extremely talented friends in Memphis to draw inspiration and advice from. However, at the end of August, I’ll be moving to Philadelphia in search of job opportunities and a change in scenery and perspective. I’m sad and nervous to be moving away from close friends but excited to find a new network of talented people.
Where do you go to draw inspiration?
Currently, most of my inspiration is drawn from photographers and artists I find through the Internet as well as the ones I’m surrounded by.
Do you feel creatively satisfied?
I am very fortunate to have plenty of time to focus on my work and feel very satisfied now that I am not in school and am in the between stages of moving.
Tell me about a recent, current, or upcoming project or exhibition.
I am currently working on two ongoing series titled Short Haul and You’ll know it when you see it. Short Haul is a documentation of the short haul truckers of Hazen, Arkansas, following their runs from dusk until dawn.
You’ll know it when you see it started when I began getting lost on the back roads small towns in Arkansas. The residents of these small towns would use objects relevant to their town as a way of directing me back to the main roads or interstate. I started documenting these objects and in doing so have begun creating a road map of sorts which I plan to expand on in the future.