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Art People: Kevin MacDonald / Artist

  • Easthampton artist Kevin MacDonald incorporates pallet wood and other found objects in many of his sculptures.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Easthampton artist Kevin MacDonald incorporates pallet wood and other found objects in many of his sculptures.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Easthampton artist and sculptor Kevin MacDonald creates lamps from found objects.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Easthampton artist and sculptor Kevin MacDonald creates lamps from found objects.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Easthampton artist Kevin MacDonald incorporates pallet wood in many of his sculptures and creates lamps from found objects.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Easthampton artist Kevin MacDonald incorporates pallet wood in many of his sculptures and creates lamps from found objects.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Easthampton artist Kevin MacDonald incorporates pallet wood and other found objects in many of his sculptures.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Easthampton artist Kevin MacDonald incorporates pallet wood and other found objects in many of his sculptures.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Easthampton artist Kevin MacDonald incorporates pallet wood and other found objects in many of his sculptures.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Easthampton artist Kevin MacDonald incorporates pallet wood and other found objects in many of his sculptures.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Easthampton artist Kevin MacDonald incorporates pallet wood and other found objects in many of his sculptures.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Easthampton artist Kevin MacDonald incorporates pallet wood and other found objects in many of his sculptures.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Easthampton artist Kevin MacDonald incorporates pallet wood in many of his sculptures and creates lamps from found objects.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Easthampton artist Kevin MacDonald incorporates pallet wood in many of his sculptures and creates lamps from found objects.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Easthampton artist Kevin MacDonald incorporates pallet wood and other found objects in many of his sculptures.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Easthampton artist and sculptor Kevin MacDonald creates lamps from found objects.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Easthampton artist Kevin MacDonald incorporates pallet wood in many of his sculptures and creates lamps from found objects.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Easthampton artist Kevin MacDonald incorporates pallet wood and other found objects in many of his sculptures.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Easthampton artist Kevin MacDonald incorporates pallet wood and other found objects in many of his sculptures.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Easthampton artist Kevin MacDonald incorporates pallet wood and other found objects in many of his sculptures.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Easthampton artist Kevin MacDonald incorporates pallet wood in many of his sculptures and creates lamps from found objects.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

“I guess when you do this kind of thing, you’re always on the lookout,” said Kevin MacDonald as he talked the other day about the custom lamps and sculpture he creates from reclaimed materials.

To be sure, he makes a point of visiting junkyards and other places where stuff he might like ends up. But MacDonald, 51, is apt to notice things on a whim that others might miss, no matter what he’s doing. Once, when he was riding his bike, some old steel panels in the back of a truck caught his eye. After a conversation with the truck’s owner, and after a little money had changed hands, the steel panels became part of a sculpture that is now in his Easthampton living room.

Except for applying a sealant to prevent rust, MacDonald left the steel as it was. He prefers, he said, to allow the raw nature of the materials he uses to speak for themselves.“I don’t like to alter surfaces,” he said. He is driven by the desire to give materials a new life and purpose, not to change them. “My approach is the less I do to them, the better. I like to understate things.”

MacDonald uses objects from the natural and man-made worlds. Even his short list is an eclectic mix: Wood pallets. Old farm equipment. A birdbath basin. A discarded school fire alarm.

He says the appeal of working with found objects and materials is their “accessibility.” It’s perhaps a grown-up way of describing one of his favorite childhood pastimes. “I was always digging things out of the earth, looking at things that other people would pass by as undesirable and decaying,” he said. “I always came home with something.”

For many years, MacDonald specialized in high-end woodworking and furniture making. More recently, he’s turned to one-of-a-kind lamps which are sold at the Nash Gallery in Easthampton and the Salmon Falls Artisans Showroom in Buckland. A New York Times article last fall about galleries along the Mohawk Trail called attention to MacDonald’s work, citing his “industrial-chic” lamps and small sculptures at Salmon Falls.

One of MacDonald’s lamps sits atop a sideboard in the apartment he shares with his partner, painter Rosemary Barrett. MacDonald made it using a battered piece of white oak that was once part of a mallet. He paired it with a shade made by another artisan.

MacDonald’s penchant for using — and reusing — wood can be seen in the couple’s kitchen. There’s no hulking harsh white refrigerator amid the kitchen’s muted, earthy colors. Using sections of a wood pallet, MacDonald created a casing that covers the front and sides of the refrigerator and allows the door to open and close normally. He says it can be easily removed if the couple moves on.

MacDonald says — with a smile — that his affinity for wood pallets borders on obsession. Many people would probably describe the wood they’re made of as “the lowest of the low,” he said. But given the chance, these utilitarian workhorses — once they find a way into MacDonald’s hands — can add unexpected warmth and beauty to their surroundings.

— Suzanne Wilson

For more information about MacDonald’s work, email aftermidnight50@gmail.com.

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