Cool Friends: Elise McMahon
Meet Elise, a Hudson, NY-based artist turning out Brooklyn’s favorite quirky furniture through her line, LikeMindedObjects. Her face mirror is instantly recognizable and her use of everyday material in a unique and sustainable way is consistently exciting and clever.
What led you to your career as an artist?
My parents were artists and self employed, my grandfather too, he was what he called "an artist reporter", he would make films, go on location to happenings like NASA shooting off rockets and civil right protests, he would bring his large pad of paper and draw in pencil to later lay in paint in his studio, he drew the court hearing for the murder of Emett Till, he would draw what he saw and get the stories into the magazines of the 60s and 70s, Time, Life, etc, he would make films with his drawings to tell the story of culture, religion or politics. Both my parents and grandparents had completely artist homes and this is where I spent all my time until I was 18, studios spilled into living space, there was no 9-5, everyone was involved in the family business and late work nights when a deadline was coming, all hands on deck schleps to an install or mural project was normal, so I had this example of independence, hard work and relating your personal practice to a larger cultural commentary and storytelling.
What's your favorite part about the New York creative community?
The hustle energy, people are DOWN to make a project happen, not just any old project, the project has to be worth the effort, but if it is, people really bring amazing energy and content to it. I had a collaborative artist Newsstand at Canal and Bowery for a few years and it was amazing the work that came out of it, performances, publications , affordable art objects, custom newsstand snacks , I also helped organize the Hester Street Fair on Essex St for a summer and it was incredible to see the hustle of people bringing their small business to market every Saturday, 4 am load ups, install, to then smile and host and chat and sell all day, only to pack it all up at 6pm and drive home and unload. It takes guts to put in that effort for an unknown day of business, and if there is a bad selling day, learn what you can and shrug it off, and get up the next Saturday and try again.
Could you tell us about how you used your platform and skills as an artist to raise money for the NAACP, Black Lives Matter NYC, Innocence Project, and ACLU?
Simply I am just saying "Yes" to opportunities to help raise funds. I am a part of a couple shows right now that result in donations to these organizations, the Essential Goods show with Fisher Parrish which is up through the month and the Protest Tshirt Show with Hester Street Fair @ 22 Ludlow. Go check them out! These were easy asks to say yes to, donate a print for a tshirt, share the profits from a sculpture, really this feels like a small gesture on my part but I see this can grow as a wave of the art and design world moving in the direction towards cultural awareness and ethical allocation of funds. At this most entry level activism I just say yes to when something is asked of me, like helping build out some social justice education space at my local community garden (check out non profit KitesNest and consider donating) or at my collaborative store in Hudson NY, Enkyu LikeMindedObjects Shop, we hosted a bake sale, organized by Forsythia Forsythia, that raised funds for local anti racism organizations . Singularly I have done some product sales where 100% of the sales go to a gofundme page for a local to a Hudson Valley Black owned business that is working to fix up and open a West African food truck (Alima Cuisine, go check her out!) and have also made a 10% donation commitment for any sales off my webstore for the foreseeable future. I don't feel this is "enough" so will continue to look for entry points to doing more on my part and saying yes when asked . I really do feel like artists make ethical small business owners, they have been trained to be critical of every material purchased, every person hired, the labor performed, the cultural output and input, natural problem solvers which we need to get away from consumer culture corporate greed back to self sufficient communities, for people and the environment. I am excited to see the collections of small gestures across the art and design community add up. I hope the community really builds this foundationally into future practices of making work and money so it is a sustainable long term shift.
@likemindedobjects on Instagram