Studio Visit: McLean Fahnestock


Brooke Hoffert with Mclean Fahnestock

On a bright day in January, I drove to Old Hickory, located outside of Nashville, to visit the studio of McLean Fahnestock. McLean received a BFA from Middle Tennessee State University and an MFA from California State University Long Beach. Her work has been exhibited and screened across the United States and Internationally.

Walking into the studio, I see a table full of objects. Laying on the table are various forms of glue, little snippets of cut discarded paper, and a whole lotta eco-friendly glitter. Cords, adaptors, and other pieces of technology lie across these objects. Piles of paper lay under the table consisting of a drawing pad and old calendars featuring the natural landscapes of Montana. Multiple screens are on, and playing video works by Fahnestock. The screen sitting on the floor leaning against the wall displays a committee of turkey vultures flying into view, landing on this tall and silver electric pole. Titled “The Tallest Tree,” vultures will roost on the tallest tree in the neighborhood, and the tallest tree in their neighborhood happens to be that cellphone tower. Simultaneously another video piece plays on the wall. A stop-motion created piece titled “Fistfuls of Diamonds” depicts two airplanes flying in the sky while dropping glitter, ultimately falling to the ground. The energy in the air is electric. Throughout the studio are various projects in progress, giving me a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes creation of their pieces.


Throughout her practice, she works with the idea of paradise and desire, specifically looking at how desire has led us to things like exploration. This interest in exploration spawns from their own family history of exploration. They started considering what made their family members want to go out on a sailboat and sail the ocean. There is a longing for escape, a longing to see new sights, and to have an experience in the world that is unique and memorable. She explores how the desire for a landscape has led to colonialism, disenfranchisement, ecocide, and many other things. Their practice explores the human longing for a beautiful place and how it has also produced the worst of human behavior. The landscape is a metaphor for our tendency to venerate something but continue to be involved in its destruction. That destruction leads to the displacement of indigenous residents, indigenous plants, and animals, kicking them out of their habitat. They also explore in their practice how money can impact the landscape. Money and its impact on the landscape are displayed through the use of glitter and rhinestones in their work, showing how destruction and wealth go hand in hand.



When asked about their inspirations, we got on the topic of Shopping and looking at random objects is where they draw a lot of inspiration. “It’s all about making connections with objects,” Fahnestock states. An object becomes attached to a place, and that interaction with material and an object happens, and it is turned into a video piece. Lots of gathering and shopping goes into the practice.


When it comes to goals, they stated that their goals for their practice have shifted so much. They will continue to put their work out in public and have it shared, “Completing that circle is so important from creation to presenting.”


Coming down their pipeline is an exhibition at Crosstown Arts titled, “Deceive the heavens, to cross the seas,” featuring works from their “Stratagem” series. They are also working on a project for the Current Art Fund on pieces about Tennessee Vallery Authority and drowned towns.



You can view more info about McLean Fahnestock on their website or their Instagram.


Artist Statement

I work with desire in the landscape and its consequences. Place is one of the factors that defines our identity. Where we are, where we are from, have been and want to goall contribute to our understanding and communication of ourselves. The landscape that we identify with may differ greatly from the one that we idealize. I am interested in the gap and other gaps that widen in our perception of and desire for place. A landscape can expose privilege and vulnerability. Places of breathtaking perfection that are called Paradise, Eden, Elysium, and Promised Land are places of desire and escape. They give power to those who explore and hold them. In my projects, I center the landscape in reference to the Western concept of Paradise and the subsequent values that have grown around it have branched into colonialism, development, gentrification, ecological damage, and climate change. My practice is primarily in video and other forms of new and digital media. Most often engaging in appropriation and collage strategies integrating forms of digital capture and creation with physical layers and containers from craft and sculpture traditions. The project’s final presentations range from large-scale mapped projections to mixed digital fabrications and XR.