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Work Samples

(untitled) DW_002

one-of-a-kind hand colored gelatin silver print

phenatis...scope test.jpg

A functional phenakistoscope of emerging hands, work from my Equal Justice Residency at the Santa Fe Art Institute 2018

snowglobe_homeless figurines.jpg

a functional snowglobe of plastic figurines of homeless people swirling around the US Capitol building, with crushed eggshells and glitter

The Measured Step.jpg

Detail of an installation and performance piece from my Equal Justice Residency at the Santa Fe Art Institute July 2018


About Bruce

Baltimore City

Bruce McKaig's picture
Bruce McKaig has been a visual artist for over thirty years, living in North and South America, Europe, Siberia, and India. Initially using photography, his practice also explores sculpture, time-based, performance, and advocacy work on art and socioeconomic issues. He has been awarded numerous private and public grants from the City of Paris, Washington DC, and Baltimore MD. He has participated in over forty-five solo and two hundred group exhibitions since 1980 and has works in museum collections in... more

Art & Economics: the Value of Labor

Eventually, my passion for art and my background in economics merged to examine socioeconomic issues and ethical labor practices. For my first public art project (2001), I produced 1000 DVDs of an animation and gave them away on the streets. In 2002, I first depicted labor through art using pinhole and time-lapse techniques to document workers on the job. Since 2015, I have built a barter network between artists and tradespeople (Trade4Art), and organized one-on-one meetings between artists and unemployed residents (Creative Baltimore Fund).

I was a participant in Santa Fe Art Institute's Equal Justice Residency (July 2018). I had conversations with academics, graveyard-shift security guards, and homeless residents, whose hopes, fears, and fate overlapped on the recently abandoned campus of the Santa Fe University of Art and Design.

Other works I include in this project are from an exhibition at Notre Dame of Maryland Univsity: A Picture is Worth a Thousand workers: the Cowboy, the Wrestler, the Dictator. The exhibit included participatory installation and performance works, co-ordinated with the NDMU's Business and Economics Department.

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    Digital photograph (18"x24") 2018 Equal Justice Residency July 2018 Santa Fe Art Institute
  • 03_McKaig_untitled 3.jpg

    Digital photograph (18"x24") 2018 Equal Justice Residency July 2018 Santa Fe Art Institute
  • sfai_projection wall01.jpg

    July 2018, I used the built-in night lights on a building facade (Santa Fe University of Art & Design) to display changing symbols, messages, and graphics about life on the officially shuttered and abandoned campus. Over the month, I changed the content and others on campus also changed the elements when I wasn't there. Equal Justice Residency July 2018 Santa Fe Art Institute
  • The Measured Step

    This edit is from rehearsals for a performance piece across the campus of the recently abandoned campus of the Santa Fe University of Art and Design. Installations marked the path, built from portraits, props, and hand prints of the academics, security guards, and homeless residents I spoke with while in residency. The singer, Cyndie Bellen-Berthézène, was also in residence, and is a professional opera singer currently running a NYC organization that brings opera to the very young. Equal Justice Residency July 2018 Santa Fe Art Institute
  • The Measured Step: Card Tricks

    During the performance The Measured Step I guided guests - together with an opera singer - around a 65-acre abandoned campus. The procession stopped at each installation I had placed along the way and discuused neoliberal eocnomics and the vlaue of work. In this picture, I am using a card trick to bring up complicity (We WANT to be tricked.) and fake news.
  • A Parlor Game in the Library

    As part of my exhibition, A Picture is Worth a Thousand Workers: a Cowboy, a Wrestler, a Dictator (Notre Dame of Maryland University 2018), I hosted a participatory performance. Quests followed simple instructions to complete tasks, sometimes independently, sometimes at odds with each other. Act I of the game was the apparent activity, animating the space as people navigated their individual path in or out of harmony with the group.
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    Detail of participatory installation Exhibition: A Picture is Worth A Thousand Workers, The Cowboy, the Wrestler, the Dictator Notre Dame of Maryland University (2018)
  • Hanging Pictures: Family Tree

    This infopanel maps various current uses on the Internet of an unidentified and unaccredited image, “Black Cowboys 1913." The panel also contains correspondence between me, curators, archivists, historians, about fair use of the image for part of a postcard invitation to an exhibition of my work that, among other themes, examined fake news.
  • labor and art05.jpg

    Part of my practice includes connected artists and Baltimore residents for one-on-one meetings to work and spend time together. The time together produces artworks, and, more importantly, establishes links and empathy between neighbors who otherwise did not know each other. Creative Baltimore Fund: Labor and Art 2018
  • Interview for the Equal Justice Residency at the Santa Fe Art Institute (July 2018)

    In this interview, I share a few words about an up-coming collaboration with artists Sandra Paola Lopez Ramirez and Soulaf Abas. We used our individual interests in photography, drawing, dance, Social Practices, to choreograph a participatory evening for quests, exploring identity, individual value, borders, both geographic and sentimental.

Scoioeconomics and art

The primary tenet of my art explores the power of words and images to reshape realities. I often juxtapose antiquated techniques or objects with contemporary themes and issues. Examples include a zoetrope on climate change, a photo standin on income inequality, an edible pie chart on ethics in funding.

Kenneth Roth writes, “The global rise of populism is a dangerous threat to democracy and human rights. Many people feel left behind by the global economy, and growing inequality.” Naomi Klein adds, ““People have lost their sense of security and identity under neoliberal policies of deregulation, privatization and corporate trade.” George Monbiot links this loss to “mental illness, anxiety, stress, depression, social phobia, eating disorders, self-harm and loneliness.”

In the arts, Barry Kehoe specifies: ”One must wade through a fog of mythology surrounding concepts of genius, colonial appropriation, and social Darwinism.” A similar “fog of mythology” cloaks contemporary econometrics. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) persists as the definitive measure of well-being. Whereas GDP quantifies economic activity, it cannot frame such activity within individual or communal values. A train wreck that results in death, hospitalizations, and lawsuits increases GDP.

For new visions to strengthen rather than oppress, conventional measures and practices must be reexamined. Social art practice refutes neoclassic concepts of what art is and New Economy values revise neoliberal notions of what well-being is. Local currency, worker owned, and barter networks join the world of profits and contract labor. Social practice, community based, new genre public art join the world of painting and ballet.

  • 4. climate change copy.jpg

    Size: 9:x5:x5: Date: 2014 Media/Process: wood, potter’s wheel, digital print: a functional zoetrope that displays statistics on climate change. The upper graphic is the visual information displayed inside the zoetrope.
  • 99 percent standin.jpg

    Here is a link to a two-minute timelapse of visitors to my studio posing in the 99 Percent standin, which uses a simple pie chart to display income inequality in the US. After posing, visitors can sign their name to the front of the chart. It can be inverted should a member of the top 1 percent be available to pose:
  • bmckaig_let them eat cake.jpg

    A ready-to-eat cake in the shape of an open book, decorated with edible graphics juxtaposing federal food subsidies and US obesity rates broken down by state. The cake can be served at events, delivered to implicated community members or policy makers, or experienced as part of a Cakewalk: "a carnivalesque tradition of mimicry on plantations, when slaves would parody the affectations of the upper classes. Somewhere in its long history, its origins as, first, a coded act of defiance, and then a mass cultural phenomenon that evolved into minstrel performances were lost.
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    This Place Has A Voice pie chart Media/Process: chocolate pie with edible chart of the sources of revenue for a public art project in DC Size: 11”x11”x4” Date: 2014
  • Gender Twists

    Gender Twists Media/Process: wood, resin frame, digital prints, A trilogy of functional thaumatropes suspended in a gold painted frame. When they spin, blur all distinctions between gender symbols are blurred, and they literally no longer fit inside the frame. Against a wall, all movement is blocked. Freestanding, they spin until there is no more tension in their bonds. Size: 25”x38”x10” Date: 2014
  • incarceration vs education cake.jpg

    Education vs Prison Cake Medium: cake, frosting, edible graphics Data from 40 states depict how much government money is spent per year to educate an elementary/secondary school student compared to the cost of keeping an inmate imprisoned. Size: 26”x12”x12” Date: 2014
  • snowglobe_homeless.jpg

    Snowglobe_homeless 2014 From the series, Futility Made from an empty mustard jar, this functional snowglobe contains water, glycerin, plastic pearls and glitter, a plastic model of the US Capitol, and plastic figurines of homeless people.
  • Praxiscope: Agricultural Practices.jpg

    Praxiscope_agricultural practices 2014 16”x7”x7” This functional fountain is topped with a spinning image that juxtaposes data on cash vs. sustenance farming practices. From the series Futility, which uses historical and contemporary photo techniques to examine socioeconomic issues.
  • Carfree Billing Classified Ad.jpg

    Carefree Billing Payments Medium: classified ad in Detroit Metro Weekly FTS "Futility," this ad (circled in yellow) was placed in Detroit's MetroTimes. It offers to handle any and all debt problems, by accepting any payments users chose to send in. No further claims. Support: ink on paper Size: 14”x10” Date: Piblished in Issue 36 Vol. 48 September 7 2016
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    One of the ways that I share the research part of my practice is through op-eds. This piece, in, was written during my Fellowship with The New Economy Maryland, part of the Institute for Policy Studies. NEM Fellowship/IPS 2016

Public Art and Performances

In 2001, a grant from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities allowed me to produce my first time based work, Letter to Alex O: the Movie. I made 1000 DVDs of the piece and handed them out free on the streets. Subsequently, the bulk of my practice has involved community-based public projects, including projections, installations, performances, curating, project management, and gatherings. The gatherings invite artists, historians, administrators, funders, community members to cook and eat together as we discuss the arts, ethics, value, and trust.

  • Narrative the Build We

    This is a sample projection, part of a multimedia performance piece at The Source Theater Festival in Washington DC. The attending public guided the story through survey answers and group discussions throughout the performance. Washington Post writer Nelson Pressley attended and wrote: "The view is torqued most unusually in the artistic blind date, a gentle and even jaunty reminder of how we rush to fill in storytelling blanks.
  • Feed Me Your Memories

    This clip is an edit from a performance piece staged in a public park in Washington DC as part of the public art project This Place Has A Voice. It is a meditative micro-drama exploring the physical manifestation of sharing memories. Sitting at a park table under the Cube, I fed Performative Eater Jon Lee a cake decorated with edible pictures of my childhood.
  • Making Meaning Workshop: Art Institute of Chicago

    Given 10 minutes to choreograph a performance on Making Meaning out of art experiences during a teachers’ workshop at the Art Institute of Chicago, my team of four brainstormed for 9.5 minutes, and then committed to repeating our conversation simultaneously in less than three minutes. When the microphone failed and we were asked to repeat the performance - three times - we insisted that the tech challenges only contributed to our message and stopped.
  • Bruce McKaig and Adrienne Penebre

    I was the lead artist and inaugural curator for the [email protected] Park, a permanently installed A/V delivery platform in the park. I worked with local residents to incorporate their stories, images, poems, into the projections. I also worked with local audio artist Adrienne Penebre for the sound track. This 20-minute projection is the first work to come out of the collaborations.
  • Letter to Alex O: the Movie

    I used a grant from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities to produce my first time-based work, an animation on DVD of a fictitious tour guide twirling and sliding to different places on the planet represented by photographs I have made during my travels. I produced 1000 DVDs of the work and gave them away for free to people on the streets in DC. Here’s a short clip of my giving them away on the streets:
  • brent computer station.jpg

    Commissioned and funded by The School Libraries Project (Washington DC), I produced two murals for permanent installation in the Brent Elementary School's library. The project's goal was to inspire reading through the art experience, so I incorporated elements from the reading curriculum as well as historical documents from the school's past. I interviewed the school librarian, custodian, and other personnel for input on the murals content.
  • brent frontdesk.jpg

    Commissioned and funded by The School Libraries Project (Washington DC), I produced two murals for permanent installation in the Brent Elementary School's library. The project's goal was to inspire reading through the art experience, so I incorporated elements from the reading curriculum as well as historical documents from the school's past. I interviewed the school librarian, custodian, and other personnel for input on the murals content.
  • community center portico.jpg

    I was contracted to conceive the design, recruit additional artists for the project, and execute the installation. The initial budget was $10,000 and I procured an additional $7,500. The solar powered lights along the portico roof undulate through a series of seven colors. The work involved coordinating permits with city planning agencies because the center is in a residential neighborhood.
  • photo burro.JPG

    In a department store basement that I converted into a darkroom, I covered the sculpture with light sensitive cyanotype (blueprint) chemistry, then "processed" it by squirting water on it with syringes. Instead of placing a photograph on the sculpture, I materially made the sculpture itself a photograph. This was part of the "Party Animals" art exhibition that took place throughout Washington, D.C., the largest public art exhibit ever held in the city.
  • This Plave Has A Voice.jpg

    I conceived and organized a free public Event Day (September 20 2014) that included more than two-dozen artists with performances, sculptures and installations, historical walking tours, and student docents from local universities. The image shows students installing oversized portraits of local residents in the park. As well as working with artists and community, I was the liaison with project funders: DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, The DC Department of Transportation, and the DC Humanities Council.

Time Based Works

My initial time-based works were mute and built entirely from still photographs. After the privilege of working with sound artist Adrienne Penebre, I began to add video files and sound tracks. Some of the time-based works have been screened at the Phillips Collection, the Art Museum of the Americas, Gallery Project (Ann Arbor), the Hungarian Multicultural Center (Budapest), et al.

For a 2006 exhibition of works from Time Markers, Andy Grundberg wrote: McKaig is less interested in the science or economics of how we move through time than he is fascinated by visual representations that encompass human presence and its shadowy other, absence. Part of what animates his work is a sense of temporality that one might interpret in terms of mortality.

Handcolored Gelatin Silver Photograms

Since 1987, I have been layering cutouts, leaves, rocks, body parts over pieces of paper as I print in the darkroom. These images use my archive of negatives as starting points for stories that I build out of whim and fantasy. It is a celebration of photography's capacity to invent over its capacity to document.

  • DW017.jpg

    8"x10" one-of-a-kind gelatin silver print
  • DW029.jpg

    8"x10" one-of-a-kind gelatin silver print, color pencil
  • DW030.jpg

    8"x10" one-of-a-kind gelatin silver print, color pencil
  • DW033.jpg

    8"x10" one-of-a-kind gelatin silver print, color pencil
  • DW053.jpg

    12"x16" one-of-a-kind gelatin silver print, oil paint
  • DW055.jpg

    12"x16" one-of-a-kind gelatin silver print, oil paint
  • DW056.jpg

    12"x16" one-of-a-kind gelatin silver print, oil paint
  • DW062.jpg

    12"x16" one-of-a-kind gelatin silver print, color pencil
  • DW065.jpg

    12"x16" one-of-a-kind gelatin silver print, color pencil
  • DW070.jpg

    12"x16" one-of-a-kind gelatin silver print, color pencil

Gelatin Silver Prints in Ambient Light

1988 - present

Gelatin silver prints in ambient light are produced with the inherently chaotic nature of light, a brut and rudimentary exploration of picture-less photography embracing, not avoiding, elements of chance and surprise. The images involve no optics, no camera, no darkroom, working only with the primary elements of photography: silver gelatin paper, chemicals, light. The paper is exposed, over hours or days, directly to ambient indoor/outdoor light and chemistry is applied by pouring, dripping, patting, splattering, splashing, brushing. Materials and gestures that are distinct and sequential in conventional photography here confront each other all at once and over and over. Treated this way, the silver develops not in black and white but in a multitude of colors. The resulting image is the very object exposed to light, without intermediary, like Daguerreotypes and other photographic processes that engender neither negative nor copy. The one-of-a-kind results are a mixture of my control and the force of natural elements: part prediction and part discovery. It is material photography, as in materialism, the doctrine that the only or fundamental reality is physical matter and that all beings, processes, and phenomena are manifestations of matter.

Images from this series have been exhibited at Galerie Lambert (Paris), the Kathleen Ewing Gallery (DC), School 33 Art Center (Baltimore), et al. The Bibliotheque Nationale (Paris) purchased eight of these images between 1992 and 1996.

Latin America Works

In January 1988, I left Washington DC to spend six months in Mexico. Instead, I traveled through Mexico and arrived in Guatemala where I lived for two years, traveling at times as far south as Ecuador. In 1991, I returned to Guatemala for two more years. I lived in a small Tzutuhil village, San Pedro La Laguna, in the mountains to the west of Guatemala by Lake Atitlan. Over these formative years, I worked extensively with hand coloring and began making pinhole and stereo photographs. The first stereo photographs were made by bolting two cameras together. The first pinhole photographs were made from powdered milk cans.

Since 1988, I have been printing the Latin American negatives and coloring the photographs with watercolor or pencil. As of 2008, I have accumulated over three hundred one-of-a-kind photographs. There are more negatives to be printed. Parts of this series are in the collections of the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, El Centro Nationale Para la Proteccion de la Antigua in Guatemala, and La Maison Europeene de la Photographie in Paris. Parts have been exhibited at El Convento de Santa Clara, Anitqua Guatemala, Georgetown University, Martin Luther King Jr. Library, Le Faste Fou (Paris), Palais de Tokyo Museum (Paris).

  • antonio and daughters_3D.jpg

    gelatin silver stereo photographs, watercolors
  • LAGUAT.006.jpg

    gelatin silver gelatin silver print, watercolors, color pencil
  • LAGUAT.048.jpg

    gelatin silver gelatin silver print, watercolors, color pencil
  • LAGUAT.054.jpg

    gelatin silver gelatin silver print, watercolors, color pencil
  • LAGUAT.063.jpg

    gelatin silver gelatin silver print, watercolors, color pencil
  • LAGUAT.095.jpg

    gelatin silver pinhol photograph, color pencil
  • LAGUAT.8894.jpg

    gelatin silver gelatin stereo photographs, watercolors
  • LAHON.9193 copy copy.jpg

    gelatin silver gelatin silver pinhole photograph, color pencil
  • mckaigbruce_08.jpg

    I made this pinhole photograph in San Pedro La LAguna Guatemala in 1990, then paired it with an image from 2013 of the same street found on the Internet.
  • mckaigbruce_09.jpg

    I made this photograph in San Pedro La LAguna Guatemala in 1990, then paired it with an image from 2013 of the same scene found on the Internet. My goal is to retuen to San Pedro at some point to produce a series of images of the rapid growth over the last generation, and a study of how the new economics have affected the village.

Trashcan Pinhole Photographs

In February 2001, I made a pinhole camera out of a 10-gallon galvanized steel trashcan. The slow exposures explain the absence of movement and activity in many scenes. The trashcan camera produces 16"x20" paper negatives that are contact printed for the final 20”x24” silver gelatin prints. The first two years of work produced cityscapes of Washington DC. Eventually, I began transporting the trashcan camera to the countryside in nearby Virginia and Maryland. Some of the resulting landscapes are panoramic, many are up-close compositions approached like still lifes.

Since January 2004, I have been using the trashcan to photograph perception drawings from psychology studies about vision and perception. Materials taken from science and the arts are scanned onto transparencies that are photographed with the pinhole trashcan. In psychology, the drawings and their questions are ostensibly presented in a “visually neutral” format, inviting viewers to form conclusions about how we see. In these pinhole photographs, the blatant visual qualities – vignetting, distortion -- render any insights transparent, dysfunctional, humorous, raising more questions than answers. That work made me curious about process in a vast sense so I expanded the subject matter to consider, from beginning to end, how a photograph is materially made (creation), seen (perception), and understood (cognition). Sample subjects include medical scans of the eye, sheet music, cave drawings, Renaissance paintings, cookie cutters, dials, graphs and data sheets from Kodak how-to books, a Chipotle napkin.


This series was part of my transition from a solitary art practice to public art and community-based projects. Working with models – friends, neighbors, the mailman – was the invitation to open the process to other people’s presence and persona. I completed the images with techniques that produce one-of-a-kind results, like the models.

  • DW175.jpg

    9"x6" one-of-a-kind gelatin silver print
  • DW176.jpg

    9"x6" one-of-a-kind gelatin silver print
  • DW177.jpg

    9"x6" one-of-a-kind gelatin silver print
  • DW178.jpg

    9"x6" one-of-a-kind gelatin silver print
  • DW174.jpg

    9"x6" one-of-a-kind gelatin silver print
  • DW179.jpg

    9"x6" one-of-a-kind gelatin silver print
  • DW183.jpg

    9"x6" one-of-a-kind gelatin silver print
  • DW193.jpg

    9"x6" one-of-a-kind gelatin silver print
  • DW194.jpg

    9"x6" one-of-a-kind gelatin silver print
  • DW197.jpg

    9"x6" one-of-a-kind gelatin silver print

History Series

I came. I saw. I manipulated.

The process is simple: lay something on top of something else (in front of a car), like photograms, another process I have explored for years. It’s about spaces, how we shape them, perceive them, in terms of identity, status in this case, mostly screen spaces, and the spaces of memory. Photography is both pushed in front of the camera and pasted on after the camera. Source files for each image are visual notes from my archive of travels.

Connect with Bruce


Bruce's Curated Collection

This artist has not yet created a curated collection.