Sean McFarland

2017 SECA Art Award Recipient

A Cyanotype of a photograph of three waterfalls hung on a wall
Artwork image, Sean McFarland, Untitled, 2016
A series of gelatin silver prints with a black background and a white orb in the center

Sean McFarland, Three Falls (stand-in), 2014 (detail); courtesy the artist and Casemore Kirkeby Gallery, San Francisco

Sean McFarland, Untitled, 2016; photo: courtesy the artist and Casemore Kirkeby

Sean McFarland, Moon (collection), 2011–17; courtesy the artist and Casemore Kirkeby Gallery, San Francisco


Central to the work of Sean McFarland (b. 1976) is the complex and often fraught relationship between photography and the American West, which has resulted in both the exploitation of the land and its preservation. With this history in mind, he explores the tensions between the natural and the artificial and between a subject and its representation. McFarland is interested in our tendency to overlook the ways our experiences of the landscape are mediated, just as we are prone to trust the truth value of photographs even though we know they are not transparent windows on the world. He deftly plays with these slippages, creating pictures that call attention to the fact that they are constructions: he makes moons from bottle caps and mountains from chips of glass, and he uses double exposures and prismatic effects to suggest physical forces that do not typically register in photographs.


Artist Sean McFarland considers why we continuously attempt to capture nature through photography.