Maureen McCabe (B. 1947) is an internationally recognized and celebrated collagist, known primarily for her playful yet carefully composed box constructions. She honed this style while pursuing an MFA at Cranbrook Academy of Art in the early 1970s, after receiving a BFA from The Rhode Island School of Design in 1969.
Following her formal art training, McCabe received a National Endowment for the Arts grant through the Renwick Gallery, as well as a Mellon Grant to conduct research for a new course at Connecticut College, “Women in Modern Art.” She completed residencies at Yaddo, an artists’ community in Saratoga Springs, NY, Cite des Arts in Paris (sponsored by Darthea Speyer of the Darthea Speyer Gallery), and the Bellagio Study and Conference Center at the Villa Serbelloni (sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation in 1988).
McCabe received the 1997-1998 John S. King Faculty Teaching Award, and was named “Joanne Toor Cummings ‘50 Professor of Studio Art” in 2001 for her work at Connecticut College, where she taught for four decades. Her retirement from teaching in 2011 was marked by an exhibition of her work, Swan Song, at the college’s Cummings Arts Center. It was a celebration and showcase of her ability to create complex narratives that combine popular American culture, ancient mythology, and the folklore of her Irish heritage.
McCabe’s collages consist predominantly of drawn images, personal keepsakes, real gold and silver, as well as found objects such as toys, prints, coins, tokens, cards, antiques, talismans, and magic relics. Despite their many elements, the boxes are not random, but rather highly researched fragments of experience curated around a focused theme. Though small in scale, they are colorful, dynamic, and demanding of attention. They are journeys of the imagination – collections of desires, dreams, and fantasies – manifested in a time capsule-like manner that is both personal as well as evocative on a more mysterious, magical level.
Her oeuvre follows in the tradition of artists such as Joseph Cornell, whose work is often associated with the French Surrealists. Both Cornell and McCabe’s box constructions maintain a poetic and dream-like quality in their loose narratives and carefully posed and floating elements, but also draw directly from the physical, material worlds of their respective eras. This juxtaposition of the otherworldly with the iconic objects of contemporary, everyday life was McCabe’s goal, as she strived to create artwork that was at once familiar and strange, contemporary and timeless.