Brian McCarty is a contemporary artist and photographer known for his work with toys. McCarty's approach is based upon integrating toy characters into real-life situations through the use of forced perspective in carefully crafted scenes. Preferring to work in-camera and without compositing, McCarty creates his photographs by sometimes traveling to exotic locations, including active war zones. Although grounded in reality, because of his use of implied narratives mixed with ironic juxtapositions, McCarty's work is often associated with the Art-Toy, Lowbrow, and Pop Surrealist movements.
McCarty's photographs are featured in several books including Vinyl Will Kill, Dot Dot Dash, and his first monograph Art-Toys, published by Baby Tattoo Books. His work has earned notable praise from such places as CNN, Wired, the New York Times, Hi Fructose, ABC World News, and Huffington Post. McCarty has created commissioned projects for clients including Disney, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Hasbro, and MTV.
McCarty has been using toys in his photography for over twenty years. While at Parsons in 1993, he began work on The Dollhouse. For the series McCarty constructed a toy hyperreality and used the simulacra of family to explore modern living. In 1997, photographs from The Dollhouse were included in the traveling exhibition Making It Real, curated by Vik Muniz.
Upon earning his BFA from Parsons School of Design in 1996, McCarty accepted a grant and invitation to the Benetton-supported, creative research centre Fabrica in Treviso, Italy. There, he worked on several prominent campaigns and fine-art exhibitions, including Habitus, Abito, Abitare, Progetto Arte at the Luigi Pecci Centre for Contemporary Art and KON©EPT, the first major photographic exhibition in Zagreb after the Croatian War of Independence. McCarty used the forum to study so-called “war-toys” as cultural artifacts and tools for gaining perspective on conflict.
Over the years that followed, McCarty continued to develop this study into a large-scale, collaborative project. Now in its forth year of non-continuous production, WAR-TOYS articulates children’s firsthand accounts of war using principles of play and art therapy. With support from art therapists and international NGOs, McCarty invites traumatized children to become art directors for his photographs of locally found toys, narratively placed and posed on location.
To date, McCarty has worked in Lebanon, Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip with children under the care of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, Israel Trauma Coalition, Kayany Foundation, and Spafford Children’s Center.
Early work from WAR-TOYS has been exhibited by the V&A Museum of Childhood, the Richard F. Brush Art Gallery at St. Lawrence University, the Volksmuseum Schleswig, and the South African foundation Freedom to Create. McCarty has given talks at The New School, Carter Presidential Library, American University of Beirut, and TEDxSantaMonica.
McCarty is currently splitting his time between WAR-TOYS and commissioned work.