Michael Marcelle is a New Jersey-born artist who loves portraying psychedelic and mysterious portraits in his bizarre photographs. While looking at his photographs, it’s almost like you’re transported into his imagination, floating through blurry colors and unsettling images that resemble a retro horror movie aesthetic.


Marcelle is currently collab-ing with MATTE Editions on a Kickstarter campaign featuring a hardbound photography book, Kokomo, exploring his family’s journey through the wake of Hurricane Sandy’s devastation. The book is not only a deeply personal exploration of trauma in a small town in the Northeast but also an intense, hallucinatory journey into the very meaning of family and home in the face of unbelievable destruction. The series has been featured in The New Yorker, Vogue, VicePaper Journal, and Juxtapoz, and has been exhibited at the Aperture Foundation, Interstate Projects, and Pioneer Works.


He also has an impressive art education resume, rocking a BA from Bard College and an MFA from Yale University.


Art Zealous spent five minutes with Marcelle to chat about Kokomo and his process.


AZ: Coffee or tea?

MM: Neither – a lot of seltzer.


AZ: Artistic background?

MM: BA from Bard College and an MFA from Yale University.




AZ: Tell us about your Kokomo project.

MM: Kokomo is about my family and hometown after Hurricane Sandy. Rather than directly documenting the devastation, I was interested in abstracting the aftermath into an alternate reality that dealt more with the psychic ramifications of trauma and family. I wanted my home to feel like an alien world.




AZ: You often use portraits of people in your work- how does the process differ in photographing models or friends?

MM: Family is the hardest but most rewarding, because there’s a lot of emotional tension!




AZ: What are ideas or philosophies that drive your work?

MM: I’m always interested in extreme ways of seeing and how photography can elevate reality into something strange and uncanny.




AZ: How does working digitally change the way you approach creating a piece of art?

MM: It allows me the space to experiment without worrying about expense. A lot of photographers are returning to analog as a way to counteract the speed people digest images now. I consider my work utterly digital, and am interested in how these images work in the viewer’s mind alongside their Instagram feeds and ads they see all day.




AZ: Currently working on?

MM: I’m currently working on a book for Kokomo with MATTE Editions that will be out next summer, and a new body of work called Red Strawberry.




AZ: What can we expect to see from you in the future?

MM: Hopefully weirder work.


Follow Michael on Instagram.