David Maisel was born in New York City in 1961. He received his BA from Princeton University, and his MFA from California College of the Arts, in addition to study at Harvard University's Graduate School of Design. Maisel was a Scholar in Residence at the Getty Research Institute in 2007 and an Artist in Residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts in 2008. He became a trustee of the Headlands Center for the Arts in 2011. Maisel has been the recipient of an Individual Artist’s Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and was short-listed for the Prix Pictet in 2008. Maisel lives and works in the San Francisco area.
Maisel’s practice has focused primarily on environmentally impacted sites, in a multi-chaptered series called "Black Maps". His large-scaled photographs show the physical impact on the land from industrial efforts such as mining, logging, water reclamation, and military testing. Because these sites are often remote and inaccessible, Maisel frequently works from an aerial perspective, thereby permitting images and photographic evidence that would be otherwise unattainable.
In Maisel’s recent project, Library of Dust, he continues to investigate a zone bordered by aesthetics and ethics. The series depicts individual copper canisters, each containing the cremated remains of patients from a state-run psychiatric hospital, whose bodies have been unclaimed by their families. The canisters are now blooming with colorful secondary minerals as the copper undergoes physical and chemical transformations. Sublimely beautiful, yet disquieting, the enigmatic photographs are meditations on issues of matter and spirit.
Maisel’s photographs, multi-media projects, and public installations have been exhibited internationally, and are included in many public collections, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Victoria & Albert Museum; the Brooklyn Museum of Art; the Santa Barbara Museum of Art; the Yale University Art Gallery; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, among others. His work has been the subject of four monographs: The Lake Project (Nazraeli Press, 2004), Oblivion (Nazraeli Press, 2006), Library of Dust (Chronicle Books, 2008), and History's Shadow (Nazraeli Press, 2011).