More About Everything
“More About Everything” is a forthright declaration, optimistically motioning toward that which is to come: More!
Shaina McCoy’s past few years of artistic output have been marked by propulsive creativity. She has generated several series for exhibitions held worldwide, most of which have been organized by specific subject matter (see: fathers, sports, Black girlhood). For More About Everything, the artist’s second solo exhibition at Stems, McCoy laid her curatorial eye to rest, eschewing thematic constraints. Without straying from her practice’s wellspring of inspi- ration—her grandfather’s photo albums—McCoy granted herself the freedom to paint by instinct. Gathered here are the fruits of her liberatory tactic: seven tenderly wrought portraits that evince the artist’s formal progression.
In McCoy’s portraiture, impasto does the work of facial definition. Slabs of flesh-colored paint signal the presence of eyes, cheeks, and lips. Though, some of her subjects are more “complete” than others. Unk Otis depicts a sports fan angling his head toward the viewer. He bears lopsided cheeks above a sharp chin, but lacks eyes and lips. The man in Ready for the Day, meanwhile, possesses an entire impression of a face, with features just barely suggested. McCoy allots these gestural qualities intuitively, pulling forth those which advance the composition as a whole. But never do her subjects convey a distinct, legible expression. She provides the scaffolding of individuality, inviting the viewer to project their loved ones in the place of her known and unknown family members.
The narrative coherence of her portraits, then, primarily emerges through contextualizing details. Palpably nostalgic, McCoy’s paintings are replete with styles and colors associated with decades past. While she typically positions her subjects in front of flat planes of color, the artist has begun to elaborate her paintings’ mise-en-scènes. Anything
4U centers a young girl grasping a vanilla ice cream cone—which felicitously matches the textured fleece of her coat—amid wintry farmland. The thin, watery brushstrokes that animate the barns and stripped-down trees contrast strikingly with McCoy’s dense and glossy figurative treatment. This brushwork appears again in Jojo’s Bath Time, vis-à-vis her rendering of a bottle of Johnson’s body wash and the water spilling from the bathtub’s faucet. In this tableau, a few bathtime fixtures (rubber duck included) populate the minimalist, compressed composition. The objects appear to be floating in an expanse of negative space, drawing the eye upwards, beyond the canvas and, perhaps, back into the viewer’s own memory.
McCoy excels at evocation—it is no wonder she counts Alice Neel, Deena Lawson, and Mary Cassatt among her inspirations. More About Everything oversees the expansion of her powers of suggestion on the level of form, while holding steadfast to the conceptual heart of her practice: celebrating quotidien family life.
This is not a small love
you hear this is a large
love, a passion for kissing learning on its face.
This is a love that crowns the feet with hands
that nourishes, conceives, feels the water sails
mends the children,
folds them inside our history where they
toast more than the flesh
where they suck the bones of the alphabet
and spit out closed vowels.
This is a love colored with iron
This is a love initialed Black Genius.
This is not a small voice you hear.
Excerpted from “This Is Not a Small Voice” by Sonia Sanchez