Christina McPhee’s images move from within a matrix of shadowing figures and contingent effects. Her work emulates potential forms of life, through exploration of mark-making and haptic spaces of touch and illumination. Her dynamic, performative, physical engagement with materials is a seduction into surface-skidding calligraphic gestures and mark-making. Jagged shards vie for position and collide with animations, which together swarm, fold, cascade and crash in compositions that suggest accelerating mass movements, or the search for grounding and commons. Recent paintings, videos, and drawings engage with interspecies communication, healing from traumatic memory, and spirituality. Evidence of the human touch is literally embodied in the works: smearing, tearing, scraping, slicing, as the artist develops a call and response to the sounds of voices, singing and speaking. McPhee uses techniques of multiplicity, doubling, mirroring, shattering, editing, erasing, cropping and ghosting to explore vitality, loss, and regeneration. Her works intimate connections between performance, writing, text, and drawing. As an immersive listener via spoken word literature and musical texts, she draws from authors and composers across millenia, from Hildegard of Bingen, to Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Toni Morrison, Dionne Brand, and Joan Naviyuk Kane, alongside music by Pauline Oliveros, Pamela Z, Ashon Crawley and others. Transdisciplinary in practice, McPhee’s lines dance through drawing, painting and video towards what Crawley has called a ‘choreosonic’ presencing.
Christina McPhee was born into a family of immigrants from Saxony and Friesland, who settled in the upper midwest of the United States. Born in Pomona, California in 1954, she moved at the age of seven to a village in Nebraska, where she spent her childhood outdoors as much as possible, teaching herself to draw and observe the prairie. She earned a full scholarship to Scripps College, Claremont, California, and then left the college to pursue full time studies in painting, first at Kansas City Art Institute, and later at Boston University for an MFA, where she was a student of Philip Guston in his last two years of life and teaching. She currently lives in the central coast of California, in a rural setting near Big Sur.
Christina McPhee is a recipient, together with Pamela Z, of a MAP Fund award to support the creation of Carbon Song Cycle, a multi-channel video and chamber music work, which premiered at Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive.
Her work across video, drawing, photomontage and painting has shown in museum exhibitions at the American University Museum-Katzen Art Center, and at Bildmuseet, Umeå, Sweden. Among museum collections of her work are the Whitney Museum of American Art, International Center for Photography, and Rhizome Artbase, New York; Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri; Colorado Springs Art Museum at Colorado College; Sheldon Art Museum and the Great Plains Art Museum at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Recent exhibitions include “Otherwise/Revival” at Bridge Projects, Los Angeles, in 2021.
Her works have shown in solo and two-person shows at Left Field Gallery, Irenic Projects, Cerritos College Art Gallery, Patricia Sweetow, and Jessica Silverman galleries in California; the former Sara Tecchia Roma New York in Chelsea; and in numerous screenings, notably with the Center for Visual Music, at Los Angeles County Museum of Art and at the Horse Hospital, London. Her video work has been commissioned for the Thresholds New Media Collection, Perth Concert Hall, Scotland. Interviews and criticism around her practice can be found in Bomb Magazine, Digicult, and in the pages of ‘Christina McPhee: A Commonplace Book’ (Punctum, 2017).
She was curator/editor for the online discussion forum -empyre- in participation with the Documenta 12 Magazine Project. Her artist's writing on media arts theory and culture appear in books published by CTheory (VIctoria, BC) and Intellect Books with Roy Ascott. Most recently, images of her drawings, paintings and photomontage have illuminated articles in Radical Philosophy, Evergreen Review, Somkelong Quarterly, and KHORA.
Bowing Like a Star / Inclinado como estrella, detail, 2020