These works form a series that investigates topsy-turvy, skewed, and disorienting views of the world as a metaphor for our enduring sense of displacement. Based on my encounters with the landscape as a mysterious and unpredictable place, the puddles depicted in the paintings, and their attendant reflected images, shrink and disappear, hinting at our transient and fragile hold on the earth. Literally, they reflect upon the environment by offering transparent water to gaze into and metaphorically, these pools of water are a mirrored surface that flattens and disconcerts us by casting back an image. The work acknowledges that reflections in water are a significant part of the history of painting yet rather than depict these as places that evoke elevated or sublime emotional states, I focus attention on the puddle’s intimacy and melancholia. At the heart of this work there is an uncanny ‘doubling’ embedded in the use of reflections that I purposefully employ to exaggerate our sense of dislocation and displacement as we move throughout the world.
Driving and walking around uncovers these arresting images by simply observing my surroundings. Through repeated viewing, I become particularly interested in the shape of and reflected images created by the puddles. Images are initially recorded as photographs that are then developed over time using Photoshop and drawing. I also rely on memory to recall what I have seen. My process then entails an initial layer of acrylic paint, laid down as either a solid or very washy color which is then built upon by accumulated layers of oil paint. The underpainting seeps through, creating a sense of depth. ‘Ghosting’ occurs in the layering method I use, not only in the underpainting peeking through from underneath, but also, in how the materiality of the paint retains its ‘body’ and starts to produce seams, scars, and other dimensional marks. My physical treatment of the paint helps me wring out psychological content and further connects the viewer to the subject matter through the palpable presence of the human hand in constructing the images. Different scale choices allow me to experiment with space and not be constrained by habit or familiarity. For example, the physical size of the smaller works echoes small niches within the landscape they represent, while the larger canvases offer a more expansive and immersive experience for the viewer.
Shona Macdonald received her MFA in 1996 in studio arts from the University of Illinois at Chicago and her BFA in 1992 from Glasgow School of Art in Scotland. She has had selected solo shows at the Tarble Arts Center, Charleston, IL, (2015), Gridspace, Brooklyn, NY, (2014), Ebersmoore, Chicago, (2012), the Roswell Art Museum, Roswell, NM, (2011), Engine Room, Wellington, New Zealand, (2010), Proof Gallery, Boston, MA (2009), Reeves Contemporary, NY, NY (2008), Den Contemporary, LA, CA, (2007), Skestos-Gabriele, Chicago IL, (2005), Galerie Refugium, Berlin, Germany, (2002), and Fassbender Gallery, Chicago (1998 and 2000). Her work has been included in numerous group shows across the United States, UK, Australia, and Canada. Reviews of her work are included in Art in America, Art News, the LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times, Sacramento Bee, Boston Globe, Artscope, and New American Paintings. She has been a Visiting Artist at over forty institutions, including Wimbledon College of Art, London, (1998), Georgia State University, Atlanta, (2007), Cornell University (2006), the University of Alberta, and the University of Calgary, Canada, (2002). Shona Macdonald was the recipient of a grant from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, NY, (2009), a Fellow at Roswell Artist-in-Residence in Roswell, New Mexico, (2010-11), Can Serrat, Barcelona, Spain, (2012), the Cromarty Arts Trust in Scotland and will be resident at Ballinglen in Ireland, summer of 2017. She is currently Professor of Studio Art and Graduate Program Director at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and formerly Associate Professor at Illinois State University, where she taught from 1998 until 2006.