Christina McPhee’s work is particularly interesting to me in how it blends theory with relevant pressing topics to create a sort of abstract synthesis of information represented through art. This manifests in a number of different forms and mediums, with more traditional layered abstractions on paper tending to define her more early work whereas more recent projects tend to center on new media technology, most relevant to the concerns of FemTech.
In terms of her physical artwork, it tends to tie political themes through abstract representation. Summers, in exploring her “Second Sight” exhibit, describes her 2D abstract creations as “queer abstraction,” in which temporality is distorted and captured through color and form which ties back to memory. Here it crucially differs from the dominant patriarchal school of abstract art, rejecting those sensibilities in favor of its own “drawn performance” of feminist and queer thought. He describes the pieces as themselves quite melancholy, drawn in moody, dark colors through oils and inks and more. The color choices are political in of themselves, such as the yellows chosen to represent oil in one piece about oil spills. Though abstract, they do connect to real meaning and issues and perform new ideas.
In conversation with Melissa Porter, McPhee explains her approach in more depth. She describes her approach to her pieces as “trying to create a record or report of an attempt to model,” finding ways to represent, for example, statistics on sea temperatures in a piece on climate change through abstract art. Fragments of meaning are then gathered from a wide breadth and united in a piece of art to create a new whole which stands as an intricate exploration of a larger issue. Though I do not fully understand the layers of commentary to these pieces, which she describes as ironic and full of double entendre in ways I can’t quite wrap my head around, they are a fascinating approach to me as a way of creating meaning from parts and synthesizing and re-representing them as new things. The use of photomontage in some of these pieces I find particularly relevant and poignant.
In many ways, it’s these pieces with a firm foundation chopped up and reassembled I can most grasp onto and understand. Her collaboration with Pamela Z is fascinating, using image to accompany the singer and add to environmental meaning in complex ways. Tied to listing of data vocally it becomes a multisensory expression of science into an artistic appeal, which sounds particularly compelling to me. The article primarily focuses on Z, but the richness of the collaboration potential intruiges me. Z appears to be an artist engaged in multimedia expression of serious issues, and I can certainly see why McPhee’s abstract, queer, feminist capturing and exploration of data through video and new media would be a strong area for collaboration and expansion in expression.