SECOND SIGHT : Recent Work by Christina McPhee

Closing Reception, Saturday, November 12, 2016, 4-8 pm

Fine Arts Building, Room 50
Cerritos College
11110 Alondra Blvd
Norwalk, CA 90650

Cerritos College Art Gallery, September 8 – November 12, 2016



Christina McPhee’s SECOND SIGHT dilates with the scorch of excess, after-image, ghosting effects, and transversal overwrites. She creates fluid, intricate line systems that mesh and contract in bravura-comical allusions to anime, graffiti, and the lost art of handwriting. McPhee’s paintings are constructed using a laborious ink-over-oil process, whereby drawing, typically thought of as the primal underlayment, becomes the topmost layer, like an illumination, over painted and incised surfaces. Each work pulls from and combines multiple codes—variously excavating the entomological futures of classical Mayan grammar, dipping into an alphabet soup of deep-sea taxonomies in the post-oil spill Gulf of Mexico, and setting to war the chemical transcriptions of synthetic estrogen and commercial weed-killer. Her performative engagement with drawing vibrantly animates a dense montage, colliding semi-legible transcriptions of fragile ecologies and seismic landscapes with seductive, surface-skidding calligraphic gestures and mark-making. Her lines throw down rope-like bridges, a cat’s-cradle network of convergent signifiers: cached and clustered, the fragments take exception to their systems.  In her new video, Microswarm Patchwalk, she transcribes a beach walk wearing a post-surgical eye patch. The video is cut to a new recording of performance by Quinn Dougherty, of her recent drawn score for electronic guitar and computer,  Microswarm One.The lush photographs from her Double Blind Studies series consist of Rorschach-like gelatin silver prints made from images of her own recent drawings, which she combines, dissects and butterflies into ambiguous arrays that call into question perception and the creative act itself.


On ‘Second Sight’



I went on a night kayaking trip into the waters above the San Andreas fault at the mouth of the Pacific Ocean at Tomales Bay — the purpose of the trip was to see the bioluminescent algae that shine like zillions of stars in the shallow waters…. the night was very dark, no moon, and warm, with calm seas, conditions were perfect.



The term da-shealladh (pronounced “dah-haloo”), often translated as “second sight”, literally means “two sights”. It refers to the ability to see apparitions of both the living and the dead.

R. Moss, Scottish Dreaming), n.d.



I discovered I could not see any details— only the vague glow— just as others in kayaks were exclaiming with excitement at the shining foil -like diamond bits shimmering and coating their paddles as they dipped them in I looked through the viewfinder of my Nikon to see if I could see better through it— since it correctly delivers a view of what the camera will see when you hit the shutter — but again nothing— and I realized that I had a retinal problem, not just a lens problem…



A high-quality clinical trial is typically double-blind …{either} patients do not know if they are receiving the active treatment or a placebo (single-blind), or that patients and the physicians treating and assessing those patients are unaware of who is in the active treatment group (double-blind).

M. McGill, Medical News Today, n.d.



Since I had already been working on the theme of blindness and blind drawings since the winter of 2011, to encounter a construct of my practice within all the material (mechanic, personal, intimate) of my own eye carried with it an infinitely unfolding valence – a merging of my impression of social, environmental, political and physical entities that made me feel affirmed in my new strangeness. The nascent knowledge that the granular attributes of my practice, those parts which rely on my eye as an apparatus, must from now on finally accommodate this shift that had been for years already fermenting, immediately inculcated its own bioluminescence.


Look above: the sky is falling. From this perspective, what we cannot possibly yet see is how the sky has a forest on its back.

P. Neves Marques, e-flux superconversations, 05.23.15



My series of Double Bind Studies have a forensic quality and call into question what is it we are really seeing – are these photograms?, —are they photographs of drawings, are they film, are they digital objects?,etc. And the same impetus is at play when observing the hauls of marine animals from very deep waters in the night on the Gulf of Mexico after the BP oil spill, I mean, the experience of seeing the kinds of creatures one would never otherwise see — sightless fish from the deepest waters – alongside them, the extremely fine grain of materiality embodied by microscopic algae glowing in the water— so tiny as individuals, who, as an aggregate, cast a brilliant sheen (the fine grain of which until now I can only imagine…).


¿Cuál es la temeridad/ de una alta presunción/ que pudiendo ser razón/ pretende ser necedad?

Enigma Los Enigmas de Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz -1690-1692



In 1562, Bishop of Yucatan Diego de Landa burned, by his own account, twenty-seven books of Maya hieroglyphics, or codices, at the conclusion of an Inquisition into Maya religious practices. Only fragments of these remain—three books plus a few pieces of a fourth.  “We found a large number of books in their letters and because they had nothing in which there was not superstition and lies of the devil, we burned them all, whcih they regretted to an amazing degree and which caused them sorrow.

Diego de Landa (trans. unknown)


The prison is considered so natural that it is extremely hard to imagine life without them.

Angela Davis. Are Prisons Obsolete?  2003




- Christina McPhee August 2016


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