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Art Watch : John McKaig

John McKaig is our Art Watch Artist for today. This section is brought to you by Art From Us and Divvya Nirula. The Artists we spotlight here can be from any field, across nay discipline, and using a variety of media. We share here why we think they are important and worth watching. Be it genius creators of eras gone by or the upcoming contemporary artist who is yet to have their first show. All come under the purview of Art Watch.

Mckaig has been an instructor of painting, drawing, printmaking and photography for the last 25 years at the college and secondary school levels, in Williamsport. His teaching record and his passion for the art is unrivalled. Currently a professor at Bloomsburg University and the Pennsylvania College of Technology, teaching drawing, photography and art history. McKaig has taught art and photography at the Interlochen Arts Academy for 15 years and Syracuse University for 12 years.

McKaig says- ” I create pictures that help me explore the idea of escape, ideas of mortality and passage after life, and about how to deal with trauma and healing from that trauma. I start with a drawing, which is a basis for this exploration, due to it’s range and immediacy.”

The deliberation of slowing down and putting marks on a surface, for John is a perfect blend of abstract and layered thought on one hand, and practical action on the other, in a way that connects him to the first primal human actions.

The ideas of escape, ideas of mortality and passage after life, how to deal with trauma and healing from that trauma are a preoccupation with McKaig. His pictures are a cathartic way that help him in his explorations. The use of the figure explores his identity (that is known by his preference) as a gay man that is still expected to justify his experiences and basic human identity. McKaig rejects the standards that are dominant in life and in imagery, and hopes that his re-contextualization of objects alludes to his exploration of his queer identity. The uses nautical imagery, water and the human figure is pivotal in order to communicate essential ideas of how we relate to each other. The fluidity of the liquid as a medium. He investigates how people affect each other, and if they can move to a space that is empowering and encouraging.

Why John McKaig?

John utilises the idea of “passage” and “journey” not just as a means to communicate ideas of healing and working through trauma, but also to communicate the idea of growing beyond limitations and definitions of being.

His depiction of the figure (or figurative elements or components) in situations or stances that allude to ideas of fighting back, play and wonderment, as well as stoicism – display a quiet resolve. His medium which is drawing, is a basis for his meditation. As he works through his life and work, he demonstrates how the inherent qualities of a specific media can help him communicate both subtle and dramatic ideas related to his thesis. As an artist he is not bound and he shifts between printmaking, drawing, and painting in order to remain active and positive in his process.

Often his method resembles the techniques of improvisational Jazz, that doesn’t begin with a complete plan, as to how the many layers of his works will affect each other, but the idea is to make them function on individual levels as well as in conduction with the other components. 

To maintain a straight-forward connection to the viewers’ experiences, he depicts recognizable objects, spaces and figurative elements. McKaig has a disdain for irony and cynicism, and endeavors to make his work approachable, but with the hope and expectation that it should be observed carefully and with contemplation.

He has exhibited his work throughout the United States and internationally.


For more Artists handpicked by Divvya Nirula – explore the ART WATCH archive.

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