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Monday, August 28, 2017

Steve McGhee

Could anyone create art from natural disasters?
Should anyone even try? And if so, why?
As I watch the incredible pain, suffering, loss of life, and tremendous destruction of both private property and public infrastructure resulting from Hurricane Harvey, one question keeps running through my mind. How many severe natural catastrophes such as this will it take before climate change deniers, especially in the south, come to realize that what they are enduring is NOT simply a spell of bad weather. The religious among us might say that what we're seeing is God trying to convince them otherwise and suggesting they might want to instead bear the tremendous cost and inconvenience of doing something about it sooner rather than later. As the old saying goes, "You can pay me now, or pay me [much more] later." Later being the cleanup and rebuilding after various climate change disasters like Harvey (or worse) occur.
Steve McGhee creates his scenes of natural disasters from photos such as these. Looks like he'll have no shortage of
source material for a while to come.
What does all this have to do with art? It has quite a lot to do with the art of Ontario digital artist Steve McGhee. We might say, without fear of offending him, that his art is a disaster. If you believe there's no beauty in destruction, but there is a special kind of hope in disaster, Steve McGhee‘s art will speak to you. The Canadian illustrator’s imagination gives birth to tragedy, calamity, and adversity. These misadventures would be shockingly tragic if they ever actually occurred, but fortunately for us all, they only take place in McGhee’s mind and on his computer screen.
Is it real or is it Photoshop?
I Came Apart,
Steve McGhee, self-portrait
Steve McGhee was born and raised in London, Ontario. He knew from an early age that he was gifted with a natural artistic talent. After a rather disturbing phase of designing horrifying “torture houses” as a kid, the artist turned to sketching superheroes and action figures. In college, McGhee tried animation, but decided it wasn’t his kind of art. He moved his focus to studying design and advertising instead. In so doing, McGhee developed extraordinarily superb Photoshop skills. Actually, rather than follow the school’s schedule for learning the program, Steve simply sneaked into higher-level classes to learn faster rate.

 After college, McGhee found work in design and advertising, but he never lost his childhood taste for the darker side of life. Although his professional work is of extremely high-quality, but he really shines in the art he creates just for fun. The personal work he posts on his website reflects both his natural talent as well as the skills he’s acquired over his many years of working. These personal pieces frequently fo-cus on what can go wrong at any given mo-ment. They are visions of the post-apocalyptic world, predictions for what might happen in our future--now or later. They’re worst-case scen-arios, things we hope will never actually hap-pen.

                            Last Flight Home,
                                 Steve McGhee
Too Close, Steve McGhee

In asking "why" earlier, why focus on the seemingly negative; why spend so much energy creating art that only brings to mind the most unpleasant things we would rather not think about? McGhee responds simply: It all has to do with the innocence that such tragedy can inspire. He brings up the days following the September 11 attacks when reporters ran out of words, becoming unable to say anything more than the pictures were already saying about the in-speakable tragedy unfolding at the time. In the days following the attacks, we all came together in awed silence. Our words were replaced with a strange fellowship most of us had never felt before. We returned to a sort of primal state where all we wanted was comfort and reassurance.

Water vs. the City,
Steve McGhee

As an artist, McGhee hopes to inspire the same kind of silent innocence. His images of destruction aren’t particularly macabre or shocking; they simply depict moments of extremes that most of us will, thankfully, never have to live through. The digital paintings weren’t meant to inspire terror or even sadness. They are neutral speculative histories of imaginary disasters, meant to bring the viewer back to a primal state of mind where all we can do is observe. His inspiration usually comes from simply imagining something awful. He composes a disaster in his mind and imagines how it would look on television news and in the newspapers. He strives to recapture that momentary sense of collective awe that, for better or worse, always seems to punctuate moments of tragedy.

When Everything Died,
Steve McGhee


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