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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Elizabeth McGhee

Graeae, 2014, Elizabeth McGhee
If you're ever in need of subject matter for a painting, try this--try Greek mythology. It's a content area rich in love, hate, suicide, murder, ambition, fratricide, matricide, patricide, ego, beauty, war, peace, sex, romance, nobility, bravery, enlightenment, and a generous dose of stupidity. And if you love to paint nudes, you'll be like a kid in a candy store. For some unknown reason I could never quite fathom, virtually all the Greek deities tend to live their lives like outcasts from the Mt. Olympus Nudist Colony Inc. And of course, male or female, they're always depicted as near-perfect physical specimens--the men, lean and muscular, the women voluptuous and seductive. What more could a figure painter wish for? Just be sure to consult your Bullfinch's Mythology so as to get your narrative accurate. There are experts on this sort of thing and if you get your gods mixed up or confused (which is easy to do, there are so many of them), they'll tell you about it. And one of the first might be the figure painter, Elizabeth McGhee of Southern California.
Not your typical Laguna Beach artist.
Elizabeth McGhee paints modernist portraits of the Greek gods, though most are of the goddesses. In fact her "Mythica" series (top and below) will eventually consist of some eighty paintings modernizing ancient Greek myths, She plans to explore the ways in which our digital age relates to archetypal stories that have been passed down through the millennia. It would be an understatement to refer to her as either an amateur or a part-time artist. She conceives each portrait, then poses friends and colleagues to model for her mythological paintings. Elizabeth derives from a family of artists originally from Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Scotland, as well as the local Laguna Beach art scene.

How many of these Greek deities have you ever heard of before?
Elizabeth McGhee  (not to be confused with Elizabeth McGhee Hassrick) attended  Santa Monica College   (2003–2006) and received her BFA in Drawing and Painting from Laguna College of Art and Design (2006–2009).

Gravy Train, Elizabeth McGhee
McGhee's often turns to humor (below) to address serious or controversial subjects in her artwork. In the case of her still-life paintings of toys (above) she is examining how symbols are interpreted by individuals through the lens of cultural dogma. Her intention is not to promote a particular concept or ideal, but to inspire analysis and contemplation in her viewers. The main story told of Icarus, for example, is his attempt to escape from Crete by means of wings that his father constructed from feathers and wax. Icarus ignored instructions not to fly too close to the sun, which melted his waxy feathers causing him to fall into the sea. Icarus' curiosity and ambition to fly higher was admirable, rather than the result of excessive pride. What kid wouldn't want to fly higher if he had wings? And at that age, not listening to a parent's warning is to be expected.

Omniscience, Elizabeth McGhee.
(A painting analyzing religion and belief.)


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