Night Gallery is thrilled to present Metamorphic, a solo exhibition of new paintings by Danielle Mckinney (Summer 2021 cover artist), marking the artist’s second exhibition with Night Gallery.
To be human is to be metamorphic. Danielle Mckinney imagines well-worn spaces and familiar nooks as incubators for transformation, places that allow the self to unfold, morph, and multiply, where identity can flourish with boundless possibility. Like a series of intimate vignettes, Mckinney’s oil paintings peer into psychic spaces that nurture self-metamorphic processes.
A monarch butterfly crawls along the elegant crest of a woman’s finger, resting in the blind spot of her contemplative gaze. Monarchs can be found throughout the artist’s practice and operate as symbols of changeability, signifying the emerging transformations that rustle quietly in one’s mind, fluttering just beneath the surface of perception. Other non-human species, such as birds and insects, assume various personal and conceptual significations, appearing in Mckinney’s paintings like mysterious apparitions or ancient spirits—ancestral visitors communicating sacred knowledge on how to render yourself to cyclical rhythms of metamorphosis.
Mckinney’s cropped compositions offer glimpses into intimate spaces where solitary women are represented in various states of repose and consciousness. Interiority is considered twofold, conveyed as spacial and psychological concepts that inform one another. While these women are depicted alone, they appear far from lonely. Self-possessed and contented, the women in Mckinney’s paintings are presented in states of deep contemplation—their limbs rest languidly between pillows, tucked in the corner of a hunter-green sofa, nestled in the cowl of a turtleneck sweater—bare and veiled, their semi-naked bodies oscillate between states of emergence and submergence, vulnerability and protection. There is power in their stillness, evoking an internal vitality that is unseen but deeply felt, vibrational energy garnered in states of dormancy and hibernation, silently churning in their dreaming and wakeful minds.
Metamorphic marks the artist’s first presentation of paintings rendered in oil. The non-drying behavior of oil paint requires patience, sensitivity, and finesse. Mckinney’s shift from acrylic to oil serves as a poetic metaphor for transformation, exemplifying a kind of chemical metamorphosis that occurs as the oil pigments collide and transform one another. The painting’s velvety depths of color are achieved by starting with a layer of black underpainting, which Mckinney builds upon, pulling figures out of the darkness, appearing as though they have always been there, dwelling just beneath the surface of the canvas. Referencing existing photographs, some found and some taken by the artist herself, Mckinney’s application of photographic techniques results in paintings that feel simultaneously poetic and particular, compositional and improvisational.
Stories of metamorphosis are not always spectacular dramas exclusive to fairytales and folklore, but rather, Mckinney illuminates transformations that occur in the ordinary and mundane, in silence and shadows. She reveals how change is activated in seemingly sedentary states where our innermost selves dwell, where souls percolate with all possible permutations of identity. In turn, the artist presents ideas about self-development and growth that dislodge modern perceptions of progress and change, calling for moments of stagnation and deceleration—slowing down in order to turn inward. By embracing the inevitability of change, Mckinney’s metamorphic imaginings challenge Western notions of progress and knowledge and find meaning in the unknown and unknowable, in undiscovered selves, in the yet-to-emerge. —Lauren Guilford