Shaina McCoy

Faceless family portraits in candy-hued impasto.

Shaina McCoy (she/her) was born in 1993 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she continues to live and work.

Exhibitions

McCoy’s European debut, B is For at Stems Gallery in Brussels, was named after the bobbles, barrettes and bows that featured throughout – channeling tender memories of Black girlhood.

Did you know?

Many works are based on family photos taken by the artist’s grandfather, who used to work at a 24 Hour Photo and would develop his film the same day he finished it – providing McCoy with an abundance of source material.

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Collaborations with this artist

Practice overview

Artist and archivist Shaina McCoy channels nostalgia in faceless portraits rendered in thick impasto. She works from her own personal archives which include a vast range of images, many of them quintessential examples of stiffly-posed family portraits from the 1980s and 90s. Intentionally omitting the facial features of her subjects, McCoy instead focuses on their posture, interactions and clothing. Despite this anonymity, her compositions retain a sense of intimacy, told through gentle embraces and details like hair ribbons and jewellery. With a predominantly pastel palette and thick layers of oil paint, the works are designed to embody the candy-coated glaze of childhood - and the emotional memories that remain once concrete details are forgotten.

20th-century modernist painters are an important influence, in particular Mary Cassatt and Egon Schiele. McCoy channels the slow contemplation of these pre-internet artists into her own work, at odds with the rabid consumption of social media today. The obscured faces also toy with the idea of privacy in a digital age, and the boundaries between public and private identity. Always with an enticingly liberal application of paint, McCoy’s compositions call back to the nostalgic images she paints from, and the collective memories they evoke.

“I am never fully aware of the happenings or who the people are in my family photos. This unknowingness all sparks conversation. I am simply playing a game of telephone.”Shaina McCoy