Shaina McCoy

Faceless family portraits in candy-hued impasto.

artist Shaina Mccoy wearing a yellow dress sitting in her studio
artist Shaina McCoy holding up a painting and smiling
paintings and materials scattered around the artist's studio
4 images

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


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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Practice overview

Artist and archivist Shaina McCoy channels nostalgia in faceless portraits rendered in thick impasto. She works from her own personal archive which includes 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 powerful 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 reminiscent of cake frosting, the works are designed to embody the candy-coated glaze of childhood recollections, 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 with their respective renditions of warm domesticity and emotional intensity. The slow, thoughtful contemplation that their work encourages is present in McCoy’s practice which, in a contemporary context, stands at odds with the rabid consumption of personal information via social media. Instead, the artist toys with the idea of privacy and the boundaries between public and private identity by obscuring figures beneath her sculptural brushstrokes. Underpinned by the liberal application of paint, McCoy’s compositions call back affectionately 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