sue mcnally

Auxiliary Projects

Auxiliary Projects, Brooklyn, NY  March 2014 

Auxiliary Projects is pleased to present a series of ink on paper self-portraits by Rhode Island-based painter Sue McNally from March 21st through April 27th, 2014. There will be an opening reception on Friday, March 21st, from 7-9pm. The gallery is open Saturdays and Sundays from 1-6pm and by appointment.  


Sue McNally is best known for inventive, large-scale landscape paintings that depict the results of far ranging searches for iconic views. In “Middle Ass Bad Age” she presents eight years of studying something closer to home: her own face. As a genre the self-portrait contains both narcissism and introspection, both warm self-indulgence and cold self-appraisal. Although we spend a lifetime in front of the mirror, in front of one another, what does our face reveal of our true selves?
McNally has been drawing herself since she was a teenager and describes her relentless self-depiction as part of the process of solving the problem of who she is. Perhaps these drawings are not entirely unlike the ubiquitous photographs people take of themselves and post to social media* and, though McNally’s process is analog rather than digital, at times she makes a picture almost as quickly as a cameraphone. Over the years this habit of drawing her face--this same, constant, available subject-- has developed into watching herself age and documenting the results in what appear to be the most unflattering ways possible. McNally’s deadpan demeanor and unsparing titles (“Runny Nose," “Call the Doctor!”) brings a spirit of unseriousness and even glee to these works, though the face in the mirror, I mean, portrait almost never smiles.


Like the “S” word, these portraits record McNally’s appearance, comportment and lifestyle through the years. In most of the dozens of works McNally depicts only her face, shoulders and hands. In several, we see the daily routine of the artist as she shows herself drinking from a mug; in “Modelo,” her face appears to pop out of a beer can. The titles of her drawings are snap decisions meant as memory aids as much as identifiers. Running the gamut of self-appraisal there is “Handsome Woman” and “Very Intellectual” and “I wish I was Pretty” and “Sad Old Man” and “That Character Actor That Plays a Cop a Lot” and “Ugh.”


As much as these works are about their subject they are also about the liberating and impulsive act of drawing itself. As a counterpoint to the large, labor-intensive paintings on which McNally often works for weeks or months, her drawn self-portraits are loose, quick, responsive, unplanned and uncontrolled. McNally focuses on the exercise of the drawing as it unfolds each time. The medium of ink drawing--an additive process of handmade lines, quickly set down and irreversible--matches the contingency and specificity of daily life.


*We know there’s a word for that, we simply refuse to use it.

"Bed Head," 2014, ink and gesso on paper, 11 x 15 inches

The Land Has Many Parts

The Land Has Many Parts

Jane Deering Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA

Rock Pile

2012 / oil on wood / 11 x 14 inches

Amanda Burnham (Baltimore MD)

Kerry Gorton Evans (Boston MA)

Jacob Hessler (Camden ME)

Ryan Hoover (Baltimore MD)

Julian Kreimer (Brooklyn NY)

Magnolia Laurie (Baltimore MD)

Rosemary Liss (Baltimore MD)

Adin Murray (Gloucester MA)

Sue McNally (Newport RI)

Michael Porter (Newlyn UK)

Kim Parr Roenigk (Baltimore-Washington DC)

Christina Seely (San Francisco CA)

Sommer Sheffield (Santa Barbara CA)

Ro Snell (Santa Barbara CA)

Emily Speed (Liverpool UK)

Joan Tanner (Santa Barbara CA)

Hazel Walker (County Clare, Ireland)