Infinitesimal, Johnny McKee
For Johnny McKee, stars often are born out of grief. The methodical repetition of painting thousands of stars is therapeutic and healing. Healing does not come from an answer; it comes through being able to process pain. Similarly, McKee intends not for his work to give answers, but to give viewers something to contemplate.
The Speck Gallery is well suited to house Johnny’s show, Infinitesimal, as it provides a quiet and reverent space. Johnny told us that he feels this show is really just one piece made up of many smaller pieces, and that hanging the show in Speck is just as exciting as painting each individual piece. The work gently increases and decreases in size, and is paired with the crescendos and diminuendos of a recording of deep space from NASA, creating a layered experience for the audience. The title, Infinitesimal, which means extremely small, alludes to both how teensey tinsey some of the work is and the negligibility of humans in comparison to the great expanse of the universe. Being confronted with the incomprehensibility of billions of galaxies alongside our smallness breeds a humility and peace.
“I have a very nebulous vision for this show,” Johnny told us. In fact, there are several nebula pieces, which Johnny feels communicate a certain ambiguity between birth and death. He likes the open-ended nature of that work. One particular piece Johnny is excited to show is a 14 foot long beam full of copper nails, which felt like an artistic challenge of endurance, much like a marathon is for an athlete. On the other end of the gallery, he’s displaying a series of “cloud portraits,” which for him represent individuals who get lost in the crowd. Clouds, while still large, beautiful, and innumerable, have a closer connection to humans than stars do, and the gold frames Johnny made for these portraits conveys the sacredness that each individual possesses. Artist Abi Ogle marveled at the portraits, saying, “They’re so interior. They’re one of many, and yet each takes on a life of its own.”
Overall, Infinitesimal exudes McKee’s signature minimal but elegant style. His work breathes and speaks for itself, and leaves the audience with a sense of awe and mystery. For Johnny, it’s the mystery found in the universe that’s enticing. We hope you will come and marvel at the mystery in this incredible work.