ARTIST STATEMENT // MOLLIE MCKINLEY

Mollie McKinley shooting at Joshua Tree National Park, California

Mollie McKinley shooting at Joshua Tree National Park, California


I am a feminist interdisciplinary sculptor, performer, photographer, and writer. My work is rooted in mysticism, intersectional feminism, and ecology/geology. I look to the intersection of sculpture and image making as I draw upon traditions of the land art movement, Hermetic models of philosophical alchemy, and experimental cinema. I use my own experiences with the unknown, with death, and with dissolution of the physical to approach liminal gates of psychological and elemental transformations. 

 

Process and transformation are the genesis of my practice. I see all materials—salt, gold, tropical fruit, plastics or urban debris—as holding elements of the alchemical tradition. Currently, I am working on a series of salt sculptures set atop rough-hewn pine plinths and marble slabs. I erode fifty-pound blocks of salt with hammer, chisel, and pressurized water over time. I am also working on a series of analogue tableau photographs with and without performers. Set in American landscapes, women conjure liminal states of unknowing and metaphysical anxiety through gestures of absurd confidence and stoic waiting. 

 

Shot with a traditional 4x5 camera on film, my photographic tableaus feature myself and performance artists in my community. The inherent romantic mythology of each landscape site becomes tantamount to the performance. Wearing wigs, robes, fur scraps, dish rags, and fishing nets, ritual objects mirror and contradict the lowly costumes of the performers. Pineapples and deflated boat fenders exaggerate the ambiguity toward ritualized communications with mystic forces. The work asks: how do we perform the un-performable intimate and inner transitions as sick to well, from insecure to emboldened? Through existential clowning and melodrama, can we access the subtle and sublime? Stylistic influences of the work include the films of Jack Smith, as well as proto-feminist horror films of the 1970’s such as “Picnic at Hanging Rock” and “Suspiria.”

 

My simultaneous work on the salt sculptures speaks to existential phenomenology, the protective occult symbol of salt, and nature’s processes on physical material. The sculptures are deconstructed from fifty pound salt licks used for livestock. Rigid and compact in their factory state, I first use a hammer and chisel to geometrically work away at the salt in patterns before further eroding them with pressurized water. Over the cumulative time of several days, the finished works allude to textures of weathered stone canyons in the American West, of bone marrow, of glacial surfaces. The deconstructed salt mirrors nature’s process of wearing away elemental material through force and time.