Many artists who use nature as a source of inspiration focus on the preciseness of nature, the beauty and perfection in the endless patterns. McKenna, however, has taken a different route with her work. She centers the viewer’s attention on the cracks and the breaks in nature’s pattern, the inescapable reality that all of these patterns—seemingly designed to be perfect—will eventually become imperfect. She then uses those captured disruptions to tell stories, both about the imperfections of the natural world and the flaws, struggles, and emotional experiences of human beings.
Personally, this change in nature-inspired artwork is extremely refreshing. I want to know those stories. I want to see those imperfections, those breaks and interruptions in the patterns. The spiral pattern of the tree rings is beautiful, yes, but it’s where the pattern breaks that things get interesting. You start to wonder: why did it break? Was there a fire? A drought? A frost? What story does this broken line tell? McKenna’s work forces the viewer to stop and think about these questions, which prompt self-reflection as well. I think many might see their own lifelines within the tree rings and cement cracks—I look at her larger installations and I see my own breakups, failed relationships, and changes in career direction. Her artwork speaks to each viewer on a unique, personal level; combined with the serene quality of these hand-embossed, silver imprints, the exhibition as a whole seems to welcome and encourage rumination. “Come in,” the images seem to say, “Come in and stay awhile. Meditate on life. Find peace. Find calm. Find your place within the pattern.”
AUTOMATIC EARTH will be on display at Von Lintel Gallery in Los Angeles, until January 7th, 2017. A type of photogram, her “photographic rubbings” are made on traditional photographic fiber paper. They are created in darkness and then exposed to light; some of these gelatin silver prints are then toned with sepia and selenium to create the unique colors. A selection of the images are also put together in collages to create new images, with the largest installation being 22 feet tall. This is her second solo exhibition; you can get a glimpse of it at http://www.kleamckenna.com/Automatic-Earth.