Paintings > Artist Statement

Colin McNamee makes oil paintings on wood panel that record the remnants of encounters between human and environment. The most intimate and compelling of these interactions may occur at the most disregarded, vulgar sites where perception is less colored by preconceptions of worth and good manners. In his detailed realist renderings, McNamee seeks to encode acts of attention, concern and respect, which are missing from the storylines of his subjects.

The artist discovers these sites on walks and drives through his home neighborhoods in Providence RI, Provincetown MA, Manchester NH and (presently) New Bedford MA. Small and medium sized paintings are developed primarily in studio, informed by extensive presence in and exploration of the sites. The paintings attend equally to the environment (natural or human-made) and the human-made objects abandoned in it, revealing beauty in both, and tension between. The perception of beauty does not preclude a critical stance, but may instead be a survival instinct that makes us pay attention at a crucial moment.

When Turner painted Rain, Steam, and Speed he portrayed the Industrial Revolution with profundity, as a force taking its place among the forces of nature. By now it’s a runaway force, and our efforts to contain it seem feeble and not honest… Abandoned land and trashscapes may be the wildest spots we have left, since wild land is all protected. - Rackstraw Downes*

McNamee is a graduate of the Massachusetts College of Art & Design at the Fine Arts Work Center MFA class of 2009, and in 2004 earned a BA in Studio Art from Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts. He keeps a studio in New Bedford, Massachusetts and has recently exhibited in Derry, New Hampshire, Boston and Provincetown, Massachusetts.


* Rackstraw Downes, “What Have We Made of the Landscape,” Art Journal v.51 (1992): 16.

Artist Statement