August 22, 2023

John McGarity is an interdisciplinary artist exploring themes of identity, memory, and human experience through painting, multi-media installations, video, and artifacts. His work is influenced by folklore and mythology, and he is particularly interested in local and regional perspectives. He uses visual iconography, pictorial representation, and symbology to create a narrative that reflects the politics of spirituality and the search for divine wisdom. In his work, he examines the common threads of parables and fables and the role of the protagonist in transforming knowledge into wisdom. His art is characterized by ambiguity and murkiness, reflecting the discomfort felt when presented with new or strange customs and cultural ceremonies. An ongoing body of work, “Order of the Old Line,” acts as an umbrella concept for his creative research.

The piece that I created for my residency at The Institute for Electronic Arts was a 3 screen, 4k immersive video projection installation. The work titled “The Summation: A Gentleman’s Jump-in” is based on the initiation ritual used by the fictional street gang “The Knuckle Boys” of Mallet Creek. It suggests the violent process of being brought into a brotherhood whose function is to defend and offend the local community and represent the element of emotion politics and not of intellectual or rational discourse. The resulting piece is a small component of an ongoing body of work that I have been developing for many years now with the intention of creating a new and fabricated element of personal folklore. The resulting tone of the piece is intended to instill a feeling of unease, trepidation, fear and ambiguity.

The video was created with images and video footage and composited together with audio in Adobe After Effects in a 3-panel (3840 x 2160 pixels each) configuration to shape an immersive viewing experience for the viewer. The final file was run through the Touch Designer software and run to 3 separate projectors that throw the moving images on 20’ x 10’ walls. An additional element that I constructed for the work was a “cloud” of suspended plexiglass panels with a coating that catches some of the projected light while allowing some of the light to pass through to the next layer of plexiglass. The effect produces a video image that has dimensional volume and depth within 3d space. A small fan was used to give the panels a little bit of movement creating a ghostly, undulating image that appears to float in space. The audio is put together through the use of sound samples, field recordings, shortwave radio recordings and drone pads. – John McGarity

The Summation: A Gentleman’s Jump-in, Work Sample I.

The Summation: A Gentleman’s Jump-in, Work Sample II.

John, preparing for installation in Expanded Media’s Immersive Gallery.

John, hanging plexiglass in Expanded Media’s Immersive Gallery I.

John, hanging plexiglass in Expanded Media’s Immersive Gallery II.