Born in Edinburgh in 1962, Wendy McMurdo is an artist internationally renown for both her portraits of children and her ability to assimilate cutting-edge technology into the world of art. McMurdo first developed an interest for photography at the Pratt Institute in New York and eventually she went on to receive her M.A. from Goldsmiths College in London in 1993. Today, she is mostly acclaimed for her doppelganger series entitled "In a Shaded Place: The Digital and the Uncanny," where she combines several snapshots of an adolescent into one final seamless digital photo. The end result is a disquieting image of what, at first, seems to be identical twins but what is, in reality, the same child. McMurdo often hosts workshops for schools where she introduces to children these complex concepts of doppelgangers as your identical other, your imaginary twin, a person with an eerie likeness to yourself. McMurdo publicly proclaims her digital art as representative of 'the Uncanny' - a term Freud championed and had difficulty defining but roughly described as "something strangely familiar." Basically, it is clear that McMurdo is very concerned with capturing an unnerving atmosphere in her photographs. McMurdo typically employs theatrical lighting, which adds to the forceful impact of these images, and is reminiscent of the dramatic chiaroscuro often utilized by artists such as Caravaggio. However, while she is successful in producing a mysterious final image, her photographs more often seem more innocently enough like simply twins. Adolescent twins are often already usually seen together and parents even dress them the same. I, myself, have often wanted to use children as the main subject in my art because to me they are a convenient way of representing an inquisitive aspect of the human condition that investigates the surrounding environment but is, at the same time, also easily manipulated by the prevailing dominant views. In reality, no one has a clue what the world is really about but instead of persistent questioning we are often forced to conform to pre-existing structures in hopes of establishing a sense of who we are. Unfortunately, artists usually tend to fail when they utilize children and animals because they often portray this naivety as a form of non-threatening cuteness which ultimately ends up as kitsch. Think of how typical work like Anne Geddes often ends up as superficially commercial. On the other hand, I do feel that McMurdo's photographs of children do, in fact, create compelling works of art that help to inform us of child development. I feel it is appropriate to say that McMurdo's art, overall, is mainly concerned with the formation of the individual. In some of her more recent work, children explore museum exhibits that teach them about the world around them and, ultimately, their place in it. McMurdo has even given up explicit use of the doppelganger and resorted to children interacting with their reflections, animal exhibits, and even imaginary figures. To help explain the impact of McMurdo's work it is essential to look at the work of Freud's disciple, Jacques Lacan, and the theoretical mirror phase where the individual only comes to self-realization by identifying with something outside of himself. In the children's workshop previously mentioned above, 'shadowing' is another key word emphasized to describe following somebody's actions as closely as possible. It is usually only through aping and mimicry that animals and humans both learn the important tools for survival as well as the social norms that dominate their lives.


Thomas Cummins art philosophy