Mikaela McLeish Wishes You Were Here
Filipina Irish American artist Mikaela McLeish grew up in the age of screens, selfies, and Snapchats. Through painting, she hopes to disrupt the impermanence promoted in the digital age. This year’s selected LaunchPad Artist for Art San Diego, McLeish hopes to seduce attendees with the toxic color palette within her paintings and inspire viewers to indulge in the present.

Known for her ethereal large-scale oil paintings, McLeish explores the tension that lies between isolation and connection, individual and society, and reality and dream. “The narratives within my paintings are constructed from photo montages of personal found photography,” McLeish writes in her artist statement. “Through the act of erasure, distortion, reflection, and collage, I intensify the images.”

Inspired by Jacques Lacan’s philosophy on mirrors and how they help children develop a sense of self-identity, McLeish’s current work explores ideas of consciousness and the self. In Doubling, she uses expressionistic brushstrokes and a bold color palette to portray a young woman submerged in a pool, her reflection doubling not only the body but also identity and reality. Described as a visual biography of self-identity, Doubling is intimate and provocative.

In Hypersomnolence, named after a condition that is characterized by recurrent episodes of excessive daytime sleepiness or prolonged nighttime sleep, McLeish shocks viewers with supernatural colors and incongruous positioning of the arm of the sleeping character. Inspired by the deformed figures of El Greco and Rodin, McLeish conveys the suffering and disorientation of the sleeping disorder.

“I am interested in the contrast between the pulsating figure and static color field,” McLeish writes. “Within the grotesque manipulations of the human body, I seek to capture the sensation of the figure constantly shifting between presence and absence. This concept has always been important to me.”


Born and raised in California, McLeish has exhibited in solo and group shows at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD), The Diego Rivera Gallery, Cell Space Gallery, San Francisco Art Institute, Thumbprint Gallery, The Studio Door, and La Bodega Gallery. The recipient of the 2017 Business of Art Scholarship and a finalist in the 2015 MCASD 25 & Under Art Contest, McLeish earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2014.

For more of McLeish’s work, check out her limited-edition hardcover book Wish You Were Here or stop by the LaunchPad Artist booth at Art San Diego Sept. 28–Oct. 1 at the Wyland Center.



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