April 27 2015 06:19 PM

Andrew McNamara’s subjects are aesthetically beautiful, but it’s what’s inside that counts

Andrew McNamara
Photo by Seth Combs

As almost any artist can attest, inspiration can strike at the most unexpected time. To hear La Mesa artist Andrew McNamara tell it, there was a time where he wasn't sure if he wanted to pursue a career in drawing. Back in 2012, he'd been working on what would eventually become his Laden series, but felt that he'd hit a wall creatively. Then it happened. 

"I had done two drawings, and then I found out that my father had unexpectedly passed away," says McNamara, a New Jersey native who moved to San Diego in 2011. "I found out when I was struggling with one of the drawings. Before I left for the funeral, I forced myself to finish it and that triggered me to finish the series. To really push, and put that emotion out there and into that." 

He hasn't stopped since. This moment of losing his father is telling when it comes to McNamara's drawings, which could best be described as a combination of pop-surrealism, fantastical portraiture and comic book-inspired wonderment. That's not to imply they're in any way morbid (in fact, quite the opposite), but rather, they deal in the emotions beyond what we see on the surface. Just as he strives to make his works vibrant and aesthetically pleasing, he also wants the viewer to wonder just what might be going on inside the minds of the characters he creates. This rationale applies to his Soul Manifest drawings, a series that took a closer look at the dualities within us all. Where someone might just see a homeless man, McNamara sees a proud man with the soul of a giant king. In "She Just Can't Even," an angst-ridden teen girl manifests herself as a laughing Kabuki-style phantom. 

"I'm very interested in the subtlety of people," says McNamara, describing his new Between All Things series, which he'll debut at a solo show on Saturday, May 9, at Thumbprint Gallery in La Jolla. "The work turned into me trying to represent moments of indecision and uncertainty. I wanted to tackle those moments that we all go through, but never talk about with each other." 

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