HAMILTON, ON.- McPhail is an established artist who moved to Hamilton from Toronto five years ago. Practicing in sculpture, drawing, painting and performance for more than twenty-five years, his works have explored a broad range of subject matter. As a person living with HIV, several of McPhails past works have focused on the solemn emotions surrounding his experience of this disease, offering humbling insight. all my little failures invigorates the well-honed subjects of his past practice and inserts a witty commentary that appeals to broader issues of human wellness and the anxieties that many people experience related to disease and sickness.
The exhibition takes its title from McPhails central piece in the exhibition, an immense fabric-like cloak made of over 60,000 BAND-AIDs. Worn by a mannequin, it is a haunting and overwhelming mass. At the same time, McPhails obsessive building of this blanket-like form is humorousthe piece is so exaggerated that it appears to be ridiculous. It speaks to the capacity of BAND-AIDs to protect a wound, and also to futility. It combines the high art of sculpture with the methods of low art through his use of adhesive bandages as a medium, in an analytical and comical manner. The phrase "all my little failures" refers to the little things in life that many people blame themselves forthose questions that one ruminates on: "Could I have done something differently? And if so, how would that have changed who I am today?" His works raise questions about the amount of control humans actually have over their own fate and wellness and how this relates to global health issues.
This fall, the AGH foyer wall will feature a new piece by McPhail: a conglomeration of dollar store synthetic hair extensions are strung together to spell out the word "poof." Referencing a slang term for "gay" with humour and hyperbole, this piece is a bold encounter with a historically derogatory term. With this piece, McPhail re-introduces the phrase "poof" as a fun and frivolous expression, inviting viewers to share a positive attitude toward queer identity.