Joy McKinney

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What is my artwork about?

My artistic practice is a search for individuality, accessed through vulnerable, intimate exchanges. Virtual, social and public spaces offer commoditized, uniform visions of individuality based on reputation rather than history, memory, one?s inner life. By publicly investigating these things, I hope to map the subtle connections that bind us and model an appreciation for personal histories, habits, body language, etc.
These things are observed fleetingly, but when a lasting document is captured we simultaneously find what is universal and unique in the other, which I believe fosters greater empathy, even a sense of transcendence. In those moments of the creative process, my own judgment and perceptions are challenged and I myself am brought to greater, more genuine self-awareness. Observation, investigation, creation: This is my process as an artist, which does not arrive at definitive answers, but better questions, more curiosity and compassion, which is what I hope for others, too.


Artist Statement

The Guardian, Photographic Series

Issues of privacy and space occupy us more than ever, and much of the rhetoric associated with these topics focuses on the dangers and perils of physical and even virtual contact. Little is said about the fundamental need for touch, for intimacy, for the possibilities of wordless communication, even between strangers. Certainly, there are reasons for this, and unwanted touch is classified as assault in certain jurisdictions for a reason. I am not naïve, but I wonder if there is excessive fear and isolation—and if this allows us to deny the basic humanity of others, especially those who are physically different from us.

I wanted to further explore these ideas by transgressing what is typically acceptable by using my hand to physically touch another person’s face, the focus of their identity to the world at large. These are people of varying age, sex, race and socioeconomic status, and their reactions are as varied, too, and much of it is evident in the blink of a shutter. The concealment of the mouth is unavoidable in touching the face directly, but it may also be seen as silencing, protective, or soothing. The mouth is concealed—but the eyes of those photographed say so much.

In some cases, I realize that what I believed about these strangers was false, and that people are often accepting and willing to share. This has been in turn a course of self discovery wherein I have learned that my motivation to create a lasting photograph—a virtual and timeless representation—is yet linked to my intimate attraction to people in my presence, even for a brief moment.

Touch Me, Time Based Media

“Touch Me” is a complementary document to “The Guardian” photographic series. “Touch Me” began as a way to further explore how people responded to touch outside of their controlled environment. The photographs truthfully translated the intimacy of the moment and the gentle nature of the subjects that choose to participate, but these still images could not communicate the guarded nature of the responses received when it was hostile and/or negative.

“Touch me” uses compiled video to show the various responses I encountered, further illuminating the ways in which people defend their personal space—their surprise, suspicion, candor and concern. Many are accepting while others are disturbed by the intrusive nature of the act. “Touch Me” is a triggering performance where I am as at risk as the participant feels at risk (or offended), pushing us both beyond the comfort zones usually preserved by the limitations of social interactions. I am using my body as a vehicle to transcend and explore the meanings of human interactions and reactions and documenting the results of these unusual, tense moments.



Parsons The New School for Design, New York, NY
Master of Fine Arts in Photography and Related Media

Brother Win, Mongolia, Beijing, China
Study Aboard Program, Parsons The New School for Design

Atlanta College of Art and Design, Atlanta, Georgia
Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography and Applied Media,

Ponte-Ecole d’Art, Pont Aven France
Study Aboard Program, Savannah College of Art and Design


Double Decker, Touch Me, The Guardian
Stigma Art, Video Biennale, Touch Me
The Guardian, UK
All AFRICA, The Guardian
VOGUE, The Guardian
Design INDABA, First Glance, The Guardian, Touch Me
MUSEE Magazine, Emerging Artist Interview, The Guardian

MUSEE Magazine, Emerging Artist, The Guardian
AGONISTICA, The Best Photographers List, Resource Magazine, Photographic Series, The Guardian
BIC, Photographic Series, The Guardian
Feature Shoot, Photographic Series, The Guardian
PetaPixel, Photographic Series, The Guardian
Daily Mail, Photographic Series, The Guardian
The Huffington Post, Photographic Series, The Guardian
Twenty-Two Words, Photographic Series, The Guardian
FotoNews, Photographic Series, The Guardian
Reframing Photography, Photographic Series, First Glance
Oxford American Magazine, Photograph, First Glance
Arts Atlanta, Review, “ Post Her”, Jackson Fine Art Gallery,
Art Spot, Featured Artist Interview
Paperwork, Sea Angel, Photograph,
FORM Atlanta- Artistic Independence


Real Art Ways, The Guardian, Touch Me

Jackson Fine Art Gallery, Atlanta Georgia

Temple University, School of Art , Philadelphia, PA
Flanagan Galley, Las Vegas, Nevada
Parsons The New School for Design, New York, NY

PhotoVille, New York, NY
25 East 13th Gallery, New York, NY

Temple University, School of Art, Philadelphia, PA
Parsons The New School for Design MFA Thesis Show, New York, NY
Athens Institute of Contemporary Art, Athens, GA
Nurture Art, Brooklyn, NY

FiveMyles Galley, Brooklyn, NY

Real Art Ways: Step Up Exhibition Award
Young Designers Award, Design INDABA

Parsons School of Art and Design/ Scholarship for Academic Excellence

International Artist Guild Grant


Whitney Museum of American Art: Studio Program
BAUM Award :SF Camerawork


Speaker, Design INDABA World Design Conference
Speaker, Parsons The New School for Design

Public Lecture, Parsons School of Art and Design

Touch Me: Time Based Video, Video: 2:29