Aaron McElfish Artist and Photographer

I’m a Mississippi based artist and educator finding inspiration in everything the state has to offer. This place is my home, I’ve lived in Mississippi for the past twenty years and everyday I find something new about the landscape and its people. My work is rooted in my reality of Mississippi and the escapism I find in pop culture.

I’ve been described a pop culture junky, who a former professor and colleague described as “a film maker attempting to make movies in the medium of drawing.”

I’m an artist and photographer. I earned my MFA from the University of Mississippi and my BFA from Mississippi State University. My roots are based heavily in the world of film noir, horror, westerns, and foreign cinema. The work focuses on the creation of landscapes rooted in cinematic staging, moments that are often quiet and convey visceral emotions. Inspiration comes from childhood memories, movies specifically in the horror genre, books by Richard Matheson,  Grimm’s fairytales and stories like Alice In Wonderland. An important aspect of my work is found in the exploration into the nature and/or buildings that suffer from the ravages of urban decay, as well as photographs of the places we live and work. Other influences include graphic novels and to the writings of eastern philosophers, as well as a host of punk and transgressive thinkers. I hope to find an uncomfortable energy, or angst. The philosophy and expressive nature of David Mack influences aspects of my work. Other influences include the works of Lynd Ward, Stephan Gammell, Zdzislaw Beksinski, Edward Hopper, Alfred Hitchcock, David Lynch, Hans Bacher, Stanley Kubrick, Fritz Lang, as well as an entire host of other artists and film directors. Also of note are the architectural drawings of Hugh Ferriss, which it was the discovery of Mr. Ferriss’ that inspired so many moments found within my work.

As an educator, my work focuses on teaching the fundamentals. I prefer an individual, almost vocational, approach to instructing students, we each have our specific ways of learning and even in a classroom of 15-16 students there is time to guide each and everyone of them to compose and translate what their eyes see before them. I encourage students to draw from life whenever possible, yet understand the research and aspects that go into the visual development process beyond the fruition of an idea. There is always time to convey the basic design principles no matter how simple a project may seem.

At the root of my work is the word “Kenopsia” –

n. the eerie, forlorn atmosphere of a place that’s usually bustling with people but is now abandoned and quiet—a school hallway in the evening, an unlit office on a weekend, vacant fairgrounds—an emotional afterimage that makes it seem not just empty but hyper-empty, with a total population in the negative, who are so conspicuously absent they glow like neon signs.


2 Responses to Aaron McElfish Artist and Photographer

  1. carole thorn says:

    I really like your work. I think I get the idea. Kenopsia. Not familiar with the word but absolutely the meaning. Is it an adjective or noun? I used to work in hospitals, sometimes night shift. When I, on occasion, would go down to the blood bank or x-ray, at like 4:00 a.m. say…and it was deserted of course, instead of being creepy, I found it slightly exhilarating. Is this what you mean?
    I’ve been painting cityscapes in black/white for last two years. As much as I love color, and realize most people WANT colorful wall art, I can’t make myself add even a touch of color. It just doesn’t fit what I’m trying to capture!
    I came about your website looking for printers in the Jackson area. Need to gets some prints made of some of my work. If you have anyone you would recommend, let me know!

    • Hello! and thank you, it’s always nice to find someone else who appreciates the kind of work I enjoy making. As for “kenopsia,” it’s a word I found on an obscure Tumblr blog, I believe it was entitled “The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.” From what I understand it’s a noun and, yeah, you definitely get the sensation from what you describe about the X-ray room and blood bank. It’s not so much about fear but a sensation that most everyone feels but never really understands. As for your work definitely stick to what you like and what you feel. I resist the urge to use color or to stick to a limited palette out of choice. There is something to be said about the drama of extreme lights and darks. It’s something primal that can unsettle people.

      As for a printer in the Jackson Area, I really can’t recommend any that I know of. I usually print my work in the Universal Art and Technology Lab on campus at Mississippi State University’s art department. Some students use the Chalet art store, in Starkville and Copy Cow, also in Starkville. Some unsolicited advice — make sure your files are at least 300 DPI otherwise you run the risk of pixilation. I hope this helps


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