Cultural Ubiquity: Art by Sam McKinniss

An acrylic and oil painting of a photo of PrincePrince, acrylic and oil on canvas

Sam McKinniss is a painter based in Williamsburg, New York. The artist is known for his detailed, painterly portraits of pop-culture figures. In recent years, McKinniss has become particularly known for recreating photos of celebrities and other bits of internet and Western cultural ubiquity, rendering them in detailed, classically-styled brush strokes.

A portrait of Lourde for her album MelodramaPortrait of Lourde for the cover of Melodrama


I really enjoy the way McKinniss addresses the tension between fine art and mass-produced lowbrow culture. A big part of the artist’s conceptual practice is taking images that he enjoys, but that aren’t necessarily considered “important” and attempting to transform them, through the act of painting, into classics, or elevated images.


From a technical standpoint, McKinniss’ paintings are quite lovely – never overworked, always leaving some evidence of the artist’s hand in gestural brush strokes and moments of spontaneous color. This painterly aesthetic goes hand-in-hand with a careful attention to composition and detail, adding a sense of old-world romance to these very current images.

A painting of Lydia from the movie BeetlejuiceLydia, oil, acrylic, and aqua leaf on canvas

Written by: Dallas Jeffs
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