Amy McCormac, 2021, It Helps with the Let Down, oil on canvas, 36 x 48 inches

Serious Topics is delighted to present “What Made Her?”, an exhibition of oil paintings by Amy McCormac where painful feelings about her family relationships and history are vulnerably and unflinchingly examined.


As an introspective child, Amy had trouble making sense of her parents’ behaviors. Because of this, major anxiety and panic attacks dominated her life and alcohol became a crutch. When Amy became a parent to children who also had depression and anxiety, she began putting the pieces together around cause and effect. Why was this happening? Could it have something to do with family dynamics?


In “It Helps with Let Down” Amy is dutifully nursing a baby while drinking a beer, her angry eyes looking for escape from the confinement of her situation. A cat swipes at her hair, while frustration and claustrophobia play out on her face, and in the agitated background.  Her other breast is leaking, while a book that prescribes ideal parenting is tossed aside. There’s a raw, brutal realness to this painting that contradicts the curated perfection of motherhood typically seen in social media.

Through McCormac’s paintings, we can experience a front-row seat into the inner workings of the shifting perspectives of individual family members living through generational trauma. Cinematic shifts in scale and heightened color act to phenomenologically convey the story of ordinary, yet ordinarily unseen family drama. This exhibition is her journey in paint.

Raised in Chicago, Amy McCormac has a BFA from Mundelein College, now part of Loyola University in Chicago. Due to her anxiety, she took studio courses independent study, and taught herself painting at home. Her father was an art director for children’s books, and she originally intended to be an illustrator. Her biggest artistic influences are artists she saw at the Art Institute of Chicago:  Max Beckmann, Toulouse-Lautrec, and German Expressionists.  Although she painted consistently from a model for 15 years, she never tried to have a career in art until her children were grown and out of the house in 2016. She and her husband moved to LA in 2018.