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Vanessa McConnell: Lithosphere
August 12—October 10, 2021

This is a color photograph of a room in the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery. The walls of the room are white-colored and lined with abstract paintings by Vanessa McConnell.

Vanessa McConnell: Lithosphere installation view, 2021. image courtesy of the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery.

The City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) and the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery (LAMAG) presented Lithosphere, an online presentation of Vanessa McConnell’s work that featured a selection of paintings, works on paper and related objects. Taking its title from a geological term describing the Earth’s uppermost layer, the exhibition focused on the layered power of expression and materiality inherent in McConnell’s artistic practice. The most widely known feature of the Earth’s lithosphere are the tectonic plates – revered for their ability to alter the surface of the planet. Similarly, McConnell’s expertise lies in creating two-dimensional works where the surface expresses her ability to manipulate color and form into seemingly new, three-dimensional forms.


McConnell’s paintings are characterized by their thick impasto surfaces, intense colors and decisive brushstrokes. The artist experiments with a range of tones and techniques, including masking, acrylics and watercolors and, sometimes, found objects, often working on a single painting for months at a time. During her labor-intensive process, McConnell adds multiple layers of acrylic paint to develop densely textured and pigmented compositions. The bold aesthetic of McConnell’s work is also, in part, determined by the physical limits of her medium, as the artist continues to use her brushes until they are too heavy with paint to be manipulated. The dramatic, expressive nature of her mark-making, which sometimes leads to tears and rips in the paper, evinces the artist’s powerful compulsion to paint.


One particularly distinctive aspect of McConnell’s work has emerged as a result of her dynamic painting method, whereby thick drips of paint accumulate at the base of her paintings. Occasionally, due to their own weight, these ridges break off to form striking sculptural objects in their own right. Lithosphere featured a selection of these objects as well as a number of other ephemera generated by the artist’s unique process. Through paintings, paint-covered curiosities and supportive tools, Vanessa McConnell: Lithosphere offered an intimate look beyond the painted surfaces and into the artist’s process and life.

  • This is a color photograph of an apron owned by Vanessa McConnell. The apron is made of a dark-colored fabric, and it is covered in brightly colored paint splatters and strokes. The paint colors include pink, red, yellow, green, orange, blue, and white.
    Vanessa McConnell, "Untitled", paint on apron, year unknown. courtesy of the artist and ECF Art Centers.

Vanessa McConnell (b. 1960, Houston, TX, lives and works in Los Angeles, CA) began her practice at the Exceptional Children’s Foundation (ECF) Art Centers in 1983 at the MLK studio in South Los Angeles, and now works from the ECF Art Center Westside studio located in Inglewood California. The ECF Art Center Westside is one of ECF’s five progressive art studios supporting adult artists with developmental disabilities.


Since 1968, the ECF Art Centers have provided adults with developmental disabilities a place to explore their creativity and freedom of expression. At ECF’s five art studios located across Los Angeles County, artists with developmental disabilities are encouraged to communicate their personal and creative vision. Talented instructors provide artists with guidance in a variety of media, including painting, drawing, printmaking, digital art, and ceramics. ECF’s approach to mentorship and professional development in the arts has been the catalyst for hundreds of artists to achieve their personal and professional goals.


ECF Art Centers partner with established local and national galleries, museums and other community organizations to connect artists to the greater art community. Juried art shows and local exhibits provide community exposure for artists and their work. We also invite outside artists to participate within the Art Center studios in a Collaborative Artist In Residency Program to foster a creative setting and collaborative environment. ECF’s Downtown Art Center Gallery (DAC Gallery) also creates opportunities for ECF artists to interact with members of the broader art community.