For a long time, the images in my paintings have been identifiably, even iconically, western-stagecoaches and false-front main streets, poker games and gun battles, cowboys, Indians, cavalry troopers and horses, all suspended in a choreographed matrix of dancing paint. Distinct from the traditional western genre-which inventories the minutia of cowboy gear or tells sentimental stories of rangeland romance-my paintings embody something more elemental and timeless, animated and abstract. The images tend to be stark, graphic, and charged with painterly energy. Though they are derived from fugitive television images, the paintings, as paintings, are still, silent and non-ephemeral. They register the technological transfer of primal shadows onto the electroluminescent screens of our collective consciousness, a shimmering blur of perception and memory transposed in an interchange of gesture and description, painted marks simultaneously arresting and embodying movement. I've always liked what a painter friend, Marc Vischer, wrote in 1988 about an early group of my western paintings. Now, I'm fourteen years closer to actualizing my vision for this work, and his astute remarks seem more pertinent today than they did then. He wrote in part, "For McConnell, a searing light emanates from a new desert: that of television. And from that most desolate backdrop, he salvages fragments from a movie world that spoke of honor in a land that was lawless. In a romantic sense, McConnell's works are a visual seance. Figures, like specters distorted through intense heat waves, are captured from their eternity of 24 frames a second. Their shapes and shadows are brought back into a radically different world and given substance and texture. It is an impossible attempt to freeze them, to arrest the present's ceaseless molestation of the past, to close off the continuum. Sometimes this is done darkly and thickly as an emphatic gesture of permanence. In other works a few light strokes quickly applied suggest the ephemeral nature of film and perhaps the fleeting nature of our own lives."
I have been examining new imagery in my paintings, drawing subjects from Mexican graphic novelas, modern women and men of romance and mystery from the mid-20th century, motorcycles and airplanes. The end titles of movies, stated in several languages, have inspired me to begin a new series of cross-media translations in both acrylic and watercolor. My paintings have long begun where the movies have left off. The elements of water and light co-mingle in some pieces from this series and in others which take the viewpoint of a swimmer, watching other swimmers from the wet side of this aqueous membrane, looking up toward the light.