McElhinney, who studied at Tyler School of Art and received his MFA from Yale, is currently Visiting Art in Painting at East Carolina University's School of Art. He lives and works in the Ayden Old Town Hall Visiting Artist Studio. Painting from observation, he investigates sites where past and present meet in conflict; places where hallowed ground is home to both monuments and shopping malls. He sees the present condition of these former battlefields as evidence that new struggles are underway to define our national landscape. By exploring these places in his work, painting on location, McElhinney sees himself as part of that process. "Places , like landscapes, are not what we see, but how we see them. Locations are inhabited by a number of competing landscapes placed there by the desires and values of those that create them. The American Landscape is a battleground of competing definitions, and nothing less than a national quarrel." He moved from the South from Philadelphia 5 years ago for the express purpose of painting Civil War Battlefields because he say that much "is revealed about how Americans celebrate landscape, bashed how we preserve, alter or destroy hallowed ground."