The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Currents

June 20, 2013

Air of greatness

Bruce McClain showcases aerial inspiration in exhibit of new works in Waseca

WASECA -- Those familiar with Bruce McClain's paintings may find it hard to imagine the highly regarded artist idly meandering his studio.

But even the man whose artwork can be found in such impressive collections as the Milwaukee Art Center, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum admits to moments of creative malaise.

"If I've not been working in a while, I really question that I can still do it," said the retired Gustavus Adolphus College art instructor who's exhibiting his most recent works at the Waseca Arts Center through July 27.

"Sometimes I go into the studio and end up sweeping the floor or moving stuff around, just circling around the art. Art isn't easy."

More often, however, McClain emerges from his labor with work befitting the superlatives widely applied to his painting.

"He has a marvelous sense of color," said Pat Beckmann, director of the Waseca Arts Center, which relocated into a larger, more stately facility earlier this year. "Such a beautiful blend of abstract and realistic subject matter."

Featuring more than a dozen oil and acrylic paintings created between 2005 and present, McClain's exhibit represents both a culmination and divergence from earlier work.

In the early 1960s, McClain's paintings were largely abstract. His direfully suggestive "Totems" is owned by the Milwaukee Art Center. And "Landscape Entombed," an early example of the artist's ability to evoke physical and emotional sensation through color and composition, is held among the Whitney's 19,000-item permanent collection.

In the following years, McClain often worked in a more realistic style, painting interior landscapes and artist studios. His precise renderings of airplane cockpits earned him inclusion in the National Air and Space Museum. In April, he was further recognized as the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame Artist of the Year.

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