VALIDATION: Dan McCaw’s PARADIGM

Dan McCaw is a contemporary American artist that lives and works in Torrance, California, with his two accomplished artist sons, John and Danny.

Dan was raised in the small mining town of Butte, Montana, whose people were far richer in character than the precious copper that was mined day and night. It was in these formative years much of his own character was molded and from which he constantly draws upon.

Left to right: Danny, Dan, and John McCaw

The work of Dan McCaw is a bridge between his traditional background and the contemporary influences that continually impact his art. Strong design is the foundation that his work is based upon but curiosity is the fuel that drives his creativity.

“Art flourishes in change, it expands when its limits are limitless. The artist must remain open to its possibilities and eliminate the dispassionate. The dignity of art is not in its constants but in the liberation of its possibilities.” 

Dan McCaw

Influenced by the classical masters at an early age Dan, over the years, has seen his appreciation and seduction for many different genres of art.

“Anything that makes me think, makes me engage, and broadens my perceptions is of great importance and interest to me.”

While his sensitive figural work is deeply rooted in the romantic impressionist tradition, recent years have brought him toward a more individual, expressionist tradition. McCaw credits Edouard Vuillard, Pierre Bonnard, Gustav Klimt, and the Abstract Expressionists for helping him develop a heightened awareness in his work, not rigorously conforming to the literal representation of the subject. As a skilled and discerning interpreter of color harmonies, light and mood, he expresses feeling and emotions with the fewest elements- that less is more.

An Interview with Dan McCaw

How long have you been creating artwork in the McCaw Contemporary Studio?

In 1998 I bought a building that was formerly a ballet school, It had beautiful hardwood floors with high ceilings and mirrored walls. Now the floors are spotted with paint, the mirrored walls have been replaced with large panels where our paintings hang. It is a remarkable space that myself and my two sons John and Danny share.

It is a space where ideas are exchanged, battles are fought, and successes are celebrated. It is a private club with only three members.   

What have you learned from working alongside your family members?

We have a symbiotic relationship where each contributes to the whole, they are not only my two sons but my best friends. We share our frustrations, our successes, and our passions. Sometimes it only takes a word of encouragement to move past our self-imposed boundaries… they have become my teachers.

Are you focusing on anything right now, artistically?

It is always a challenge that my paintings show as much about me as the subject I’m painting.  To bring to life something within myself that may have been neglected, deigned, or hidden. To be curious not just about the subject but about myself. My focus is to trust and value my own intuition and feelings.

Are you struggling with anything artistically right now? If so, how do you problem solve?

I am always struggling; I am always frustrated.  I think that frustration is an essential part of creativity, it is a great motivator for change, being curious, taking a chance, and leaving the safe, familiar, and predictable.

How do you usually prepare for an upcoming exhibition? 

I just paint, and then try to pick the best paintings that I’ve done that seem to represent my aesthetics at that time.  

Are you experimenting with anything new for PARADIGM?

Each painting is an experiment. I let the painting dictate its course…I am just a passenger on a ship without a rutter, I don’t know the destination or the time of arrival. It is the surprises within the process that keep me engaged.

What themes are you discussing with PARADIGM?

Validation…. The paintings in this exhibition are represented by female figures, she symbolizes and represents the human desire for validation and acceptance. She stands, her arms frozen, as though the sculptor has not yet freed them from the stone. Arms held tight so as not to further expose her vulnerability as she waits for validation and the freedom to express her full self, her magic, her mystery. 

How do you know when a painting is finished?

They say it takes two people to paint a painting, one to paint the picture and the other to stop him or her before they ruin it.

As our experiences broaden our knowledge, perceptions and wisdom also expand. We look at works that we had previously painted through a different lens, so in that sense, a painting is never finished. If a painting hangs around the studio long enough, I will change it.


Join us at the gallery on Friday, April 22 at 5 PM for the opening reception of PARADIGM and discussions led by featured artists Dan, John, and Danny McCaw.

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