Born in 1967, John McCaw is the eldest son of American expressionist Dan McCaw and brother to artist Danny McCaw.
Working together as a family of artists there exists natural alchemy. Although clearly influenced by each other, John articulates a unique vision and creativity.
Incorporating his studies in anthropology and ceramics, John McCaw creates organic form within his artwork that challenges pristine appearance. Many of John’s paintings appear pulled from the earth or washed up from the depths– beacons of the past revealing something new to their discoverer. His artwork endeavors to connect the greater transformations of the past with the evolution of the viewer’s own psychological world. This transformation entails a kind of symbolic self-involvement in the very process of life itself.
“Each work of art contains elements of life– bits and pieces that reveal the anatomy of our existence.”John McCaw
Many of these pieces suggest universal themes such as life and death, fate and circumstance, joy and sadness, human relationships, religion, graphic symbols, modern culture, and so on. The ability to look beyond the object and seek a more profound understanding is simply more than finding answers; it involves the more abstract goal of finding “meaning”. In a sense, we need not only to describe what we see or how we feel, but we also have to try and explain it, if only to ourselves. Analogy, inferences, and a great deal of imagination help to interpret these intellectual pieces of art.
Just as the interpretation is individual, the process and application of producing these pieces of art are just as diverse. Some paintings are conceived, thought out, and applied while others are as spontaneous as the emotion that accompanies them along the way. The emphasis on strong design, simple shapes, a variety of surfaces, and sensitive color enables John to create well-balanced visually stimulating art that encourages the viewer to look within themselves. For John, the reality is not the act of experiencing something it is the emotion associated with it.
An Interview with John McCaw
What have you learned from working alongside your family members?
The three of us have been working together now for over twenty years. It would seem strange not to have the support and encouragement of each other in our working environment. Life and art often intersect when spending so much time together but the mutual respect we have is something that inspires and motivates us to do the best work possible in life and art. We each have our own unique idiosyncrasies which create lively interactions with a lot of laughter and jokes helping ease any tensions that may arise. With the help of humor and the acknowledgment of each other’s strengths and weaknesses, we navigate a path, to our best abilities, to promote a healthy creative place where we all can thrive.
There’s a certain comfort level we share giving opinions and taking criticisms, which we may not always want to hear. For the most part, it seems like we focus more on positive reinforcement and what can be done to make improvements not the how’s, the why’s, and the what were you thinking. It’s about finding ways that enable a positive outcome. We aren’t there to paint each other’s paintings but we do share similar aesthetics and some of those commonalities can be seen throughout our works.
Are you focusing on anything right now, artistically?
Right now I’m working on two bodies of work. One body that incorporates objects and focuses more on saturated color, which I typically don’t do. The other is using fabrics and paint along with other materials to suggest a more meditative and subdued experience. These two bodies are a kind of a Yin and Yang approach to what really drives our perceptions of reality. The first dealing with the external world and tangible innate objects that surround our daily life. The other body deals more with what is within our internal world– how memories and experiences are sawn together by our conscious and subconscious minds to help validate how we feel and interpret what is going on around us.
Are you struggling with anything artistically right now? If so, how do you problem solve?
Struggles are real but they are also an essential part of the creative process. There are a lot of voices calling out in your head which can lead to self-doubt. With every decision, we make something is lost and something can be found. As artists, we are lucky that paint is a plastic medium that can be controlled and changed at any moment. The beauty of art is that there are infinite possibilities that lend a hand to infinite interpretations and help us in the production of art and how we view it.
How do you usually prepare for an upcoming exhibition?
When preparing for a show a lot is going on logically. Everything is done in-house from the painting to the framing to stretching canvas, photographing the art, making crates, and shipping. Along with all the logistics, there is weighing one painting against another and seeing how they relate and interact with each other to make a cohesive grouping, all while trying to introduce new works that fit in with what is being shown.
Are you experimenting with anything new thematically or compositionally for PARADIGM?
This being the first major show with the gallery, I thought it important to give a wide range of works that encompass what I do and showcase the various techniques, materials, and applications I use to produce my art.
How do you know when a work is finished?
With painting answers are only part of the equation, meaning, and how you connect and feel play a major role in determining whether a work is complete. It’s not like solving a mathematical equation where you arrive at an answer and either it is right or wrong. Painting is much more subjective, something can always be added or taken away.
Paintings often change when our perceptions change. So many times I’ve thought a piece was complete only to rework it a day, a week even years later. The connection between what I was seeing and how I was feeling had changed. The opposite can be true as well, where you don’t care for a work initially but over time you develop a deeper connection and you value it even more. I guess it’s about trusting your perceptions and how you feel at that moment and allowing yourself to make changes as you see fit, whenever that might be.