The Art of Richard MacDonald
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THE PARADOX OF AN ARTIST'S LIFE IS THAT THEY ARE BOTH INDEPENDENT OF TIME, AND DEEPLY CONNECTED TO THE TIMES IN WHICH THEY LIVE.
In the vast confusion of life with its myriad influences and rapid flow of events, it is almost impossible to see the big shapes of history forming around us-we are too close to it, and too preoccupied. Artists are like those who stand on a hill, with an elevated perspective and a far-reaching view. From this vantage point they can see the greater sweep of our times, and "report back to us". The wonder of art is that this exchange is largely an unconscious one-artists exercise their heightened perception and filter their impressions back to us, and in this we can see the times we live in with greater clarity. Artists who are accorded the privilege of long, active life do this to a far greater degree than others and leave a more lasting impression on history. Artists are shaping the age they live in, as they record what they see, feel, and experience. Think about the Renaissance in Italy. Raphael depicted a man-centered order with his use of linear perspective, and through his iconic image of the "The School of Athens" we read volumes about the beliefs and values of his time. He lived the Renaissance--in all its glorious complexity--and he distilled it into an image for us to ponder half a millennium later.
We don't always recognize the Raphael's amongst us, but in the case of Richard MacDonald, we see the rich legacy of a long and productive creative achievement. Excellence and innovation have marked his career since the early 70's, and with his intuitive sense of the times, he has reflected a vision of ourselves. Richard MacDonald has not been a recorder of events: he has been (and is) a chronicler of our emotions.
The true artists among us are soaking up the atmosphere of our lives as they live it alongside us, and what is created spontaneously can, in the best of them, show us truths that we cannot see in the hubbub of daily life. Richard MacDonald's particular gift has been to show us the unique beauty of the human form and the ways it can express the most vital aspects of our humanity. He has honed and worked this gift until it has a polish and facility that is breath-taking-this is not the work of a brief apprenticeship-no "flash in the pan"-but a deep and developed contribution.
There are few artists who ever achieve this rare state, as it requires success to buoy it along, and dedication on the part of the artist. Richard MacDonald's career reflects both conditions. The twentieth century was a tumultuous time in the arts (as in everything else) and standards of excellence were thrown overboard. Despite this, people have an innate recognition of, and longing for, beauty. We can argue about its definition ad infinitum, but at our core, we know it as we know ourselves. And we need it.
In his 76 years Richard MacDonald has developed his natural gifts with hard work, grit, and perseverance. He has explored the full range of life's experiences and emotions, and expressed them in sculptures, paintings and drawings that celebrate passion, love, loss, longing, and fulfilment. His body of work is a banquet that continues to be spread before us. We see youth and age, union and singularity, struggle, and brief, sparkling moments of triumph. Where is the artist at this point? He is at the height of his expressive power, with a fully developed repertoire of skills and ideas, open to the new as ever, but with his own rich heritage to draw from as well.
We are fortunate to be on this artist's journey with him. A life is a magnificent and unpredictable gift, and we each play a part in shaping the experience of all we encounter on our path. Our paths cross for a purpose. The work of Richard MacDonald's life as it has been given tangible form so far hints at what might be to come, as we press forward into the 21st century together.