BiographyBruce McClain was born on September 12, 1940. He received his BS degree in Art and English from the University of Wisconsin, Platteville, in 1963, followed by his MS in Art from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1964. In 1965, he earned his MFA degree in painting and printmaking, also from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. McClain was an instructor in drawing at UW, Madison from 1963 to 1965. He joined the faculty of the Art Department at Gustavus Adolphus College in 1965 and taught there for the remainder of his professional career.
Although he taught drawing in graduate school in Madison, virtually his entire teaching career was spent at Gustavus Adolphus College, with the exception of serving in March of 1988 as a Visiting Artist and Consultant at Northwest Missouri State University (in Kirksville; now Truman State University). He was the recipient of numerous research grants from Gustavus, and was awarded leave funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities in the spring of 1978.
McClain has participated in many regional and national competitive and invitation exhibits, including at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Denver Art Museum, the Nexus Contemporary Art Center in Atlanta, the Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and, in 2011-2012, the Preston Contemporary Art Center in Mesilla, New Mexico.
His works are found in numerous collections, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, which acquired his 1962 oil painting Landscape Entombed that same year, and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., which acquired his 1978 oil painting of a cockpit titled Gustav in 1984 and which has it on display in their World War II Aviation gallery next to their German Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6 fighter plane, a model nicknamed “Gustav.”
McClain was named to the Arts and Letters Alumni Hall of Fame of the University of Wisconsin, Platteville in 2005, and in 2013 was presented the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame Artist Award. He was represented by the Suzanne Kohn Gallery of St. Paul through the 1970s and 1980s.McClain has had a number of one-person exhibitions and entered competitive and national competitions as well. His art works are part of the permanent collections of such institutions as the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing 3M Center in St. Paul, MN, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and the Milwaukee Memorial Art Center.
McClain exhibited several works in Fine Arts Festivals at Luther College. His oil painting, “Listening Wall” was purchased after the Fine Arts Festival Exhibition held March 31 through April 7, 1962. He said of this work that it was arrived at through an intuitive approach with a strong interest in the organic forms of nature. He noted that the idea of a wall came early in the process. “Organic forms were intended to open up the architectural structure as it reverberated with the sounds of human voices and random noises. He added that a triptych, “Totem,” also from this series, is in the collection of the Milwaukee Memorial Art Center. At the same Festival, he also exhibited an oil painting entitled, “Congregation.”
At the Print-Watercolor-Drawing exhibit which accompanied the Fine Arts Festival held December 5 -15, 1965, McClain showed a pencil drawing called “Crew.” This drawing of a B-23 Bomber was purchased for the Fine Arts Collection.