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 Buck McCain  (1943 - )

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Lived/Active: New Mexico/California      Known for: western genre, landscape, sculptor

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Buck McCain
from Auction House Records.
The Attack
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Painter and sculptor Buck McCain was raised on a working cattle ranch in southern California near the Mexican border. McCain was home-schooled by his mother and also learned Spanish and the native Indian language from the local children. A fifth generation rancher, McCain took over the ranch at age 20 when his father died.

Upon graduation from high school McCain realized that he needed to further his education or he would spend the rest of his life cattle ranching. He attended Imperial Valley Junior College near El Centro, California on a pre-med scholarship. McCain took art courses to balance out his science course work. His art teacher, Juanita Low, encouraged McCain to pursue a career in art. The artist found further encouragement when he sold his first painting of two boats in the San Diego harbor for $35.

After graduation from Imperial Valley McCain went to work on a ranch in Nevada. He supplemented his meager salary with paintings that he sold to hotels for $10 each. McCain eventually left ranch work and went to work for Aaron Brothers in Los Angeles. There he painted pictures to be sold in department stores throughout the United States.

In the late 1960's Buck McCain, who is mostly self-taught, went to Europe for a year of independent study. Upon his return to America, McCain settled in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

In 1976 McCain attempted sculpture on the suggestion of Arizona sculptor and painter Ernie Berke. After Berke walked him through the process, McCain knew he really wanted to sculpt. He has created a monumental bronze for the City of "Tucson", Arizona to commemorate the Spanish soldiers who guarded the Tucson presidio in the late 1700s.

Source: "Art of the West Magazine", July/August 2002

Biography from Trailside Galleries:
Buck McCain is and always will be a westerner. He grew up as a fifth generation cattle rancher on a large spread located between San Diego and El Centro. He acquired his love of vast landscapes, native people, and nature’s moods early in his life. A profile on him in "Cowboy’s and Indians" magazine said he has “western life running through his veins”. He knows the people, their spirit and natures, having paid his dues in the hot sun of a sprawling family ranch.

He studied pre-med and philosophy at the University of San Diego and Imperial Valley College in El Centro. He later attended the University of Guadalajara Insituto de Artes Plasticas in Mexico. However, when he turned to art in his 20s, he was basically self-taught. He has been painting since 1968, and in 1971 visited Santa Fe as part of a crew for a movie that never was made. He fell in love with New Mexico and its opalescent light and lived there for nine years.

During that time his subject matter included cowboy life, Indians, landscapes, and classical nudes, inspired by a year spent painting in Europe.

Although critics in Santa Fe tried to pigeonhole his work, they never could. Winning the prestigious Franklin Mint Gold Medal Award for painting in 1974 marked a turning point in McCain’s career. In 1976, McCain began sculpting and critics say switching from oils to bronzes seems to lend his work vitality and freshness. He says, “Thank God I get to paint the West.” He adds, “I would be just half an artist without both sculpting and painting in my life. I paint the world as it should be and I strive to reach universal truths in all I create by exploring timeless themes and emotions.”

McCain’s work has been profiled in "Southwest Art", "Sculpture Review", "Sunset", "Western Horseman", "The Equine Image" and "Architectural Digest", among other numerous publications. In the Cowboys and Indians profile he was quoted as saying, “The American West is a world class phenomenon. The ethic of the cowboy is so profound – hard work, honesty, stewardship of the land, and patriotism. The fascination of the non-Indian for the Indian will always exist, because the Indians and their cultures are just so magnificent and beautiful.”

He believes his work is compelling to people, not just those who grew up in the West, and says it all goes back to mythology. “We are in the process of living and inventing our own mythology, and it’s still new, still growing. Our western experience just isn’t past tense yet. The interesting thing is that it’s not cowboys and Indians who are inventing it, but rather artists and writers. The West is being passed down from real life into legend.

Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, IV:
Buckshot McCain

An oil painter of the West “as mythology—a story of people—not history,” McCain was born in San Diego in 1943 and currently living in Tucson. “I drew constantly in those early days on the ranch,” he recalls, “recording he Indian and cowboy life around me, but I knew little of painting, and had no thought of becoming an artist. In fact, until I went away to college, I had never seen an oil painting.”

Son of Buster and Boots McCain, he was raised on the 186,000 acre ranch that had been settled by his family in 1863 in what is still McCain Valley on the Mexican border. The victim of dyslexia, a learning disability that his mother’s discipline overcame, he wanted to be a doctor and won a pre-med scholarship to the University of San Diego. When his father died, McCain helped manage the ranch and quit college after three years. Injured in a fall from a horse, he taught himself painting while recuperating. A year later, a San Diego gallery began representing him.

For a year, he painted in Europe, doing Western subjects with a Swiss background that he sent back to California to sell, and studying Old Master techniques. When he returned, he rented a mining ghost town in New Mexico where he spent nine months of the year in solitude. He also invested in two New Mexican ranches and raised cattle before moving to Santa Fe in 1975 and then to Tucson. “I do not paint the violent or the ugly,” he emphasizes. “Fine art is beauty, and beauty is harmony, balance, and coordination. I choose to ‘walk in beauty,’ as the Navajo says.”

Resource: Contemporary Western Artists, by Peggy and Harold Samuels 1982, Judd’s Inc., Washington, D.C.





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