RICHARD MACDONALD doesn't do anything half way. The seemingly indefatigable artist is always up to something new, and it's usually on a grand scale.
One of the best known figurative sculptors of our day, Richard has made his mark with dramatic works in bronze that often depict humans displaying feats of physical near-impossibility, including monumental pieces such as a 26-foot, 3-ton rendition of a gymnast, titled "The Flair," that he donated to the city of Atlanta for the 1996 Olympics and a heroic representation of the anatomy of a golf swing — which resides in Pebble Beach — for the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Open in 2000.
In December of 2007 Richard opened a gallery in the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas in partnership with Cirque du Soleil. Richard's penchant for capturing the toned, lithe, muscular forms of dancers, athletes and mimes frozen in peak moments melds naturally with the world of contemporary circus performers, who are able to achieve daring, breathtaking, almost unimaginable, accomplishments with their highly trained bodies.
Richard delights in working with top performers and athletes who are at the height of successful careers, seeing in them a kindred spirit. "There is a special energy in athletes that I have," he says, "the desire and the drive and the need to challenge the limits."
However, Richard points out, "I'm not partnering with Cirque to create artwork of Cirque." It's more a simpatico, a compatibility — they share the same spirit of imagination and artistry and the desire to push boundaries, he explains.
Here at home, he opened his third gallery in Carmel last October in the Gallery Americana building, on 6th & San Carlos, where he first showed his work in Carmel some 15 years ago. Richard now owns the building and has completely renovated it. The occasion also marked the anniversary of a catastrophic occurrence in his life that he used as an opportunity to chart a new course for himself.
Twenty years ago a studio fire "basically wiped me out," he says. The 1988 blaze caused him to reassess the direction of his life, and he subsequently moved away from commission work and started focusing on becoming represented in galleries. In characteristic MacDonald fashion, within six years his work was being shown in 72 galleries around the world, he says.
In addition to the gallery in Las Vegas and the three in Carmel, all named Dawson Cole Fine Art after his grandson, Richard also has a gallery in Beverly Hills managed by his daughter, Michele Jayson, and another in Laguna Beach, run by his son and wife, Rich and Ariane MacDonald.
A graduate of the Art Center college of Design in Pasadena, Richard was a successful illustrator working for such corporate clients as American Express, AT&T, Coca Cola and Anheuser-Busch when, in 1983, he decided to give it all up to devote himself to fine art. Self-taught in sculpture, he completed his first major commission less than two years later: a 9-foot figure of Christ and a stained glass window for St. Patrick's Episcopal Church in Atlanta. In 1986 Richard completed a monumental sculpture of Stephen F. Austin for the university named after him in Texas.
Richard is presently focusing on his own work, endeavoring, he says, to "raise the bar." He has begun to sculpt in Carrara marble Ð the material preferred by Michelangelo — after being invited to the famed Tuscan quarry by two well-known sculptors, Manuel Neri and Marten Varo. There, Richard selected a 5.5 ton piece of white marble, which he had shipped back home.
He typically has about 30 pieces of sculpture in process at a time in his enormous studio in Ryan Ranch in Monterey. "That way no one piece of art is pushed at any time," he explains. Any one piece can take from six to seven years to complete. "The whole point is to be creating with feeling and spontaneity, and when they come to fruition, they come to fruition," he says.
He vigorously disputes the notion that figurative art is a thing of the past. "That presumption is egoistic in itself," he says. "There will always be a need to create figurative art because it [can] touch people the way no other can. I'm living proof that figurative art is needed and wanted in the world because I can hardly keep up.
Learn more about the Monterey Bay area at MontereyBayAdventures.com.