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© John McDowell Rx Volus

John McDowell



I was born and raised in South Africa. We immigrated to Canada in the early 1970s. I, however, went to the US for my undergraduate and MA studies in English. Along the way, I took art classes whenever I could. After settling in Alberta I did a Ph.D. at the University of Calgary. I currently have dual roles as a professor and administrator at Burman University in Lacombe. Over several summers, I have taken art classes at Red Deer College.

Artist Statement

I begin with the assumption that art occupies space where something happens. Such a position posits the art object and viewer in a relationship where a narrative for the eye constitutes the aesthetic experience. The art object is also foregrounded as the place of the artistic experience. The interplay with the eye and the object provides “what happens.”

I work with a variety of materials both in two and three dimensions. I am drawn most frequently to working metals: bronze, copper, lead, and sheet metal. I “paint” with patinas, and dyes, and sometimes with a blow torch on tar-based substances. When needed, I also apply acrylics and occasionally oil paints.

In my work I try to leave enough room for the viewer to create his or her own experience with the piece. I want the work to be suggestive, not declarative. To me what a work of art means (its idea) is the result of an interactive relationship—or play—between the object and the viewer. A balance between control of the material and allowing the material to have its say is one of the most engaging challenges in working towards a completed piece. The creative process is a continual dialogue between the mental vision, the material, and the artist’s skill in bringing forth a completed work.