Connecting with the human figure
This story was featured in the August 2013 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Order the Southwest Art August 2013 print issue, or get the Southwest Art August 2013 digital download now…Or better yet, just subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss a story!
McGarren Flack was on an academic path to becoming a surgeon when he happened to enroll in a drawing class in college. It was love at first sight, and soon Flack changed his major to illustration at Brigham Young University. Today, instead of operating on people, Flack paints them.
At 34, he is quickly becoming known for his talent at capturing gestures, emotions, body language, and facial expressions that reflect the human condition. Recently his work was on view in the Oil Painters of America National Juried Exhibition, which opened in May at InSight Gallery in Fredericksburg, TX. This month his work is featured in OPA’s Salon Show at the Crooked Tree Arts Center in Petoskey, MI.
Although he also creates still lifes and landscapes, the figurative genre consistently offers Flack the most compelling narrative possibilities. “People relate to people,” he says. “I have seen so many people emotionally involved with paintings that have figures in them, and I haven’t seen that as much with still-life or landscape paintings.”
Flack has an eye for capturing contemporary culture and conundrums. For example, in iCONNECTED he depicts a scene he witnessed on a Salt Lake City bus. Two students sat side by side sharing an iPod, silently changing songs but never exchanging a word. Flack says the scenario shocked him because he recalls being loud and boisterous with his friends at that age. “But now kids just play games, watch shows, and listen to music on the bus. There is little interaction,” he says. “I just had to paint the scene.”
In WALK THE LINE, he portrays a young woman walking along train tracks. The painting is about balance in art in terms of contrast, form, and composition. But Flack says he is also referencing more psychological themes about balance in human beings—how people are always either walking a line or crossing a line, making decisions and choices both good and bad.
Whether capturing figures on a bus or on train tracks, the artist tries to achieve what he calls painterly realism. “I like things to look alive from a distance and painterly up close,” Flack says. —Bonnie Gangelhoff
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