While I had wanted to go to art school as a career choice at 18, my father said no, and at the age of 43 I found myself as an Associate Clinical professor of Nursing at UCSF, where I was running the Family Nurse Practitioner Program which I had helped to develop 12 years earlier. Messages began coming to me through workshops and dreams persistently leading me back to my original dream of being an artist. I listened, left everything, and headed to New York City where I enrolled at the Art Students League of New York.
Back in the Bay Area, I discovered hospice nursing along with my love of figurative painting, and worked out a way to pursue both. I had always believed that all humans are wounded on some level, not necessarily physically, but emotionally, spiritually, or psychically. Most people also try to hide or bury these wounds. But hidden wounds fester and infect the whole system. Look at what has been happening in this country for so long and what has now become obvious as a result of the pandemic and other issues. So for me, the idea was to paint my own and others wounds as a way of encouraging people to own their own issues. If I was willing to to be vulnerable in my own art, perhaps this would give others permission to begin to look at the truth of their own wounds. My work is filled with bald heads, for example, which was a personal experience related to unaknowledged stress and vulnerability during my tenure as faculty.
Over the years as an artist, I have explored many different avenues of expression, including monotypes, Tibetan buddhist thangka painting, abstraction, still lifes and landscapes. In the end, I always return to the figure.
Dr Barbara R Mclain