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Artlink offers retrospective of local artist and teacher George W. McCullough
By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader
The Fort Wayne art world lost a great painter and a great teacher when George W. McCullough died on October 15 of this year at the age of 82.
The Artlink gallery was already preparing a retrospective of McCullough’s work at the time of McCullough’s death. The retrospective opens with a reception from 7 – 9pm on November 11th, and features 53 pieces from George W, McCollough, mostly paintings, drawings, and etchings.
Betty Fishman, former director of Artlink and a friend of McCullough’s, describes McCullough as a “plein aire” artist. “That means you take your easel out and your paint out, and you go out and paint what you see,” Fishman says. “Plein aire artists paint actually from life.” Fishman adds that McCullough was also a prolific portrait painter.
“I can’t throw him into impressionist or expressionist or any category like that, because he wasn’t,” Fishman explains. “He pretty much adhered to his own beliefs in painting. He was driven to paint. I think he painted every day of his life that it was physically possible.”
McCullough’s autobiography Camping Out (2005) chronicles an eventful life. Born in California, McCullough earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s of Fine Arts from Iowa State University. He served in the Air Force during World War II and later pursued his painting with stints in Italy (on a Fulbright scholarship), Paris, Montana, and New York City in the 1950s, a time when that city was earning its reputation as the nation’s, if not the world’s, artistic capital (and an artist could afford to live there). His paintings were featured in numerous exhibitions and collections in California, New York, Nice, Gera (Germany), and many others.
A job designing stained glass windows for City Glass brought McCullough and his wife Sue (also an artist) to Fort Wayne in 1965. Fishman remembers meeting him for the first time when he walked into the old Fort Wayne Art Institute on West Berry with his portfolio to apply for a job. He taught at the Fort Wayne Art Institute and then at IPFW until he retired in 1989.
“He was a very generous teacher, and a very popular teacher,” Fishman says. “He had a number of close artist friends who liked to go out and paint with him, who liked to talk to him about painting, and philosophize about the art world.”
Though the Artlink retrospective focuses on McCullough’s paintings and drawings, McCullough experimented in other mediums. Fishman describes McCullough creating sculptures from rocks he collected along the riverbanks in Fort Wayne. “He saw faces or animals in (the stones), and chipped away and made sculptures that way.”
Above all, Fishman says McCullough really stood out in his tireless pursuit of his work. “He was very dedicated to what he was doing all the time, but he was not an intense person,” Fishman says. “He was friendly, interested in other people, but he just never missed working. I’ve never known anyone quite like him as far as being dedicated to producing, creating. If you went to dinner with George, he’d be drawing on his napkin while he was talking. He’d never quit.”
George W. McCollough Retrospective
Opening reception: November 11th, 7 – 9 pm (show runs through November 27th)
437 E. Berry