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Multimedia specialist blends abstraction with realismLess
Multimedia specialist blends abstraction with realism
and color, shape and form with symbolismLess
and color, shape and form with symbolism

Artist Finds Spiritual and ArtisticLess

Artist Finds Spiritual and Artistic

Guidance in the DesertLess

Guidance in the Desert

by Judy Sklar

by Judy Sklar

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Y ucca Valley artist and curator, Michael McCall, is a mid-career artist who works in several mediums;  painting, sculpture, photography, performance and conceptual art. Blending abstraction and imagery, he combines color, shape and form with the use of graphic symbolism. He has a quick wit, a spiritual nature and a rebellious belief in the “freedom to create, to challenge the rules and relish the journey.”

Y ucca Valley artist and curator, Michael McCall, is a mid-career artist who works in several mediums;  painting, sculpture, photography, performance and conceptual art. Blending abstraction and imagery, he combines color, shape and form with the use of graphic symbolism. He has a quick wit, a spiritual nature and a rebellious belief in the “freedom to create, to challenge the rules and relish the journey.”

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Born in Hickory, North Carolina, McCall was interested in art as a child. He couldn’t help but tinker and  tweak things and discovered as a first grader that he could impress his teachers and fellow students with his folded papers with cut-out designs. Standing in front of a classroom of students, showing his artistic creations, McCall recalls thinking, “Wow, this is great!”

Born in Hickory, North Carolina, McCall was interested in art as a child. He couldn’t help but tinker and  tweak things and discovered as a first grader that he could impress his teachers and fellow students with his folded papers with cut-out designs. Standing in front of a classroom of students, showing his artistic creations, McCall recalls thinking, “Wow, this is great!”

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A family move took him to Florida when he was six years old, but they returned to Hickory when he was  in high school. By that time McCall was making charcoal drawings and was confident that he could draw well. He took art classes with John Brady, a North Carolinian artist, who painted landscapes using unusual methods and materials with an experimental flare. Brady would become influential in McCall’s decision to become an artist. 

A family move took him to Florida when he was six years old, but they returned to Hickory when he was  in high school. By that time McCall was making charcoal drawings and was confident that he could draw well. He took art classes with John Brady, a North Carolinian artist, who painted landscapes using unusual methods and materials with an experimental flare. Brady would become influential in McCall’s decision to become an artist. 

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McCall attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for his undergraduate education. It was  the 1960’s, and the world was in turmoil. As a young man pushing boundaries, McCall recalls this time as the beginning of sex, drugs and rock and roll. “Disobedience at school became part of the college experience.”

McCall attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for his undergraduate education. It was  the 1960’s, and the world was in turmoil. As a young man pushing boundaries, McCall recalls this time as the beginning of sex, drugs and rock and roll. “Disobedience at school became part of the college experience.”

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He continued his graduate school education at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana

completing both his undergraduate and graduate work in six years without a break. He took a variety of  jobs along the way; from shoe salesman to door-to-door cutlery salesman and later in life as a 

residential remodeling contractor. “Money earned,”, McCall said, “was money meant for art materials

and time in the studio.”

He continued his graduate school education at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana

completing both his undergraduate and graduate work in six years without a break. He took a variety of  jobs along the way; from shoe salesman to door-to-door cutlery salesman and later in life as a 

residential remodeling contractor. “Money earned,”, McCall said, “was money meant for art materials

and time in the studio.”

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At twenty-eight McCall was married briefly to a young artist and photographer, Joan Hackett. They met  in graduate school and together became a part of a group of artists, musicians and photographers who gathered in Key West, Florida to immerse themselves in art. McCall’s idea was to create a speakeasy bar he called “The Tentacle Room”; a place not only to network, but a place that allowed him to shed his six years of structured academia and explore his new artistic primitive direction. He was given the nickname Captain Squid, and his memoir, which is scheduled to be published in 2020, is entitled, Captain Squid and the Tentacle Room.

At twenty-eight McCall was married briefly to a young artist and photographer, Joan Hackett. They met  in graduate school and together became a part of a group of artists, musicians and photographers who gathered in Key West, Florida to immerse themselves in art. McCall’s idea was to create a speakeasy bar he called “The Tentacle Room”; a place not only to network, but a place that allowed him to shed his six years of structured academia and explore his new artistic primitive direction. He was given the nickname Captain Squid, and his memoir, which is scheduled to be published in 2020, is entitled, Captain Squid and the Tentacle Room.

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In 1977, McCall went to the Yucatán and explored the archaeology of ancient civilizations. He studied

the Mayans, their culture and symbolism. In the Mayan archeological sites, he did rubbings from stone  carvings and in Tulum he created his first sand painting, mixing raw materials into wet sand. Years later, his sand paintings would become the centerpiece of major art events with some sand paintings as large as 60 feet. 

In 1977, McCall went to the Yucatán and explored the archaeology of ancient civilizations. He studied

the Mayans, their culture and symbolism. In the Mayan archeological sites, he did rubbings from stone  carvings and in Tulum he created his first sand painting, mixing raw materials into wet sand. Years later, his sand paintings would become the centerpiece of major art events with some sand paintings as large as 60 feet. 

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In the 1980’s McCall married his second wife, Andrea McCall (now divorced) and with whom they have a  daughter, Natalie. He spent the majority of his art-making career living and working in Los Angeles. Always a student of symbolism, his work centered around what McCall describes as “the development of communication from gesture to icon.” Walking a fine line between abstraction and realism, he often uses elements from Chinese philosophy and mysticism that “intrigue and amuse the viewer”.

In the 1980’s McCall married his second wife, Andrea McCall (now divorced) and with whom they have a  daughter, Natalie. He spent the majority of his art-making career living and working in Los Angeles. Always a student of symbolism, his work centered around what McCall describes as “the development of communication from gesture to icon.” Walking a fine line between abstraction and realism, he often uses elements from Chinese philosophy and mysticism that “intrigue and amuse the viewer”.

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He was inspired and mentored by his friend Walter Hopps (1932-2005) an American museum director,  known for a rebellious spirit. In a 2004 interview with McCall, Hopps wrote, “McCall has been the first artist I know of to make beautiful image paintings of the I Ching symbols. I don’t know another artist who has done that.”

He was inspired and mentored by his friend Walter Hopps (1932-2005) an American museum director,  known for a rebellious spirit. In a 2004 interview with McCall, Hopps wrote, “McCall has been the first artist I know of to make beautiful image paintings of the I Ching symbols. I don’t know another artist who has done that.”

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McCall considers the year 2015 as pivotal in his life and career. He had just come off a performance

piece at the Aqua Hotel in Key Biscayne during Miami Basel in late 2014. It was a conceptional curatorial  project that later developed into The Pearly Gates Collection, a tribute to his friend Walter Hopps. It was also the same time that McCall met Reverend Michael Beckwith, whose spiritual guidance has been a major influence in his life. “Beckwith teaches to believe in oneself,” said McCall, “and for me, the spirit in this body connects to the Divine source, to the infinite spirit, to love, tolerance and kindness. My artwork hopefully relays those qualities.” 

McCall considers the year 2015 as pivotal in his life and career. He had just come off a performance

piece at the Aqua Hotel in Key Biscayne during Miami Basel in late 2014. It was a conceptional curatorial  project that later developed into The Pearly Gates Collection, a tribute to his friend Walter Hopps. It was also the same time that McCall met Reverend Michael Beckwith, whose spiritual guidance has been a major influence in his life. “Beckwith teaches to believe in oneself,” said McCall, “and for me, the spirit in this body connects to the Divine source, to the infinite spirit, to love, tolerance and kindness. My artwork hopefully relays those qualities.” 

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It was also during this period that McCall discovered the magic and spirituality of the desert. Introduced  to the Joshua Tree art scene by a friend, McCall was quickly hooked and returned many times to the desert before his move from Los Angeles to Yucca Valley. In November 2017, he was hired by the Hi-Desert Cultural Center of Joshua Tree as the Executive Curator for their annex, the Yucca Valley Visual Performance Arts Center. 

It was also during this period that McCall discovered the magic and spirituality of the desert. Introduced  to the Joshua Tree art scene by a friend, McCall was quickly hooked and returned many times to the desert before his move from Los Angeles to Yucca Valley. In November 2017, he was hired by the Hi-Desert Cultural Center of Joshua Tree as the Executive Curator for their annex, the Yucca Valley Visual Performance Arts Center. 

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Artist
Spiritual and Artistic
in & out
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Today McCall spends a great deal of his time curating shows, fundraising and assisting other artists.  Finding time for his own work can be frustrating but he continues to work on large projects and will often work on smaller projects at the same time. “A lot of experimenting goes on when you walk away 

from your serious work, for ‘diddling’ as I call it, but” Mc Call adds, “the results will go back into your work if you allow it to.” He so believes in this type of experimentation that he wrote a manifesto on the subject entitled “Neo-Nitwittism”.

Today McCall spends a great deal of his time curating shows, fundraising and assisting other artists.  Finding time for his own work can be frustrating but he continues to work on large projects and will often work on smaller projects at the same time. “A lot of experimenting goes on when you walk away 

from your serious work, for ‘diddling’ as I call it, but” Mc Call adds, “the results will go back into your work if you allow it to.” He so believes in this type of experimentation that he wrote a manifesto on the subject entitled “Neo-Nitwittism”.

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A recovering alcoholic, McCall meditates most mornings and is inspired by the spiritual teachings of  Taoism and Buddhism. As he ages, he believes he works smarter. When asked what he would advise to the young artist Michael McCall, he replied “I would say, give it your best shot, persevere and don’t let anything stop you.”

A recovering alcoholic, McCall meditates most mornings and is inspired by the spiritual teachings of  Taoism and Buddhism. As he ages, he believes he works smarter. When asked what he would advise to the young artist Michael McCall, he replied “I would say, give it your best shot, persevere and don’t let anything stop you.”

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From the young child who liked to tinker with things to the successful adult artist and curator, Michael McCall has come full circle to a place where he would likely say, “Wow, this is great!” McCall is represented in the Coachella Valley by Melissa Morgan Fine Arts in Palm Desert and will be included in a show this coming 2020 season. 

From the young child who liked to tinker with things to the successful adult artist and curator, Michael McCall has come full circle to a place where he would likely say, “Wow, this is great!” McCall is represented in the Coachella Valley by Melissa Morgan Fine Arts in Palm Desert and will be included in a show this coming 2020 season. 

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