Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, John McCormick has lived in California since 1971. His father was an artist, and an accomplished draftsman, so John was given training and encouragement from early childhood. McCormick obtained his B.F.A. from the University of the Pacific where he studied with Larry Walker (father of Kara Walker) and went on to earn a teaching credential at San Francisco State University.
Early in his career McCormick exhibited his abstract paintings at the same time that he and his wife started a successful business in San Francisco, painting sets and large-scale scenic backdrops for photographers, videographers, television and film studios. The studio client list included HBO, Lucas film, Disney studios, Apple computers, MTV, the Grateful Dead and the San Francisco 49ers. “I was supporting myself by teaching at the time and doing scenic painting got me out of the classroom and into the studio full-time.”
The abstract paintings of this time were well received, but the scenic painting with it’s emphasis on creating a ‘photo realist’ look, moved McCormick to explore a more referential style of painting. “There was a transitional period where I realized I wanted to bring more drawing back into my fine art and that my exploration of abstraction as an idea was reaching a logical conclusion.” McCormick finally concluded that the idea of landscape with its ‘arbitrary’ forms was not that big a leap from the artistic vocabulary he had developed during his years of doing abstraction.
“The idea of Landscape in painting today means something different than it did to the culture a hundred years ago.,” McCormick says. “Depletion of the natural environment was not a concern of earlier painters but is an implicit concern in many of the contemporary landscape painters today. I think Simon Schama in his book, Landscape and Memory, put it best when he said, “the resilience of the landscape imagery speaks to the recognition that landscapes are culture before they are nature; they are constructs of our imagination projected onto earth water and woods.” In McCormick’s work, one senses a quiet beauty, which he says, may be the energy source for the spirit, a place in the mind where sympathy and compassion are born and regenerated.
McCormick’s painting style clearly draws on western tradition, yet these contemporary landscapes have elements that unite aspects of traditional and modern styles and genres to create innovative paintings that are highly regarded throughout the country. The compositional direction of each painting is informed by geometric principals and by the artist’s interest in a synthesis of Eastern and Western thought specifically Pacific Rim influences. The most recent paintings continue to demonstrate McCormick’s concern regarding environmental issues, and the fragility of our vanishing landscape.
Over the past thirty years McCormick has exhibited his work both domestically and internationally. These exhibition venues include the Triton Museum of Art, the United States Embassy in Moscow and galleries in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Santa Fe and New York. His work is included in many private and corporate collections including Stanford University and the Nasu Highland Resort in Japan. Additionally his work was featured in the film Vanilla Sky with actor Tom Cruise.
McCormick’s studio is located in the San Francisco Bay area where he lives with his wife, photographer Jan Gauthier.