Born and raised in Spokane, Mel McCuddin is a testament to the caliber of art the city has to offer.
The Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture is paying homage to his homegrown talent with “Ideas From Paint,” an exhibition featuring 14 original McCuddin works.
McCuddin’s signature style makes his work stand out to observers.
“It can look very creepy, but yet it has this sort of humorous side to it. You’re not totally creeped out. It has a little bit of a lightness sometimes, almost like things are in a dream state,” said Tammy Gabbert, who curated the exhibit.
Gabbert selected many of the 14 works that make up the show – ranging from the eery “Hawkshaw,” to “Siesta,” a painting of a sleeping pig that is “very easy on the eyes” – to cover the scope of McCuddin’s art.
“I wanted some fun things and maybe some things that might spark your thoughts,” she said.
Animals in McCuddin’s works often have a very intense human eye, Gabbert said.
“They’re just so Mel,” she said. “His stuff is so different and kind of dark, but if you know Mel, you know it’s got to have something funny.”
Gabbert said she was excited to have the chance to go to McCuddin’s workshop and “flip through all the weirdness and fun-ness and wonder what the title of each one is going to be.”
In addition to his signature style, McCuddin’s process is just as individualized.
McCuddin begins each painting anew, with a fresh, open mind and no expectations. He truly lets the canvas speak to him and allows the art to be what it will be.
“A lot of times he’ll just put the paint on the canvas and see what emerges,” Gabbert said. “I’ve also heard him say sometimes he can nod off and not see anything and then wake up and then ‘Boom!’ There it is.”
McCuddin participates in the museum’s Art@Work program, which Gabbert oversees. The program lets potential buyers, businesses and art lovers rent works of art from the museum collection.
“Ideas From Paint” is part of the bi-monthly exhibition series featuring a participating Art @ Work artists.
“We have so many amazing artists in Spokane and within 30 miles,” Gabbert said. “There’s just a ton of great artists.”