Alan Maciag feels at home in rural Michigan. It’s where he grew up and where he now lives, after retiring from teaching art for 35 years.
“I grew up in a landlocked area,” says the artist. “We all find our comfortable place.”
Maciag’s “comfortable place” will be the focus of “A Glimpse of Michigan,” a special exhibit running through August at Twisted Fish Gallery. The exhibition opens Friday, July 31, with a free artist reception from 6 to 8 p.m.
Maciag didn’t start painting until he was 42; in fact, he “didn’t like art at all” until a teacher inspired him when he was a teenager. He attended Central Michigan University, then taught in Frankenmuth, Mich.
But he found out that, after teaching painting all day, the last thing he wanted to do in the evenings was paint some more. Plus, he had a thriving antique business on the weekends.
He eventually switched to teaching art in the elementary school, which left him with “emotional tiredness,” but kept his creativity alive to paint in his off-hours. He began by painting “funky” buildings around Frankenmuth — and the owners would buy the paintings. He expanded into painting homes around Detroit, cottages along Lake Michigan, fancy second homes until, “It was too much of a job.”
The plus from all this was that he found out how much he enjoyed painting outdoors. “I paint every day it’s sunny,” he says, during all four seasons.
Maciag recently won Best in Show at the Saginaw Art Museum’s Great Lakes Bay Plein Air Art Festival. His “Home at Peace” depicts a century-old cemetery in Saginaw.
He used many of the smaller plein air paintings to inspire large-format paintings in the Twisted Fish show.
“You have to remember the things that were passing by,” he says. When he looks at the plein air paintings, he remembers the light and dark, the moving clouds, the changing light.
“You aren’t just copying nature; you’re creating a story for the viewers to see.”
Maciag paints with oil and works hard to mix the colors to find just the right Michigan feel. “Every painting I do is a struggle,” he admits. “I’m still working on my colors. I want to please myself.”
Many people who see his art recognize the scenes — or think they do. “It’s nowhere USA. It’s everywhere USA,” he says.