Studio Watch: Shirley MacLean

Shirley MacLean has been making art since graduating with honours in design from the Vancouver School of Art in 1952. She free lanced creating window displays in Vancouver for the Bay, Eatons, and Woodwards and it was during this time that she developed her mastery of building pâpier maché animals and birds.

Her paintings reflect her life-long connection to the land, the creatures that inhabit it, and her environmental consciousness. Her current series employs a mandala-like format, not for religious reasons, but as a design element. The panels contain beautifully rendered images of birds, animals, and plant life that exhibit her awareness of the natural world and its symbiotic relationships. Some also represent her view of humankind’s commoditization of the world we live in along with the impact of our alteration of the natural landscape, whether the effect on cowbirds caused by the decimation of the buffalo herds or the death of migratory birds cause by impact with skyscrapers.

This exhibition richly expresses MacLean’s depth of concern for the world we inhabit. It should be viewed meditatively, taking time to examine both the images and the layers of meaning incorporated in each painting.

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