Northeast Florida artist Mac Truque has gone through quite a transformation in the last few years. At 40, the multifaceted painter has focused on balancing that artistic life with parenthood’s pragmatic realities, looking to create a stable environment for his 4-year-old son. Mac, who was featured on the cover of Folio Weekly in 2006, also recently traded living in Springfield, which he called home for more than a decade, for a farm in St. Johns County.
Always a highly prolific artist, Mac has a new exhibit, Winter Wonderlost, opening Dec. 12, featuring nearly 100 of his paintings. It’s a mixed-media collection of “snapshots of the diversity of Florida life.” The works run the gamut from the figurative study of The Florida Thinker, which features a man floating along a river in an inner tube, to the landscape The Future of Sentimental, which shows an orange juice billboard encroaching onto a lush setting.
Folio Weekly caught up with Mac to talk about his latest work, fatherhood and faith.
Folio Weekly: What was the impetus behind focusing on Florida in Winter Wonderlost?
Mac Truque Skinner: Although I am blessed to have survived all these years as a painter, like anything magical, it can be just another job. Much of the theme reflects that which might not seem as glorious or fantastical as one might hope life to become. There is a tone of practicality beneath the subject of much of this work. It’s a reflection of what is inherently a local identity. Winter Wonderlost is about the life cycle of imagination.
You are adept at painting both figurative and landscape works, but the pieces seem to have a reverie-like quality that makes them unlike much “straight” realistic painting. Is this deliberate?
I think there is a storybook quality in the work. I don’t go to great lengths to attempt academic techniques. I simply paint a balance of what appeals to me, and what I think the audience can identify with. I prefer a loose style that makes the paintings seem nearly incidental, upon close inspection. I try not to overwork my ideas.
How do you feel your work has evolved over the past 15 years?
I don’t know that my work has changed over the last 15 years. Perhaps there is a bit more aesthetic polish in some pieces, colors might be a little truer, but I am still focused on a wide variety of subjects in each exhibit. I may produce many, many landscapes, but they are still no more than the cornerstone of the narrative works that always beg the viewer to take a closer look at titles and possible lore that exists beneath the surface. I’m always looking for a greater balance between the inspiration behind the “message” of an exhibit and the work that actually makes it to the walls. Winter Wonderlost suggests that my effort to shift attention to art books where I can share more of these ideas will be displayed in an array of displays, showing a much more accurate sample of how I work and what drives my enthusiasm.
Your son is now 4 years old. How has being a father changed your approach to art and the business of art?
I started working harder. I began seeing work as product. My pleasure had become spending time with my son, not painting. To this day, I am raising him alone. I keep the house, cook the meals and dig down deep for the energy to produce as much as I can so we can make ends meet. In essence, I had always had it easy. And now, I was just like everybody else — only my work isn’t something that people find necessary, so I have to try harder to appeal to what collectors are looking for. I have to be careful not to spend too much time pursuing my own flights of fantasy, even though that’s exactly what I am theoretically trying to accomplish. I have to work very, very hard at not thinking about how many groceries a painting in progress might bring us. I try not to think about how foolish it is to still be doing this for a living.
I’ve read that you’re a minister. Do you still practice?
I was ordained many years ago and served as a youth minister, but for many reasons I found that I was not really suited for the structure of the modern church. I now see millennials asking the questions I asked, and I find few who are able to answer those questions. Faith is not supposed to be a denial of truth. It’s supposed to be a foundation for it.