Exterior photo of the Springfield Art Museum
Springfield Art Museum. (Photo by Jackie Rehwald)

Chris McLean, a neurodivergent artist from Santa Fe, New Mexico, has won the Kenneth M. Shuck Memorial $3,000 Cash Award for their entry, “The Boot,” in this year’s Watercolor USA juried exhibition at the Springfield Art Museum.

“McLean’s artworks are visual exemplifications of their personal neuro-diverse experiences,” a press release from the museum said. “Their paintings, prints, and installations aim to communicate and affirm what living on the Autism spectrum is like.

“One of the visual nuances of Autism that the artist experiences is immediate pattern recognition. The artist experiences this ‘patterning’ instantaneously, and it asserts itself everywhere in their daily interactions. Patterns also signify an interaction of time for the artist, particularly the patterns presented by plants.”

Chris McLean’s painting “The Boot” took top honors in the Springfield Art Museum’s Watercolor USA. McLean is a neurodivergent artist from Santa Fe, New Mexico. (Photo: Springfield Art Museum)

McLean earned their BFA in Painting from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design and their MFA in Printmaking from the San Francisco Art Institute. Their work has been exhibited at the San Francisco Art Institute, the Crewest Gallery in Los Angeles, the Center for Contemporary Art in Santa Fe and the Amarillo Museum of Art. McLean also participates in public art projects including chalking and projections.

Kevin Umaña, co-founder of The Ekru Project, a Kansas City-based gallery, judged this year’s Watercolor USA exhibit.

“The articulation of moods, ideas and concepts is expressed through the effective use of meaningful figuration and pattern repetition,” Umaña said. “The mood, tone and feeling of ‘The Boot’ translated more at an emotional level, the use of the serene landscape and subject matter induced a sense of tenderness and clarity. Through this process, I was able to immerse myself in this specific memory, filled with the sense and emotions of that place and time.”

More on Watercolor USA

This year marks the 61st for Watercolor USA. The nationally known exhibition is open to artists from all 50 states and U.S. territories. A total of 236 artists from 37 states submitted 386 entries this year. Umaña selected 85 works by 85 artists, representing 26 states. Local artists included:

  • Judge Bockman (Battlefield)
  • Nadine Ellman (Springfield)
  • Todd Lowery (Springfield)
  • Mary Jane Mooneyham (Republic)
  • Andi Snethern (Springfield)
  • Gary Tebbencamp (Springfield)
  • Sharon Warren (Springfield)

“Each year it is encouraging to see not only artists whose work we have come to know and enjoy over the years, but also emerging and mid-career artists represented in the exhibition,” said Cindy Quayle, exhibitions manager at the Springfield Art Museum. “(Umaña) has selected an impressive cross-section of subject matter, styles and techniques which have resulted in a very well-rounded exhibit.”

Other top award winners in this year’s Watercolor USA include:

  • Greg G. Thielen Memorial $2,000 Cash Award: Ed Labadie (Oregon), “Harbor Life”
  • Bill Armstrong Memorial $1,500 Cash Award: Howard Kuo (Missouri), “Plein Airing”
  • Robert E. Goodier Memorial $1,000 Cash Award For Traditional Transparent Watercolor: Mark Grosserode (Oklahoma), “Image and Apparition”

The 2022 Watercolor USA exhibit is on public display June 4-August 28 at the Springfield Art Museum (1111 East Brookside Dr.). Admission is free and donations are accepted. The opening reception is June 3, 5:30-7 p.m.

Jeff Kessinger

Jeff Kessinger is the Reader Engagement Editor for the Springfield Daily Citizen, and the voice of its daily newsletter SGF A.M. He covered sports in southwest Missouri for the better part of 20 years, from young athletes to the pros. The Springfield native and Missouri State University alumnus is thrilled to be doing journalism in the Queen City, helping connect the community with important information. He and wife Jamie daily try to keep a tent on the circus that is a blended family of five kids and three cats. More by Jeff Kessinger