The Website of Artist Charles McGill

“The work discovers new conceptual mass in the well-worn territories of race and representation.” – Joe Lewis, May 2001 Art in America


Artist Statement

“As with most sustained bodies of work, the golf-inspired theme happened quite by accident. The subject matter began showing up in my work after I picked up the game – it really was as simple as that. I saw the action of playing golf as creative, like “drawing” or mark making on the earth.

Mirror, Mirror (Golf Course Inspired)

Mirror, Mirror, 1998

Each hole was its own framed piece of art. There was a history of marks and a random composition that I could recall from memory later on in the studio. So I began experimenting with these memories by drawing aerial views of golf holes I recalled or imagined. I slowly began to see these oil stick drawings as animated human figures.

Soldier (Golf Course Inspired)

Soldier, 1998

Shortly after that I began using golf objects as metaphors for a larger discussion of racism and identity. While I explored my own fascination with golf, I started to merge this passion with a more conceptual understanding of found object. I became interested in using the recycling of obscure Internet imagery and the Internet as “palette” to further explore this often complex subject matter.

Cadillac, 2009-10

Cadillac Bag, 2009-10. Made in residence at The Museum of Arts and Design, NYC. Collection of Bill and Pamela Royall

Over the last decade I began seeing the golf bag as “found canvas”, as metaphor, as vessel and as the human form; I saw its potential as both object and subject.

Using the process of collage and “found digital imagery” I changed the identity of the bag while maintaining (or in some cases, re-establishing) its relationship to race and social differences. In the end, I want to create an object that is at first beautiful then thought provoking.


In the studio at The Museum of Arts and Design as a curious visitor takes note of the process, NYC 2009.

After treating these objects with a certain amount of respect and admiration, adorning them with colorful imagery and varnish, I have taken to dissecting them. This current work is literally wrestled into shape. Whereas the former ‘decorated’ bags ‘allowed’ me to alter their appearance, these new pieces are stubborn and unwilling. The archetype is continuing to be challenged and manipulated.

This new body of work is called “Skinned”.

Fast Bag with Red Crown, 2011

Fast Bag with Red Crown, 2011

The two quintessential pieces from this more than decade long body of work are, Arthur Negro I & II. Both are photo realistic, life-sized self-portraits. They represent my very personal and earnest contributions to the dialogue of, “What is Black Art?”, hence the name Arthur Negro. I wanted to significantly change the discussion with these two sculptures.


Arthur Negro II, 2006-2009 (with new base)

Arthur Negro II with new base 2006-09

Arthur Negro II, 2006 - 2010

Arthur Negro II as he appears today in the collection of Bill and Pamela Royall of Richmond, Virginia.

A post-script to the Artist statement:  Reflections of SKINNED -

I began using the golf bag as ‘found’ object/motif by exploring its relationship to the human figure, specifically the headless and limbless torso. I collaged race-sex-class-inspired imagery to the surface with meticulous care and attention to make a beautiful object. Recently the focus has shifted away from the surface to the bag’s intrinsic structure and hardware.

Over the course of the last year, I began dissecting and reconfiguring this object to create a new body of work I refer as the SKINNED series. In the earlier ‘sketch-stage’ pieces such as The Scream, there are hints of John Chamberlain’s early works. But, after exploring the abstract possibilities for several months, the process led me back to the human form. The Scream specifically, was the first abstract piece to display human characteristics, whereas all of the other early work in this series was purely abstract.Three States of Terror (After Rubens), 2011

I find the golf bag to be a very political object and as such, it has the potential to resonate on many levels. It easily personifies human character. My earlier abstract constructions gradually transformed into compositions that inherently revealed the human postures hidden within.

Back in 2004 I resisted the urge to use the rain hoods that come with each bag. There was something dangerously cliché about them. Instead I saved each hood. After 7 years and careful consideration I attached one hood and allowed it to function in its proper position atop the bag. RAMWAR is a violent piece that loosely recalls the events of 9/11 while referencing mans universal need for war, aggression and greed. Unlike The Scream, there are no light moments in RAMWAR. It was made to induce fear and vulnerability.RAMWAR, 2011detail1

In several pieces the hoods assume the appearance of an executioner or Klansmen – this rather incidental but very contextually appropriate aspect feeds the works relationship to a resurgent malicious political presence in America. It also punctuates the objects undeniably figurative nature. Many of the pieces begin to suggest aspects of Phillip Guston’s mischievous signature Klan paintings. Aspects of Claus Oldenberg’s soft sculpture constructions also came to mind.

  • All images © Charles McGill 1984-2013