Bruce R. MacDonald (USA - )


On the outside Bruce R. MacDonald’s work seems like frozen video displays lifted from the walls of some 22nd Century environment; while on the inside they have the detailing and complexity of sun sparkles on the ocean, the diversity of the forest floor, maps of some celestial event or pure abstractions of a particular moment of organic consciousness. Twenty five years of daily metalwork and fifty three years of overactive eyes have led to this continuum.
He graduated with a degree in English from Haverford College in 1981 and decided to look for a job where he could make physical objects. “After college I was tired of only having sheets of paper to show for long days of work. With metal, after forty hours, I had something tangible, something that would survive, and something that might be here forever.”
Over the next nine years, Bruce took a variety of jobs working with metal including restoring brass and copper antiques, fabricating custom lighting and architectural elements, working with jewelers, and doing large scale iron and steel work. Projects ranged from 300-year-old clock works to a five-story helical stairway. These different jobs helped Bruce refine his aesthetics and build his skills. “Jewelry was too small a scale for me. I didn’t like squinting and large-scale work was too reliant on a crew, so I settled on tabletop work and furniture,” he says.
For most of Bruce’s career so far, his focus has been on producing multiples including a helix shaped CD rack, tabletop spacecraft designs, and futuristic-looking champagne and martini glasses. Ever responsive to the customer, he made red and white wine glasses when the martinis sold well and sugar bowls and creamers when the teapot was a hit.
As business thrived, worldwide appreciation for Bruce’s work grew. The Museum of Science and Industry in London featured his helix CD rack on the cover of their catalog. His teaship (a teapot that looks like a spaceship) has won design awards and Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy has had one in his office for years to entertain guests. Bruce was also commissioned to make a helix sculpture to celebrate the completion of the Human Genome Project and to make the lifetime achievement award for the Manchester Film Festival.
His focus is now on one-of-a kind stainless steel wall panel light sculptures “I am in a huge point of transition in what I do.” He says he has evolved in how he makes his work. “What I find fundamentally rewarding today is making my large format metal panels. They have a life and movement of sculpture yet they hang on the wall like a painting.” Bruce has discovered a technique where he creates holographic effects of depth and space with a two dimensional object.
To create these panels, Bruce works outside of his studio in Burlington, Vermont, on the shores of Lake Champlain. Year round, whether it is 85 degrees in July or -5 in February, Bruce straps on a respirator, safety glasses, gloves and headphones and gets to work. “I am in a nice state of isolation.” He says where he lives and works is a magical place. He fell in love with Vermont from spending every summer on the lake shore in the woods.
Drawing from the beauty of his surroundings, he creates these wall sculptures ranging in size from 24” x 24” to 5’ x 10’. It is through skiing or riding his bike that Bruce focuses’ on the compositional aspects, letting endorphins and the meditative state of hard physical exertion develop the vision. “But once I get started, the work has a life of its own and I try to be respectful of that flow.”
The natural world is a huge influence on his work. “Stainless steel is a cold medium. I try to fuse the organic immediacy of my arm motions and my vision of the perceptions of space. I am obsessed with fields, whether gravitational or filled with hay. The images from the Hubble Telescope of deep space objects and the depictions of molecular vibration are as vital as the wind in the bay and the snow blowing on the mountain. My consciousness of the purely organic, how a tree looks at a certain time of year or the light in these clouds rushing across the lake, has everything to do with my artistic sensibility. And then there is the music that pervades my studio.”
Sean Sennott, director of Gallery 323 in Madison, WI, says that the response to Bruce’s work has been over-whelming. “He is creating an abstract work of art with the etchings he makes. My customers are responding to his unusual handling of this medium, it is almost like he is creating a new medium.” Sean says he was immediately struck by the wall panels when he saw them at a show hanging in Bruce’s booth. “I encouraged him to make more of those panels, and they are selling extremely well.”
Several years ago, Bruce was participating in seventeen shows a year, five or six of which were wholesale. Today he does seven retail shows, which he says, still feel like there are too many. With four kids, including boys who are fifteen and seventeen and who need lacrosse, soccer, and baseball coaching, he wants to be home. “I realized that with less time away traveling and more time in the studio to work just flows with life better. I am also having a renewed love affair with my art. It haunts me but I love my work. After all, how much time do we have on this planet? Are you doing the things you love?”

Sarah Vogelsang-Card
Gallery Director

Exhibited by

Work Selection

Bruce R.  MacDonald - Fugue


Bruce R.  MacDonald - Hex


Bruce R.  MacDonald - The Compass

The Compass

Bruce R.  MacDonald - Wind and Waves

Wind and Waves