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Artist Projects Hope and Promise in His San Miguel Scenes



By Dean Cummer

When he was first learning to paint, Mac Thigpen was told to leave the landscapes to retirees. “If you can paint the human figure well, you can paint anything,” his art teachers said.

For many years, Mac invested emotionally in painting the human figure. But now Thigpen is retired, and he paints whatever he wants, he says.

“I still feel drawn to the human figure, but lately I’m moved by landscapes, pathways, mountains, sky, water, earth,” the San Miguel de Allende resident says. “Not to create a photographic image, but to convey emotion, connection, longing.”

“I feel free in my third age, or tercera edad, to explore, to make mistakes, to be surprised,” he says. “There is no time to worry about perfection, only to be bold, to experiment, to see what emerges. At times, I feel like a kid!”

Thigpen grew up in a small, strict, middle-class Southern Baptist home in the Deep South.

“There wasn’t much room to simply be, rather just be what you are told,” he says. But he was always looking for some way to express his creative side.

At junior college, he was finally able to formally study art. It was there he received the advice about landscapes; it pushed his understanding of the human figure and the use of color to new heights.

But as Thigpen’s father saw it: “You’re good, but you can’t make a living at it.” Thus began a vocational career as an Episcopal priest, which took him to Manhattan, Tulsa, Los Angeles, and Atlanta.

“I loved the work,” Thigpen says.

Yet, he wouldn’t paint again until he came out as a gay man in his early thirties, “finding freedom to express myself in new ways I never thought possible,” he says. In 2008, Thigpen received a Lilly Clergy Grant Renewal Program Grant, which first brought him to San Miguel on a sabbatical paid for by the Lily program.

“Over my sabbatical, I thought about how being connected to the creative, life-giving part of the imago-dei is not just limited to the arts,” he says. “Being creative is much wider than that; it involves all of us and how we live our lives, how we go about our busy-ness, our relationships, our family and friends, our world, and our own well-being.…”

Hope and promise is abundant in Thigpen’s use of light, color, and shadow on oil on canvas, in subjects as diverse as cool mornings at El Charco del Ingenio and raucous nights at Hank’s on Taco Tuesday.

“I paint what I see and experience, something that gives me joy, or makes me wonder, or connects with deep longing in my soul,” Thigpen says. “My canvasses are my poetry, and my painting is a search to express the ache and longing of beauty and being human that I see and experience around me.”


Art Opening

Mac Thigpen

Sat, May 4, 5–7pm

James Harvey Gallery

Fábrica la Aurora 9D


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