Malcolm McClay: Swimming to Inishkeel

Malcolm McClay,  Chasing the Invisible , 2017, performance, Courtesy of Artist

Malcolm McClay, Chasing the Invisible, 2017, performance, Courtesy of Artist

Swimming to Inishkeel presents recent multi-media, sculptural, and performance work by LSU School of Art Professor Malcolm McClay. While McClay’s earlier work engaged the political and the external, this body of work turns sharply inward to the spiritual and meditative. His most recent durational performance Chasing the Invisible meditates on his daily swims to Inishkeel, an island off the coast of Donegal, Ireland. While there, McClay swims two hundred fifty meters from the shore to the island of Inishkeel and back each day. Through these durational, rhythmic exertions, McClay finds focus—the “thin space.”

“In the Celtic tradition a thin place is the name given to a place where the visible and invisible worlds touch or are at their closest, a space where the veil between the temporal and celestial worlds has grown thin,” says McClay. “For me, Inishkeel is such a place…The coldness and clarity of the water, the stillness and unchanging nature of the landscape bring me to a place where I am more alive and connected than at any other time.”

Since arriving at LSU’s School of Art in 2003, McClay has become a dedicated member of the artistic community at LSU and in New Orleans, where he is a founding member of the artist-run Good Children Gallery. His artistic and teaching practice ranges across sculpture, installation, and performance and demonstrates a strong commitment to community organizing and equal commitment to teaching, which manifests most fully in his immersive Art in Ireland Summer Program for LSU School of Art students.

Swimming to Inishkeel will be on display November 1, 2018–February 10, 2019. This exhibition is a collaboration between the LSU School of Art and the Regional Cultural Centre, Letterkenny, where it was on view January–March, 2018. A full-color catalog was produced by the LSU School of Art in conjunction with the exhibition, which is now available in the LSU Museum Store.

Gallery Guide

Photography by Malarie Zaunbrecher

About the Artist


Born in Derry and raised in Donegal, Malcolm McClay studied at the University of Ulster, Belfast, where he received his BA honors degree in Three-Dimensional Design. He earned his MA in Sculpture from New Mexico State University and his MFA in Sculpture and Performance from The Ohio State University. There he co-founded the performance company Crisus. For the next ten years, Crisus wrote and produced large-scale site site-specific performances throughout the US and abroad. Malcolm moved with Crisus from Ohio, to New Orleans, then to Chicago, and finally to San Francisco. He moved from San Francisco to Louisiana in 2002 and joined the faculty of Louisiana State University’s School of Art in the fall of 2003 where he is currently a Professor of Art. He is a founding member of the Good Children Gallery, New Orleans. McClay is based in the US, but also spends time in Ireland, exhibiting and performing in both countries regularly.

Exhibition Sponsors

Swimming to Inishkeel is part of a collaboration between the LSU School of Art, LSU Museum of Art, and Regional Cultural Centre, Letterkenny. Generous support is provided by the following Annual Exhibition Fund donors: The Imo N. Brown Memorial Fund in memory of Heidel Brown and Mary Ann Brown; Louisiana CAT; Charles Schwing; Alma Lee, H.N. and Cary Saurage Fund; Newton B. Thomas Family/Newtron Group; Susanna Atkins McCarthy; Mr. and Mrs. Sanford A. Arst; and LSU College of Art & Design.

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