Opening his studio in 1982, McDougall’s early years were spent designing and building original pieces of furniture. He has also been a contributing writer for Fine WoodWorking Magazine. His sculpted wall pieces and vessels are the distillation of this career spent pursuing economy of line and form. Jay has garnered numerous national awards for excellence in his field while maintaining an exhibition schedule that includes the most prestigious venues across the country. Jay was selected as a 2008 McKnight Foundation Fellowship recipient.
“My sculpture is produced in the reductive method of sculpture where material is removed to reveal the form, much like the process used to carve marble. I strive to cut away all that is ephemeral to yield only that which is essential. I chose wood as my carving material for its eternal warmth and life. These qualities serve to enhance the fluidity of many of my pieces while reinforcing the primal essence of others.”
Jay selects distinctive logs from hardwood trees that have already fallen or been marked for removal near his studio in rural Minnesota. All of his pieces are carved from a single block of material. This distinguishes McDougall’s work from most other wood collectibles in that it involves no glue-ups or joinery. All of his pieces are free-hand carved and do not involve any lathe work, yet another feature that solidly positions Jay’s work in a very select group. All of McDougall’s pieces feature the element of contrast. The wall pieces feature steel backs with a dark, mottled patina that Jay has developed; all vessels and trays have an underside treated with black aniline dye; the rough carved “Elements” series include areas of finely sanded wood and dark steel stands. These contrasting elements bring a soothing rhythm to his work. His pieces have the affect of connecting with viewers at a visceral level; they touch something deep inside. These forms surpass transient trends and styles; they are timeless in their classic contemporary beauty and bring with them a calming presence that fits seamlessly into wide-ranging architectural styles.
“I have chosen to live and work in rural Minnesota. I work out of a studio on the same property as the home we built on the beautiful Ottertail River. I’m thankful to have been able to earn a living as an artist (along with my wife who is also a visual artist) while living and raising our family in a small town setting. We are both very involved in our community where we enjoy a flourishing culture of arts and a supportive group of fellow artists.” Utilizing material that is very accessible is compatible with his goal of practicing, maintaining, and enriching a sustainable lifestyle. It also allows Jay to work with a material with which he shares an intimacy. These are the trees that he has played and worked amongst his entire life. McDougall strives for efficiency in his forms where less can be more, and has achieved the discipline necessary to preclude the overworking of his material. Jay continues to challenge himself to keep moving and to remain fully engaged in his process. His work progresses in steps or layers, with each one clearing a path to the next level. This allows him to remain relatively sane and highly motivated. McDougall’s career, family, home, surroundings, and the objects he creates have truly become one entity. They are inseparable and define who and what he is.