Bridge Golf Foundation Loses a Friend and Inspiration

Charles McGill at BMCC

Charles McGill was a prolific artist who also embraced the role of professor. Photo courtesy of the Borough of Manhattan Community College.

By Bob Rubin, Chairman and Co-Founder of The Bridge Golf Foundation

Charles McGill, a great friend of The Bridge Golf Foundation, passed away recently after a brief bout with cancer.

Anyone who has been to The Bridge Golf Learning Center knows Charles as the artist who made the work hanging there. Anyone who has been to The Bridge knows Charles as “Arthur Negro I,” the black militant country club pro whose life-size sculpture sneaks up on you as you head toward the club library.

More recently, Charles added “Don King,” a sculpture in the waste bunkers near the 18th tees, and “Target 51,” a large circular collage in the men’s locker room. (You can see some of his work at charlesmcgillart.com.) Ironically “Target 51” refers to the age at which his own father passed away from the same cancer. Charles only managed to beat him by 2 years. Such is life, when you are dealt a crummy genetic hand.

We flew the flags at the club at half-mast for Charles. It was the first time we have done that for someone who was not a member.

I first met Charles nearly twenty years ago. Appropriately, it was in the caddyshack (actually a staff dormitory, but “caddyshack” makes for better legend) at Westchester Country Club, where Charles was an assistant pro. After reading an intriguing review of his performance piece, “Playing Through,” I sought him out, and immediately knew he was onto something.

Assembly at Night by Charles McGill

“Assembly at Night” is one of three wall hangings by McGill at The Bridge Golf Learning Center in Harlem. “I try to expand the perceived boundaries of this material and the way in which discussions about race can be inspired and reconsidered,” McGill said of his work with heavy, old-fashioned golf bags. (Click the image to enlarge.)

When Charles began to wrestle chopped up old golf bags into wall hanging pieces and freestanding sculptures, he really hit his stride. He had found his perfect medium. It was the final turn of the screw. The collaging of fragments yielded up beautiful, standalone artworks that, upon closer gaze, reveal the underlying ironies of the artist’s choice of raw materials. At that moment, Charles moved beyond didactic messaging into art, pure and simple, but never easy.

At The Bridge and The Foundation, it’s beyond site specific. We can only wish Charles had made more in his all-too-brief lifetime. During his last weeks I spent time with his family, especially his sister Carmen, who was and is a rock. Charles had the abiding love of his family, as well as their support, in a career choice that is not an easy one.

In the last few years, Charles had become a deeply committed teacher. His Facebook feed was full of postings of student work from his classes at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, along with words of encouragement. He was a generous man. He had been looking forward to mentoring one of our young men. It was his view that STEM needed to be STEAM, the A of course being for Art, and in a perfect world, it would be hard to disagree.

We have all lost a great friend and source of inspiration in Charles McGill. Please join me in extending our condolences to his family.

Charles had an important solo show recently at the Boca Raton Museum of Art – a good start for his legacy. Of course, The Bridge and The Foundation will always be his ground zero.