University of Colorado Summer Program 1955
University of Colorado Summer Program 1955

What do Miriam, Mark Rothko, and Willem de Kooning have in common?

It’s “Teacher Tuesday” — a day we’ve totally made up to explore the art teachers and influences throughout Miriam’s career.

Let’s jump to 1955— specifically the summer between Miriam’s sophomore and junior year at the University of Alabama where she was a Fine Arts major.

The University of Alabama Fine Art Department at the time had a relationship (academic exchange?) with the art department at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Students majoring in art at Alabama could go there for the summer and take classes.

Who wouldn’t want to trade the hot, muggy summer days in Alabama for the cool, dry mountain air of the Rockies? And that’s just what Miriam did, only she got more than she bargained for.

That summer two renowned modernist artists would be visiting and lecturing: Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko. Both de Kooning and Rothko along with other artists like Jackson Pollock and Elaine de Kooning would develop a style of painting known as abstract expressionism. This group of artists came to be known as the “New York School” and were very influential when Miriam studied in Colorado that summer and later after graduation in New York City at the Art Students League.

Here is Miriam’s recollection of that summer at the University of Colorado:

“Hard to remember this far back, but it was the summer of my sophomore-junior year at the University of Alabama. I went with a sorority sister, who was also a childhood friend. We took the train out to Colorado. It was a fun trip with lots of beautiful scenery. One boy on the train I do remember was from Kentucky and had the last name Beam of the famous Jim Beam whiskey family. We took many hikes and picnics in Colorado and vividly remember checking each other’s hair for ticks. There were several girls I remember from the Mississippi Delta out there staying and the house too.”

“I remember Mark Rothko would come around to each student and stay quite a long time talking. He was kind in his criticism and very helpful. I did an oil painting with a girl in red but after it went into the attic at my parent’s home it was lost. I did not know Rothko was a well-known artist until returning to the University of Alabama and hearing how impressed people were that I had studied under him at the University of Colorado for the summer course.”

It’s not known if Miriam met de Kooning, but we would assume she did or at least heard a lecture or two. More importantly, the question of how much this summer experience with icons of abstract expressionism influenced Miriam’s later art deserves exploration.

Abstract expressionism or “action painting” on the surface had little impact on her early work. Modern abstracts fill her undergraduate and early postgraduate portfolio because that was the movement emphasized in schools at the time. A deeper look suggests otherwise.

"Artist Self Portrait" by Miriam McClung, 1961. Oil on board. 20" x 24".
“Artist Self Portrait” by Miriam McClung, 1961. Oil on board. 20″ x 24″.

This self-portrait of Miriam done in 1961 (above), represents a dark time of frustration. It’s more figurative than de Kooning’s Woman series which sought to break free from the moorings of earlier Cubist and Surrealist movements, but you can see the marked departure from her previous figurative portraits.

"Abstract" by Miriam McClung, c. 1970. Oil on linen.
“Abstract” by Miriam McClung, c. 1970. Oil on linen.

Though Miriam would return to more impressionistic painting in oils, action painting’s influences would (and still do) frequently pop up like this abstract piece (above) in the 1970s.

"Summer in the Backyard" by Miriam McClung, 2018. Pastel on paper. 40" x 32"
“Summer in the Backyard” by Miriam McClung, 2018. Pastel on paper. 40″ x 32″

You can also see the influence of action painting clearly in her pastels decades later with her bold graphic, strokes in the piece (above).

One summer in Colorado with the influence of abstract expressionists like Rothko and de Kooning appears to have had a substantial impact on her style over the course of her career.


A big thank you to new collectors of Miriam’s original art in Seattle, Washington; Staten Island, New York; and Boston, Massachusetts. We appreciate your support!

We also want to thank everyone who has downloaded digital files for printing your own and collectors of reproductions from Miriam’s Etsy store.

We hope everyone will find their sweet spot for collecting and enjoying Miriam’s work.


We’re working with two very unique and art-oriented historical home renovation shows — one on the Magnolia Network and another on HGTV, to show some of Miriam’s work in episodes. We’ll let you know more about the show and when it airs as soon as we can, but needless to say we are happy about this opportunity.

Miriam is continuing to work on pastels. She will be cranking up the oils (outside) this summer for a few paintings she has in mind. She also enjoyed the show “Landscape Artist of the Year” on Amazon Prime and realized (once again) that she is a “slow” painter.


You keep asking. We keep waiting for the right opportunity and place. We hope for Nashville or Birmingham but have been offered opportunities as far away as London and Barcelona (we are just not brave enough yet!).

Frank & Miriam