Thursday, February 3, 2011

Thursday's Other Creative Soul: Maura McGurk

 Thank you for joining me today as I interview New York-based Painter Maura McGurk. As a creative person meself, I love to see what makes other like-minded souls think. Here's Maura's story...

Maura McGurk, New York City. I live in New York City, but I’m a Massachusetts native, so it still feels a little weird to take the train past Yankee Stadium to get to my studio.

I majored in Painting at the University of Connecticut and got my MFA from UMassachusetts Dartmouth.  (I also have an earlier degree from UC Berkeley in Spanish and Portuguese).

Describe your work in one sentence.
Currently, I paint abstractly about issues related to gay rights--most recently focusing on the bullying and suicides of gay teens.

Describe your normal day.
I’m not sure right now what a normal day is like!  Up until the end of October, I was working all day in an office at a job I couldn’t stand.  I left that job, and two days later went to northern Vermont to an artist’s residency.  I spent a month there, painting every day, getting all my meals made for me--very far away from real life!--and now I’m back home in New York...I’ve only been back a couple of weeks, so I haven’t developed a new kind of normal day just yet.  I’m moving into a new studio, and teaching art, and planning for lots of studio time once I get settled in here.  

What are your passions?
Painting and paint itself--I love looking at piles of it on my palette...color, traveling, cooking and eating, springtime...

What are your goals?
I’m a little superstitious, so I don’t think I’ll share everything--I don’t want to jinx it!  But one thing I’m working on is to make a living from art, especially now that I’ve given up the desk job.     

Who are your creative influences?
There are so many--Matisse for color, Richard Diebenkorn who does such beautiful abstractions, Anselm Kiefer, Antoni Tapies and others who have really rich surface texture. And I really admire any artist who keeps working over a long period of time like Louise Bourgeois.  Something a sculptor named John Magnan told our graduating class stuck in my mind and has kind of egged me on ever since; he urged us to use our artistic talent to make a difference in the world.  I ran across a similar thought the other day from an artist named John McCracken, who wrote:  “The only art worth doing is the art that makes things better”.  I’m trying to do that with this series about gay issues. 

Are there any other relevant experiences that shaped who you are today and what you do?
Well, being gay, everyday experiences have gone into the storytelling aspect of my work... not being able to marry my girlfriend in the state we live in, seeing gay soldiers being treated unfairly under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, hearing about bullied teenagers who commit suicide.  Yesterday, I opened a piece of mail from my bank; it said the state of New York required them to tell me that same-sex spouses are NOT entitled to benefits.  That was in capital letters.  There were 3 pages of that.  It’s already so clear that we’re not treated equally because we’re gay; I didn’t need this piece of paper to spell it out again for me in such a crude way.  I think a painting will probably come out of that letter.
Is there anyone you really look up to as an inspiration?
Right now, I’m trying to think very practically so that I don’t have to go back to work in an office, so I’m taking a lot of advice from my girlfriend on how to make it as a freelancer, which she also is.  I also find myself channeling a friend who taught me the Trinidadian saying “Drunk or sober, mind your business”.  It means no matter what, you have to know your priorities and follow through.  I love it; I’m repeating it alot these days.

What motivates you on a daily basis?  
I noticed that I work better with music--Supertramp is definitely a guilty pleasure there.
What's your working style? 
I work pretty slowly, because I build up a lot of layers within one painting.  I also like to step back and think while I’m working, and then go back in and edit what I’ve done.  That means a lot of focus, so I kind of tune things out, especially the phone.  But I’ll always break for food!  If I work too long without a break, I get kind of glazed over and the work loses out.
What are your websites/social networking links? -- for my work and blog

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