Preview of Re•Place: Collages by Maura McGurk at Majestic ARTS Presents

If you’ve seen a postcard invitation for my art exhibition next month at Majestic ARTS Presents, you know that I wanted to do something special for my Seattle debut.

The exhibition features my latest body of work–digital collages–along with other mixed media paintings and works on paper. Because the work itself contains everything from digital “pieces” of various photographs, to ash from Mt. Etna, I decided to preview some of these disparate elements in the invitations and make each one a one-of-a-kind collage in its own right. Some of the materials in these little collages include Thai banana paper, a New York City public schoolteacher’s grading book from the 1930s, and moving boxes.

And what better way to clean up those moving boxes than to cut them up and put them in artwork?!

I’m thrilled to be here in Seattle and to have a solo show at Majestic ARTS Presents. Hope to see you at the opening on July 12, 6-9 PM!

For more information, and to RSVP, check out the digital invite. To see a one-of-a-kind collage invite, you’ll have to get on my mailing list, or ask me in person!

Re•Place, Collages by Maura McGurk at Majestic ARTS Presents

A selection of my collages–traditional and digital, including some brand-new–will be on display at Majestic ARTS Presents in Seattle. This will be my debut exhibition in Seattle, and I’m excited to introduce myself and my work.

July 12-26, 2013

Friday, July 12
6-9 pm

129 NW 85th Street
Seattle, WA

Majestic ARTS is part of the Greenwood Art Walk, a great night of art, culture and food, in a great neighborhood. Come on out–Art Up and Chow Down!

Published in The Lavender Review


I’m very happy to be part of the latest issue of The Lavender Review, an art and poetry journal by and for lesbians. I’m in great company, alongside artists and writers such as Leonard and Virginia Woolf, Man Ray, Romaine Brooks, Artemisia Gentilleschi, Berenice Abbott, and the wonderful Hannah Barrett, whose digital collages inspired me to try my hand at them. How cool that one of them ends up in the same journal as one of her paintings.

This issue’s theme is Gender, and was inspired by an episode of the web series F to 7th, which you can watch here. In fact, Lavender Review’s entire YouTube channel is excellent, so I recommend sitting down with a cup of coffee or something stronger, and browsing the issue and videos.

The video has a funny exchange when the earnest Park Slope heterosexual (as she refers to herself) interviewer doesn’t understand what her lesbian interviewee means by “masculine and feminine”. She reduces it to “man and woman”, then tries “boy and girl”, and finally pretends to understand with a “yeah, yeah” as she looks away from the camera.

Although most of the decisions I made as I worked were more or less subconscious, I’m taking this opportunity to deconstruct my creative process a bit. This particular collage was inspired by lesbian pulp fiction book covers and the 17th century feminist nun Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz. Sor Juana is beloved in Mexico, as the first true New Spanish (Mexican) author. She wrote some love poetry which referenced women, but this aspect of her work is often neglected in school in favor of her expository writing. Maybe this is why she is able to be celebrated on Mexican currency (also featured in the collage). She learned to read in her grandfather’s library, and asked her parents if she could disguise herself as a boy in order to attend college. They refused, so she entered the convent, the only place a woman could receive an education. Her desire to abandon one gender in favor of another was on my mind, but whether that was simply an expediency to get an education, as some have suggested, or something more, is a nuance that’s been lost to history.

For me, like many gay, collapsed Catholics, I prefer campy nuns to any other kind. A convent seems to me like the gayest place in the world–all those women–make that, all those women rapping each others’ naughty hands with rulers and making out after vespers. So I used the idea of lusty nuns looking at each other in the convent.

This feels like shaky ground to me, even as the creator, because I’m not quite comfortable with the idea of taking over the (male) gaze. It doesn’t feel right, as someone who doesn’t enjoy being watched, to put someone else in that position either. Since the nearly naked body was taken from lesbian pulp fiction, it can be assumed that there was a rebellion, and maybe even a joy, in flaunting oneself like that for another woman, so maybe I shouldn’t feel so bad. Either way, I gave her big eyes so that she can watch others (a traditionally male pursuit) while she’s being watched (traditionally feminine).

Then, to amuse myself a little more, I gave this feminine character a red velvet stole, suggesting the object of Sor Juana’s affections, who was a countess and vicereine of New Spain. For a contemporary take, I also used red hair taken from a publicity photo of Julianne Moore.

An Artist’s Words to Live By


A former professor just brought this quote to my attention. And not a moment too soon, since I have a little case of “artist’s block” going on. Maybe pondering this will help:

Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic.
Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to”. -Jim Jarmusch

Exquisite Corpse: Precursor to Mad Libs

This must be how they created the character from Fat Albert...

When my class finished earlier than expected the other day, I filled the time with my favorite go-to art game, Exquisite Corpse.

The teacher’s aides wrinkled their noses at the sound of that, but it’s a great game to play with any age or level of ability. My students this week have special needs, but I’ve also played with art majors. Hell, the game was invented by some famous artists!

In the 1920s, Surrealist artists like André Breton, Marcel Duchamp, Yves Tanguy, Man Ray, Joan Miró and others played this game at salons and cafes in Paris as an exploration of their aesthetic of unconscious connections. It began as wordplay, but later turned into a drawing and collage game.

With the word game, the players randomly construct a sentence by contributing one word each. Like Mad Libs, you’re told what kind of word to contribute (the group might decide to construct a sentence with Noun, then Adverb, Verb, Adjective, Noun–or any other version that will create a grammatically correct sentence). The trick is that players don’t know what’s come before them because each one folds the paper to hide the previous writing before passing it on to the next player. In the drawing version, the paper is usually folded in thirds (head, body, and legs)–all hidden. Each player extends their lines slightly over the fold in order to leave a clue for the next artist in order to make a cohesive result.

The more specific the word, and the more detailed the drawing, the better the overall results because, while the foundation is technically correct, the specificity adds to the randomness of the final result. Which was kind of the point of Surrealism. The fun comes when you unfold the paper and read or see the result. My students were doubled over laughing at what they did. Here are some of my favorites.

A reindeer, Minecraft, and sea animal.

Details like the beard, horns, shoulder pads and see-through skirt are hilarious foils for each other.

Students named this creature The Uniduck Who Wore Shorts.

On another historical note: Not knowing any French, I assumed the phrase was a very literal pronunciation of a French phrase, which, being pronounced differently said something quirky about the body. I was really amused to discover that the phrase is the same non sequitur in French that it is in English because it derives from an actual round of the game that was played in the 1920s. When the paper was eventually unfolded, the sentence read: “Le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau.” (“The exquisite corpse shall drink the new wine.”)

This is a great game for letting loose, for filling extra time, and for sneaking in a little art history. And, unlike some Surrealist ideas, it always feels fresh.