Maura McGurk was chosen as a Featured Artist for the exhibition Paint! at climate/gallery. Her painting Over and Out was selected by juror Jason Andrew, Director of Norte Maar for Collaborative Projects in the Arts, as one of the ten Best in Show.
McGurk says the painting was inspired by a layover in Salt Lake City, and is part of a series of works on gay rights called The Lavender Menace series.
McGurk explains: “My girlfriend and I were traveling from California to New York and had a layover in Salt Lake City. We love to travel and wanted to spend time in the city but we were, frankly, anxious about the reception a gay couple would receive there. This was in the midst of the hoopla over Prop 8 having recently been passed, and the facts coming out over the role the Mormon Church had played in that. As we approached for landing, I was spending a lot of time looking out the window of the plane and worrying whether or not we should even leave the airport. We just didn’t know what to expect, and it was the middle of the night, two girls in a strange, possibly unfriendly city . . .
“But our curiosity and need to make a statement, even if only to ourselves, won out. We walked around for a bit, feeling very conscious of trying to “behave ourselves.” We were very careful to try to look like friends and nothing more, and to not draw attention to ourselves.
“Then, we were surprised to learn there was a gay bar just a few blocks from Temple Square, the headquarters of the Mormon Church. And for some reason, it became our mission to go to this gay bar in Salt Lake City. I think all our anxiety and paranoia turned into a kind of giddiness and we really felt like we’d earned the right to celebrate there at the gay bar. To celebrate being gay in Salt Lake City, of all places. We couldn’t find the bar because it was kind of hidden, and we were laughing at how hard we had to work to get a gay drink in this town. And we felt like rebels, or secret agents.
“So we finally found it, had just enough time to have a quick drink and a gay kiss–and then we were on our way back to the airport or we would have missed our flight. It felt dangerous and exhilarating and silly all at the same time. I mean, what’s the big deal?
“It was a whirlwind trip but very significant. Symbolic. I came home and began painting The Lavender Menace series, which deals with the ongoing struggle for acceptance, and stories that have been in the news recently, and my personal thoughts about that.”