Solo Show Explores Gay Marriage

You're invited

In an exhibition sponsored by the City of Federal Way, painter Maura McGurk uses texture, color and found objects to explore long-term relationships, particularly gay marriage.

McGurk explains that she arrived at this theme through a challenge she gave to herself, to begin using pattern in more conscious ways in her paintings. This technical consideration quickly turned metaphorical as she began to consider the patterns (specifically behavioral ones) in her daily life. This train of thought eventually led to the realization that her eight-year relationship with her wife could now qualify as “long-term”.

But it was a trip to Italy in 2015, their first since traveling there together as a brand-new couple, that provided a natural opportunity to examine their relationship at its beginning and at its current bloom. This bookending also caused McGurk to revisit some of her earlier artwork, since she was inspired by Italy at that time. The warm Italian palette, crusty textures, sense of the passage of time, and found objects such as Italian wall posters frequently featured in her compositions, and she has returned to some of these elements to explore marriage.

The occasional exploration of the figure is a departure from McGurk’s usual abstraction, and a move into more explicitly personal territory and themes.

…And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”

Excerpt from “On Marriage” by Kahlil Gibran

Artist Donates 10% of Sales to OneOrlando Fund

Art for Orlando exhibition, First Covenant Church, Seattle
Art for Orlando exhibition, First Covenant Church, Seattle

On Capitol Hill, the acknowledged center of queer culture in Seattle, the Pulse Nightclub murders in Orlando on June 12 exacted a special toll. Most of Seattle’s gay clubs are located here, and rainbow flags and crosswalks dot the landscape, visually knitting together disparate businesses and corners of the neighborhood. Seattle’s generally liberal vibe may have masked any real sense of danger; although assorted hate crimes have increased in the neighborhood over the last few years, there still existed a general feeling that Seattle was safe for queers. The news from Orlando reminded everyone that anything can happen anywhere.

In the immediate aftermath, before the motive was understood or the perpetrator was known, an idea was hatched to create something positive out of this destabilizing grief. Ellie VerGowe, the Community Outreach Coordinator at First Covenant Church, decided to turn the church’s art space over to a month-long tribute to the victims, affording an opportunity for the community to process its grief. Artists, performers and church staff swung into action, hanging a show of over two dozen works that honored the victims in Orlando and celebrated the queer community there and beyond. In addition to the two dimensional works on the wall, the opening reception featured musical compositions as well as an elegiac dance and spoken word performance.

The show was a financial success too, with a robust number of sales and various proceeds marked for support of victims in Orlando. One artist who donated 10% of sales was painter Maura McGurk, who sold seven of the twelve paintings she exhibited. Her paintings were not specifically painted in reaction to the news from Orlando, but were a selection of what she calls “Pride Paintings”. She began on June 1 to honor a different queer person or moment with a commemorative painting each day of Pride Month. When the events in Orlando unfolded, the Pride Paintings took on a different character for McGurk. The collection that was growing on her wall took on a protective aspect, with each portrait looking down and seeming to watch over McGurk and her wife. McGurk’s donation goes to OneOrlando Fund.

12 Paintings in Exhibition to Honor Orlando

Kiyoshi Kuromiya, Mixed media, 4" x 5"
Kiyoshi Kuromiya, Mixed media, 4″ x 5″

This June, I did something I’ve been meaning to do for several years: I created a painting each day of the month to celebrate Pride.

I was having fun with this project, and adhering quite nicely to my self-imposed deadlines. Then Orlando happened, and the project took on a slightly new meaning.

Where earlier in the project, I experimented in style and celebrated not only the idea of Pride itself, but also a “I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow” kind of thinking, after June 12, I felt less celebratory and decidedly more serious. The faces and events that I pinned to the wall above my bed delivered – needed to deliver, for me – a sense of protection. The paintings became more focused on portraits – faces – looking down and yes, I saw them as protectors.

People who know me know that I’m quite superstitious. Maybe that’s my (decidedly former) Catholic background talking, the need for an icon to look to for stability. Maybe the absence of that statuary, scapulary et al, in my life dictates the current need to carry an Evil Eye in my pocket every day, as well as to have these portraits (icon-like) looking down from above my bed.

In any case, 12 of these Pride paintings will be on display at First Covenant Church in Seattle, with an opening reception on July 14, 2016, from 6:00 – 9:00 pm. The exhibition honors the victims of the Orlando murders.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of this project to me. When I began, I imagined the possibility of glitter and silliness. But less than halfway through, although there were still some lighter notes (talking to you, Lesbian Pirates) gravitas became a necessity. And I deeply appreciated the many people who wrote to me and thanked me for helping them to process the events in Orlando via my paintings. That was precious to me, and as an artist, there’s nothing higher than that.

Unfortunately, now we turn our attention to other tragedies, with our thoughts in Minnesota and Baton Rouge. I can hardly say I’ve come to terms with Orlando, and we’re faced with these additional senseless killings. I hope for a sense of closure for Orlando through this exhibition, and I promise there will be upcoming work that deals with Black Lives Matter.

Drop by, open-house style, at First Covenant Church for Capitol Hill Art Walk. I’ll be there, and hope you will too.


First Covenant Church (Summit Building)
420 E. Pike St.
Seattle, WA

Opening Reception:
Thursday, July 14, 2016
6 – 9 PM
Light refreshments provided

Exhibition on view until August 10.

Maura McGurk Wins People’s Choice Award at City Hall Exhibition

People's Choice Award, FW 2015

The Federal Way City Council awarded painter Maura McGurk the People’s Choice Award at their council meeting Tuesday night, in recognition of her mixed media painting, Mia, Siena, Stripes. The work is part of the Arts Alive exhibition currently on view at City Hall.

McGurk said that her main inspiration for the painting came from an observation made at her last opening, by a friend’s husband who claimed to know nothing about art.

“He said that he noticed that I used a lot of patterns, but painted over them with layers of paint. Then he apologized for asking such a dumb question, but wanted to know what it meant to me to hide all those patterns underneath. Dumb question?! I was embarrassed to tell him that I hadn’t even noticed that in my own process!”. McGurk laughs at the memory.

She says she took this as a personal challenge to work more directly and consciously with pattern. This, in turn, led to a new awareness of repeating shapes and motifs in the world around her. During a trip to Siena, Italy this summer, her eye was drawn especially to stripes.

She says that stripes were evident all around her: single bricks placed side-by-side lining an archway, rows of bricks angled in opposing directions that created giant stripes across the main piazza, the bold black and white horizontal marble of Siena’s Cathedral, the stripes in the flags around town, and even the black and white stripes in a tourist’s skirt, which echoed those of the Cathedral.

Drawing a little bit from each of these scenarios, McGurk consciously constructed a patterned work based on Siena’s stripes. “It’s a little more painstaking than I usually work, and it was tempting to sweep across the whole thing with a big brush loaded up with paint. But I made a deal with myself, and a deal is a deal”.

The Arts Alive exhibition will be on view at City Hall through January 6, 2016.

Artwork on View at Pimienta Bistro & Bar


Good news! Pimienta Bistro & Bar, the best restaurant in the South Sound (IMHO) is showing some of my Italy-inspired artwork to kick off the summer.

You’ll see three brand-new works, as well as others created during, and inspired by, my last visit to Italy.

The Mediterranean palette of my paintings perfectly complements the orange walls, and the textured surfaces reflect the rustic, aged wood that decorates the walls and bar. Stop by and try a Basil Martini, Crispy Chickpeas or other European/Latin American fusion dish.

Art Opening at Pimienta Bistro & Bar

Seen from the mirror above Pimienta's bar, the artist hangs the show.
Seen from the mirror above Pimienta’s bar, the artist hangs the show.

I’m very pleased to have been invited by Chef Blanca Rodriguez to show about 15 of my paintings at Pimienta Bistro & Bar in Federal Way, Washington.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015
4:30 – 6:30 pm
Open House style; drop in anytime!

A little party to celebrate my Italy-spired paintings as they hang on Pimienta’s gorgeous orange walls. Our first bottle of wine and round of appetizers are complimentary; after that, special Happy Hour pricing will apply.

Pimienta Bistro & Bar
34029 Hoyt Rd SW
Federal Way, WA 98023

It’s a hidden gem, behind a car wash. You’ll be amazed at the rustic decor and delicious fusion food that live within!

The show will be up through June, so if you can’t make the opening reception, please come by another time. Tell them Maura sent you, and order the Crispy Chickpeas, along with a Basil Martini; you won’t be sorry!


Treehouse, Digital Collage, 2013
Treehouse, Digital Collage, 2013

I’m very happy to announce that one of my digital collages, Treehouse, has been published by the Lavender Review. This journal publishes lesbian poetry several times each year. You can check out the issue here.

Creative Team Presents Findings of LGBT Survey at Museum of Motherhood


Mothers of gay, lesbian, and bisexual children from all over the United States spoke out at the Museum of Motherhood in New York City, without ever leaving their homes. Their opinions on learning that their children were gay were given voice by the creative team of Maura McGurk and Mia Grottola, who conducted an anonymous survey over several months and presented the survey’s findings at the Museum’s conference on Evolutionary Motherhood.

The presentation was entitled Listen to Your Mother: Mothers Respond When Their Children Come Out As Gay.

The mothers’ responses uncovered a range of feelings and reactions to the moment when their children “came out”, or identified themselves as gay, to their mothers. The responses revealed a vulnerability and honesty on the part of the mothers, many of whom did not know their children were gay before the announcement. One swore out loud; one wished she had a fishing pole to reel back her son’s words; one felt shame for having made anti-gay comments in front of her child; another was relieved that she had inadvertently solved the “pesky daughter-in-law problem”.

McGurk and Grottola analyzed over 100 survey responses, culled representative quotes, and presented them verbatim in a dramatic reading. The audience, many of them academics and mothers of young children, alternately laughed and cried during the presentation.

McGurk said that the inspiration for the survey came from her own, and Grottola’s, experiences coming out to their mothers, who had a hard time with the news. Subsequently, McGurk and Grottola had a genuine interest in trying to understand their mothers’ thoughts and fears, which led to this project.

McGurk said, “Mia and I were adult children when we came out, but that didn’t necessarily make it any easier on our moms, or on us. We planned for the moment, how we were going to say it, where, when. It seems like it should be easier nowadays than it’s ever been, but it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. You don’t know what’s going to happen, and you hope for the best.”


To attempt to ensure maximum honesty, McGurk and Grottola created an anonymous online survey. Ten questions prompted mothers’ thoughts on everything from their first reaction to the news, to its effect on family relationships, to thoughts on their parenting styles. Each question had unlimited space to answer in narrative form. McGurk and Grottola publicized the survey mostly through word-of-mouth among their gay friends, and through PFLAG (Parents of Lesbians and Gays) support groups.

Both women realize that their admittedly unscientific methods must have affected the survey results, though they are not sure exactly how. Because the survey was conducted online, it necessarily required internet access and a degree of technical savvy. Since many of the survey participants were likely located through PFLAG, that could indicate a tendency to be more open to dealing with their fears surrounding their children’s sexuality, which in turn could make them more likely to plumb the depths of their feelings at a stranger’s request. McGurk wonders whether the mothers are involved with PFLAG because they enthusiastically support their children, or because they need assistance coming to terms with their negative feelings.

“It’s hard to say,” McGurk says. “We saw one mother who said she was literally on the edge, hanging on for dear life, crying while she was typing, because she couldn’t accept her son. We felt terrible reading this, because our instinct would be to reach out and help her somehow, but we don’t know who she is. And of course we feel awful for her son; we understand his perspective. On the other hand, there was a mother who said she didn’t like our tone, that one of our questions made it sound as if there was something wrong with being gay and her son is perfect just the way he is,” McGurk chuckles. “Mom, we’re gay too! We don’t think there’s anything wrong with it either! But there’s a mother who is fiercely in support of her child. We saw quite a bit of mama bear instincts throughout the responses”.

The survey, though it may not be representative of all LGBT children, found that most come out to their mothers in their late teens or twenties, though seven mothers said their children were twelve years old or younger. One child was four years old when he casually came out before school one day.

The survey did not ask when the coming-out conversation took place, but indirect references in the mothers’ responses show that some of the coming-out stories were from as far back as the 1970s, with some of the mothers now near 80 years old, with adult children in mid-life.

Some excerpts from the presentation, including mothers’ quotes, can be read here.

Maura McGurk Named Artist of the Week by theStudio4Art


TheStudio4Art named Maura McGurk “Artist of the Week” for her paintings in response to gay bullying, and recognized her for her work with various charities that stand behind LGBT youth.

In bestowing this honor, theStudio praises the paintings and mixed media work that not only display “a magnificent use of color and texture”, but also have the ability to emotionally resonate and move hearts and minds. TheStudio states that McGurk’s artwork “promotes love, acceptance and tolerance and supports LGBT youth by taking a stand against the bully epidemic. If there was ever a time to believe that art has the power to change the world this would be a start.”

You, Me, Us: Artwork in Response to Bullying


For Immediate Release


Artist Maura McGurk shares moving body of work and begins local art call for youth in support of Homeless Youth Services & Sylvia Rivera Food Pantry of MCCNY

New York, New York – October 30, 2011 – Jackson Hall Gallery of MCCNY, curator Heidi Russell, co-curator/artist Maura McGurk and A Purpose for Art present a special exhibition: “You, Me, Us: Artwork in Response to Bullying”, showing Thursday, November 3 – Monday, November 14, 2011, with an opening reception on Thursday, November 3 from 6 to 8pm at the Jackson Hall Gallery, 446 W 36th St, NY, NY (between 9th & 10th).

Maura McGurk moves the viewer with magnificent colors and textures in her latest body of work promoting love, acceptance and tolerance…a direct, positive response to the bullying epidemic, especially gay bullying. The exhibit is the first in a series of four, which is organized by A Purpose for Art, whose goals also include promoting and supporting local artists and further educating the public on bullying and the NY Anti-bullying Act. A portion of all proceeds will benefit the various outreach programs of the MCCNY.

McGurk says that although the subject matter of teen suicide and gay bullying is weighty, her message, like that of the It Gets Better Project, is uplifting and supportive. As such, the artwork itself is colorful and attractive. Event organizer Anthony Matulis agrees. “I have often found abstract work ostentatious and intimidating in the past, however Maura’s work is inviting and encourages positive dialogue.” Furthermore, Maura takes her message to local youth and encourages them to participate in the dialogue by initiating a two-month long call for youth art to culminate in a joint exhibit with Maura and other artists in January and February, celebrating MCCNY’s 40th Anniversary.

Maura has exhibited her paintings at various venues in New York, New England, and Italy. One of her sketchbooks toured the United States and can be seen as part of the permanent collection of the Brooklyn Art Library. The artist has participated in numerous charitable events affiliated with the It Gets Better Project and victims of Hurricane Katrina and currently teaches art in Manhattan.


If you would like more information about this topic, or to schedule an interview, please contact curator Heidi Russell via phone at 646.272.8879 or via email at

Artist Puts Money Where Mouth Is, Donates 10% of Exhibition Proceeds to It Gets Better

Photo courtesy of Jeff Campbell

Artwork created in response to gay bullying raises money for foundation combatting anti-gay teen bullying and suicide

(New York, NY)

Maura McGurk was so moved to hear of the suicides of several teenagers in Fall 2010, bullied because they were gay, or at least thought to be gay, that she began memorializing her anguish for the teens in paintings.

Simultaneously in the Fall of 2010, columnist and activist Dan Savage founded the It Gets Better Project, which sprang from the same concern for bullied gay teens.

In July 2011, McGurk and the It Gets Better Project came together when she exhibited her anti-gay bullying artwork in Norwich, Connecticut and donated 10% of proceeds from sales to the non-profit organization, to support their work with LGBT youth.

McGurk contacted Savage and It Gets Better because of their shared interest in saving teens’ lives, and told them about the exhibition. Savage was already acquainted with her work, since he owns one of her anti-gay bullying paintings, called, appropriately enough, It Gets Better.

McGurk’s artwork was on view at the Wauregan Gallery in an exhibition entitled Lavender Menace: Paintings by Maura McGurk in Response to Gay Bullying. From that show, she sold five paintings of various sizes on paper and wood panel, as well as 18 painted puzzle pieces. The puzzle pieces were part of an installation that was dismantled and sold piece by piece during the exhibition. The sales generated a donation of more than $160 for It Gets Better.

McGurk says that although the subject matter of teen suicide and gay bullying is weighty, her message, like that of the It Gets Better Project, is uplifting and supportive. As such, the artwork itself is colorful and attractive.

“I want my work to have a chance to tell its story, and so I try to make it beautiful through colors and textures, so you want to spend time with it,” McGurk said. “And if you spend time with it, hopefully something else will emerge. Lots of art has been made about war and tragedy, and some of it is really bleak and ugly. Let’s face it–tragedy is ugly. But I can’t make my work that way; that’s not me.”

McGurk’s anti-gay bullying artwork can be viewed on her website.

More about Maura McGurk: Believing in art’s power to change the world, Maura’s current work supports LGBT youth by taking a stand against gay bullying. Maura is has exhibited her paintings at various venues in New York, New England, and Italy.  Her work is held in over sixty private collections in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East.

Maura McGurk Featured in “At the Edge” Magazine

The premier issue of At the Edge magazine, an independent art publication which focuses on emerging artists in New York City, features artist Maura McGurk and her crusade against gay bullying.

The article discusses McGurk’s July 2011 solo exhibition, entitled Lavender Menace: Paintings by Maura McGurk in Response to Gay Bullying. The paintings in the exhibition were inspired by the deaths of several teens who committed suicide in Fall 2010 after being bullied because they were gay (or were thought to be gay). McGurk teamed with the It Gets Better Project to publicize the event, and donated 10% of proceeds to them to support their work with gay youth.

An excerpt:

McGurk says that although the subject matter is weighty, the work itself is colorful and attractive.

“Whenever people hear the words abstract art, or gay art, or political art, they say “Uh oh”. I want my work to have a chance to tell its story, and so I try to make it beautiful through colors and textures, so you want to spend time with it. And if you spend time with it, hopefully something else will emerge. Lots of art has been made about war and tragedy, and some of it is really bleak and ugly. Let’s face it–tragedy is ugly. But I can’t make my work that way; that’s not me.”

The magazine has a particular passion for artists affiliated with the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York City. McGurk exhibited several paintings at the West Side Neighborhood Alliance (WSNA) offices during the HK Artist Studio Tours in June 2011, and the WSNA is covered in an article in the current issue as well.

Other articles include a history of Hell’s Kitchen, a monograph on Victorine Meurent (Édouard Manet’s model for Olympia and Le déjeuner sur l’herbe) and a spotlight on the International Women Artists’ Salon.

Details regarding purchase, as well as a launch party, will be released soon.

Maura McGurk’s Art Blog Featured on, the website devoted to exploration of each and every one of Connecticut’s museums, has featured Maura McGurk’s art blog in its recent article about the Norwich Arts Center Gallery. The article discusses the Abraham Lincoln portrait contest.

The website has identified over 650 museums and historical sites in Connecticut (not bad for the third-smallest state in the country), and plans to visit and review each one of them. The list is currently at #211.