July is for Patriotism, and for Giving Back, Says Artist

July is shaping up to be a charitable month for Maura McGurk; she will donate 10% of proceeds from her art exhibition about anti-gay bullying to The It Gets Better Project, and donate an original artwork which will be auctioned off in support of the New Bedford Art Museum.

It Gets Better will promote McGurk’s solo exhibition, which will take place at the Wauregan Gallery in Norwich, CT, with an opening reception during Norwich’s monthly First Friday celebration, on July 1. The artworks on display will take a stand against gay bullying by presenting McGurk’s thoughtful yet colorful take on teenaged suicides due to bullying.

“As we think about how to be patriotic during July, let’s remember that there’s nothing more American or patriotic than supporting our kids,” McGurk said. “Having this conversation [about bullying] is saving lives, and The It Gets Better Project is saving lives”.

Works for sale will include framed paintings on paper, paintings on wood panels, and an art installation which will be sold off piece by piece.

McGurk’s other charitable focus during July is a donation of artwork to an art auction in support of the New Bedford Art Museum. The theme for the artwork is New Bedford/Southcoast Through the Lens.

“I donated a little painting of a bird last year, and I have a special place in my heart for the New Bedford Art Museum. I lived down the street while I was in grad school, and liked to walk over there to see what was going on, and brought my students there for field trips,” McGurk remembers.

It Gets Better Project to Support Maura McGurk’s Solo Art Exhibition

The It Gets Better Project, founded by Dan Savage in response to several teen suicides caused by anti-gay bullying in Fall 2010, will support artist Maura McGurk’s solo art exhibition at the Wauregan Gallery in Norwich, CT during July 2011.

The exhibition will feature artworks that take a stand against gay bullying. McGurk began this body of work in Fall 2010 because of the same concerns about teen suicides due to anti-gay bullying. 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”. It sounds confrontational, or weird, or people say I don’t understand art nowadays,” McGurk said. “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.”

After a pause, she added, “Like Harvey Milk said: You gotta give ‘em hope”.

It Gets Better, Acrylic/Mixed media on panel, 6 x 6, In the private collection of Dan Savage

McGurk contacted It Gets Better because of their shared interest in saving teens’ lives, and told them about the exhibition. It probably didn’t hurt that founder Dan Savage was already acquainted with her work, since he owns one of her anti-gay bullying paintings, called, appropriately enough, It Gets Better.

The It Gets Better Project will promote the exhibition and have provided their name and logo for use in advertising. McGurk will donate 10% of proceeds from the exhibition to the non-profit foundation. “I wish it could be more, but a girl’s gotta eat!” she laughed.

“There is a wide range of pricing, with affordable pieces, and a fun aspect where an installation of puzzle pieces will be sold off piece by piece. There’s something for everyone, so I hope at the end of the month, I have a nice big check to give to The It Gets Better Project”.

McGurk’s anti-gay bullying artwork can be viewed on her website. To purchase a painting, please contact Maura McGurk at maura@mauramcgurk.com or through her website.

Maura McGurk Interviewed by The Norwich Bulletin

Procession of the Orphans: Rejected Lincoln portraits move to new gallery space

Maura McGurk and other artists discuss their views of the judging of the Lincoln portrait contest sponsored by the Slater Museum in Norwich, CT.

The Slater has defended itself against charges by the artists and others that it acted in an unethical manner by changing the contest rules, and notifying the participating artists of the change only when they arrived on the deadline with their completed portraits in hand.

Exiled artists in Norwich’s Lincoln contest given apologies, by Kelly-Ann Franklin, The Norwich Bulletin, Norwich, CT. Published April 27, 2011.

Maura McGurk Blog Featured in The New London Day

Maura McGurk’s blog regarding the Lincoln portrait contest sponsored by the Slater Museum is quoted extensively in The New London Day. The Day reveals the backlash among the contest entrants, the artistic community, and citizens of Norwich, CT regarding so-called “unethical” practices in the portrait judging.

Lincoln artists cry foul, by Claire Bessette, The Day (New London, CT). Published April 26, 2011.

Dan Savage Takes Home Painting About Gay Bullying

It Gets Better, Acrylic and mixed media on panel, 6 x 6, In the private collection of Dan Savage

Dan Savage and Maura McGurk were both profoundly affected by a series of teen suicides in the fall of 2010. The suicides were particularly notable and received national media attention because they occurred in a cluster, and were caused by acute bullying because the boys were thought to be gay.

Ever since, Savage and McGurk have separately been hard at work.

From Seattle, Savage created the It Gets Better Project, which provides a platform for adults to upload supportive videos targeted at bullied teens. These testimonials, many by adults who were bullied and attempted suicide themselves, assure young viewers that a happy and productive future awaits them. They ask for patience and perspective, and offer understanding and hope. It Gets Better also became a book, edited from the ten thousand and counting videos, and reached the New York Times Bestseller List in March 2011.

In New York City, McGurk began painting a series of abstract paintings about the boys who committed suicide, and the circumstances that emerged about incidents of gay bullying. Classes of schoolchildren have toured her studio to see the work, and the paintings have been exhibited twice since February 2011. McGurk is still adding to the series, and some of the paintings have now found homes in private collections.

Enter Dan Savage, again. He came to New York City on the It Gets Better book tour, and took home a McGurk painting titled, appropriately, It Gets Better.

Contact McGurk to purchase a painting in support of LGBT youth and take a stand against gay bullying: maura@mauramcgurk.com.

Maura McGurk’s First Solo Show: Pride and Prejudice, An Exhibition on Gay Bullying

Maura McGurk’s first solo exhibition will feature paintings created in response to gay bullying.

McGurk began this body of work in fall of 2010, on the heels of several suicides by teenaged boys who had been bullied by classmates. These suicides were well-publicized due to their sheer number and proximity in time: five suicides in the month of September received national attention, though possibly up to ten were documented in the US that month.

McGurk was shocked and saddened by this news, particularly the story of Tyler Clementi, the 18-year old who killed himself after being secretly filmed during a date and subsequently outed by his college roommate.

“I couldn’t get him out of my head. Imagine, he had just begun his freshman year–he wasn’t even a month into college”, said McGurk.

Around this time, McGurk went to the Vermont Studio Center for a month-long residency, where she began working on paintings that expressed her remorse about Tyler.

“I began the first painting by stenciling alot of words–literally quoting events–because this story was so specific, and involved texts and tweets and name-calling. But as I delved deeper into the story, I began unleashing colors more than words, and using dripping, dangling shapes and unsettling colors like yellow-greens to show the heartbreak, rather than talk about it.”

As an abstract painter, McGurk was surprised to realize that human figures were emerging in these works, though not necessarily in a realistic style. Legs appear in two paintings–In Secret, where they are bent at a vulnerable angle, and Fragile, in which a pair of cartoonish, spindly legs parade on their own in a field of green paint. Another, more classically abstract painting, Encounter, calls up the human figure less directly by using pinks and flesh tones, and a ferocious pencil scribble to suggest limbs and bodies in motion.

McGurk acknowledges that such expressive bursts of drawing in many of the paintings came from a sense of urgency and upset over the suicides. “The drawing within the paintings was a way to let out the heartbreak I was feeling for these kids. Just a very immediate, reflexive kind of thing that came from not knowing what to do with this terrible sense of loss. Sadness for kids I didn’t even know. Most of the paintings are built up slowly and thoughtfully, layer by layer, but sometimes I was too upset to work slowly and then the pencil came out and dug in.” Indeed, some of the pencil marks are not drawn lines at all, but desperate and furious tracks carved again and again through the paint.

The public is invited to the opening reception of Pride and Prejudice, on February 22, 6:30 – 8:00 pm, at the Sapphire Lounge in New York City.

For related content, please also see:

Maura’s Lavender Menace Paintings, related to gay issues
Maura’s Sketchbook Project
Maura’s It Gets Better Project video

The Only Art Worth Doing Is the Art That Makes Things Better: An Interview with Maura McGurk

Bridge, Acrylic/Mixed media on panel, $3000

In an interview with fellow artist Gina Marie Dunn, Maura McGurk discusses her creative process and inspirations for creating political art. She also considers some practical issues about being a fine artist, and, true to form, even finds a way to reference the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry.

Please access the full interview here.


Equality on Trial: Prop 8 Reenactments, Scene 2

Wait No More NYC, a group of New York City activists working for LGBT rights, reenacts testimony from the Prop 8 trial in Washington Square Park. Featuring Maura McGurk, Kris Lew, Eddie Jones, Julia Yoler, Tom Crockett, and Michael O’Day.

Sandra Stier testimony, Part 1:

Sandra Stier testimony, Part 2:

What if a historic trial happened and nobody could see it? This year, Americans could not watch the Proposition 8 trial—Perry v. Schwarzenegger—because Prop 8 supporters successfully appealed to block cameras from televising the trial.

Wait No More NYC, a group of activists lobbying for full equality for LGBT people, brought testimony from the trial to Washington Square Park, with actors embodying the roles of the real-life plaintiffs, lawyers and other witnesses.

Conceived of by Cleve Jones and the Courage Campaign, Equality on Trial allowed everyone to bear witness to the moving testimony that reveals discrimination, but ultimately speaks of love, the hope for equality, and full recognition of the importance of all our lives.

Marisa Tomei, Josh Lucas, Alan Cumming, Patricia Clarkson, and other supporters of gay marriage all over the country have reenacted their own scenes.  See the Equality on Trial website for more information, and to view other reenactments.

Garden Party to Support New Bedford Art Museum

Maura, at the Garden Party, with Feathered Nest artwork

The New Bedford Art Museum is pleased to announce the Garden Party On the Bay on Friday evening, July 23, 2010 hosted by Phoebe and Chip Perry at their Marion home. From 6:00 – 9:00 P.M. guests will enjoy live jazz, strolling on the lawn, sailboat gazing, an open bar and hors d’oeuvres. All proceeds support the educational programs and exhibitions of the New Bedford Art Museum allowing it to continue its mission of engaging the public in experiencing, understanding and appreciating art.

A creative and generous parliament of artists has taken their cue from the Museum’s exhibition Taking Flight!: The Birds of John James Audubon from the Collection of the New Bedford Free Public Library. Organized by Jean Kellaway and Phoebe Perry, each artist has interpreted Audubon in their own media. Their work will be the center of the Museum’s Silent Auction. The Garden Party on the Bay will be a rare opportunity to collect the work of an important area artist and keep the Museum flying at the same time.

Read the full article.

The Sketchbook Project Covered in Chicago Art Magazine

“Brooklyn-based Art House Co-op’s Sketchbook Project is ephemeral by nature despite its roots in very tangible objects: sketchbooks. The project is designed to engage a number of artists through this versatile medium and eventually create an easily accessible library of innovative and interesting contemporary art for the masses.”

Read the full article at: http://chicagoartmagazine.com/2010/05/the-sketchbook-project-artists-books-at-home-gallery/

McGurk’s sketchbook can be viewed here.

The Sketchbook Project in Time Out Magazine

“Seeing the first draft of a work of art often reveals more about an artist’s motives than their final piece does. For the past four years, the Art House Co-Op has asked artists to share bits of their inner creative lives with a traveling exhibition called “The Sketchbook Project.” The rules are simple: Art House mails out a package containing a blank Moleskine sketchbook and one of 30 themes, and participants interpret that theme in their own styles…”

Read more: http://newyork.timeout.com/articles/own-this-city/82875/the-sketchbook-project#ixzz11CvS63sd

McGurk’s sketchbook can be viewed here.

Check It Out at The Sketchbook Library!

The Sketchbook Project tour is on!

McGurk’s sketchbook can be viewed here.

More information is available here.

Maura McGurk’s Sketchbook to Tour U.S.

New York artist Maura McGurk has created a sketchbook as part of The Sketchbook Project, sponsored by the Art House Co-op, which will tour various cities around the U.S.

McGurk says:  “My sketchbook contains collages, drawings, and writings about my daily life from the fall and winter of 2009.  They reflect my individual concerns and adventures during this time–personal relationships, life in New York City, a business trip to the Middle East–and tie these daily observations into larger concerns such as the war on terrorism, and the fight for civil rights and gay marriage.  The sketchbook makes the case that the personal is political.”

The sketchbook tour includes stops in Boston, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, and Brooklyn.  At the conclusion of the tour, the books will be given a permanent home at the Brooklyn Art Library.

McGurk’s sketchbook can be viewed here.

Maura McGurk Again Chosen as Featured Artist at climate/gallery

Over and Out, Acrylic/Pencil on panel, 6 x 6, SOLD

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 by gays for acceptance, and stories that have been in the news recently, and my personal thoughts about that.”