The creatures that Megan McGuinness features in her art live in a very different world. One where miniature plastic cowboys ride cardboard plates of nachos out to sea. Where anthropomorphized cacti keep pet cats. Where plants smoke other plants. Where the bump under your bed might just be a friendly kitty with a runny nose. Her art is whimsical, but not in the sense that it's frivolous or light; it can often be quite dark, but even in darkness rarely lacks a sense of humor. McGuinness has spent the past five years building her body of work in Bend, so you've likely seen her creations before; her murals hanging in the parking garage or in Tin Pan Alley, or on local concert posters, or even the cover of the Source. This month, her art on display at Velvet and at Bishops Barbershop downtown.
Source Weekly: Tell me about your background in art?
Megan McGuinness: I've always had a need to paint or draw. My parents enrolled me in an art school when I was 9 years old that I went to every Saturday for four years. It was essentially an early art college. I had my first solo art show when I was 13, and had my art in various art shows all through high school. I got a couple of partial scholarships for art colleges, but chose to go to Portland State and study environmental studies. Buttttt...I ended up just doodling in my classes.
SW: What was the first thing you remember painting?
MM: Hmmm, there is a wood TV cabinet that my parents still own, and if you open the doors there is a crayon drawing of a circle with a smiley face and legs on it. Paper just didn't cut it.
SW: What is your preferred medium?
MM: I love love love acrylic paint. It dries fast and the color is so rich. I've been getting into gouache, and have a love/hate relationship with oil paints. In my sketchbooks I'm all about Bic pen, nice black and white contrast.
SW: Where do you find your non-traditional canvases?
MM: I usually use cabinet doors for my canvases. I would get them from Pak-It (rest in peace). I went into the new Bend Restore the other day though, woo! I was a kid in a candy store. I sometimes use mirrors and windows, really anything that I can paint on I'll use. A lot of kind people will drop off their unwanted doors/frames so I just have stacks of random canvases at my studio...it's great!
SW: Are the creatures you paint all imagined? What are your inspirations?
MM: Most of my creatures are a creation of imagination and reality. I usually have an idea early in the morning when I'm waking up or when I'm falling asleep. Most of the ideas involve smooshing two worlds together. I like ideas that are whimsical, light-hearted, and might make someone chuckle...or at least walk away thinking about it.
SW: Tell me about the newest series Photosyngenic?
MM: Photosyngenic is about weaving nature and humans together. The word "photosyngenic" comes from combining the words photosynthesis and photogenic together. This was a way in my mind to bring how important nature is to humans, and vice versa. Sometimes when it's sunny out, I like to pretend I'm a plant and soak up the sun. You can usually find me laughing to myself about some silly idea I have. I think I'm funny, everyone else can think whatever they will...I've got a handful of bad jokes if anyone needs a bad joke.
SW: You've done several pieces for art in public places, how does it feel to have your work displayed so publically?
MM: Being part of the Tin Pan Alley Art Collection has been incredible. I have a piece in Tin Pan Alley and in the parking garage. I like it, I think public art is important whether it is a mural put there by the City, or if it's a piece of art wheat-pasted under an underpass. Or you know, even a random piece of pizza on a trash can...art is art and it should be everywhere.