Jean McGuire

Monday, January 3 to Saturday, April 30, 2022

Jean McGuire is a Kansas City native and painter. When she returned to painting after a 40 year hiatus, Jean often used her fingers as tools and a limited color range to create. Although her fingers are still a favorite tool, Jean now experiments with different techniques, tools and color pallet. Currently, her primary focus is on color. Jean’s work has been exhibited in galleries both locally and nationally. McGuire's artwork is on display at the Oak Park Library until April 21, 2022. 


Talk about the work on view. What would you like people to know about it?

During the most isolated period of the pandemic I struggled to create. I leaned into collage and sketching to keep my creativity flowing. You will notice how bright and colorful all of the pieces in this show are, and there is good reason for that — it makes me happy. These paintings were created after that bleak pandemic period and they are joyfully colorful. I have found that post-isolation, my love for color trumps everything else in my practice. I have spent much of the last year playing with using shapes and color to create my painting without being as result driven. My favorite challenge for myself has been to create multiple paintings while using the same reference photo but with a different technique for each one.


How has your practice changed over time?

When I returned to my art after a 40-year hiatus, it felt more intuitive to paint with my fingers. As my work progressed I started experimenting with different methods of applying paint to the surface. I became quite skilled at throwing or spattering paint, and I also became re-acquainted with using brushes. I also liked the challenge of using only the three primary colors (red, blue, yellow) and white to paint with. While I now use different shades of those colors, I still use a very limited palette. I am fascinated by seeing how the colors blend and flow directly on the canvas or board.

Abstract painting with thick layers of paint in blue, green, red, yellow and white.

What has been a seminal experience?

When I returned to my art I was nervous and unsure if I could still create good work. From the first drop of paint on the first canvas I have felt like I had come home. It took me quite a while, but I remember the day when I completed a painting and said to myself, “I have talent.” That moment has kept me going despite any other challenges that may have arisen.


Who are other artists you look to for inspiration and what about their work do you like?

I love the innovation of Pablo Picasso. I was not a big fan of his until I saw an exhibition of his work explaining how he got to where he did in his work. I love the willingness to be innovative and experimental, and I try to remember to embrace those concepts with every piece I create.


What is your most important artistic tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?

I know this probably sounds weird, but I use my fingers so much while painting, I consider them my favorite tool. Even when I am working on a painting that requires the fine detail only a brush can give, I still use my fingers to clean up lines and blend shapes. I am a very tactile person and that direct connection to the canvas drives my work.


What books, movies and/or music have inspired you recently?

I was greatly influenced by Ninth Street Women by Mary Gabriel. It’s an interesting book explaining the lives and times of some of the major women artists of the modern art movement. I was also very influenced by the biography by Roxana Robinson of Georgia O’Keefe.

When I am painting I usually have Leonard Cohen playing in my studio. I find his music comfortable and innovative at the same time. Exactly the feeling I want to invoke in my work.