Dominick Smith interviews Patrick Francis McGuan

Dominick Smith

Interview with Patrick Francis McGuan

-What did you think an Artist was when you where a kid?

I had some knowledge of Michelangelo from a 1980s spread on the restoration of the Sistine Chapel published in National Geographic. That convinced me that no matter how much I wanted to be an artist I could never be one based on how well Michelangelo could paint and draw.

-So at that time your exposure to Art was mostly that of the old masters, people who where skilled in a traditional sense of making painting and sculpture?

More or less, yes. That and illustration.

-In spite of feeling inferior to Michelangelo, did you still want to be an artist as a child?

I wanted to be a lot of things, I think I wanted to be a writer more.

-Did you ever see contemporary art as a child or was it all old master type stuff?

Every once in a while someone would show me images of Picasso or Jackson Pollock. This was mostly to illustrate how depraved western culture was. It was always in a negative light.

-Thats funny, that must have been the 80’s It’s nuts that people where still being shocked by that kind of work 40 or 50 years down the line.

-where did you grow up?

I moved around a lot as a kid, but mostly throughout the Midwest.

-Rural areas?

Suburban mostly, I spent the most time in Wheaton, Illinois. The area had the distinction of being the town most densely populated by churches in the whole United States. It was a very conservative town. I moved there when I was 7 or 8.

-Do you ever make art in your dreams, or see art in your dreams?

I have dreams where I am doing things with my hands, but I never see the form I’m working on.

-So you’ve never had dreams where you see something and you wake up in a eureka moment?

Like how Townes Van Zandt wrote If I Needed You?

-Yeah, do you believe in that happening?

I suppose I do, I’ve had titles come to me in dreams before.

-Do you think the success of a work hinges on its reception to the viewer, or is that something more personal.

Nothing leaves my studio that I’m not happy with. if I make something that I’m pleased with and it receives no attention that is okay for me.

-What would you consider to be the central interest that drives you to make art?

It’s hard to narrow it down, I think a lot of it comes from trying to make sense of the world around us. That seems to be irreducible, so I’m not sure. Jonathan Franzen wrote about this in his essay “The Core Reason”. He stated that many people who have had unstable lives look to fiction for a sense of stability. I think I can relate to that impulse.

-Do you think about the future of your work? If so what would be that trajectory?

I think I tend to worry about where the next Idea will come from rather than the trajectory of my career. I don’t think my work lends itself well to being collected so I don’t consider my career in terms of a traditional commercial gallery environment.

-What would you consider to be bad art?


-Would you consider sincerity to be the hallmark of good art then?

I think I gravitate towards that which i consider sincere, but its a tricky thing. I like Oscar Wilde’s quote “For in art these is no such thing as a universal truth. A truth in art is that whose contradictory is also true.”

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