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Inside the Studio: Amy McGirk by Molly O’Connor

(left) Amy McGirk, Tahlequah, Untitled, Oil and Enamel, 12” x 12” (right) Untitled, Oil-based Enamel, 36” x 36”

Amy McGirk is a contemporary painter living and working in Tahlequah. She earned her BFA in Painting at the School of Visual Arts in New York and her MFA in Painting from Yale. As a recent transplant from New York, McGirk works as an adjunct professor at Bacone College in Muskogee where she teaches painting and art appreciation. She describes her work as “non-representational geometric abstraction.” The combination of vibrant colors, perfect line structure and elusive brushstrokes in McGirk’s work transform the canvas into a design that seems impossible to create merely by human hand. McGirk’s studio is located in the Cherokee Arts Center in downtown Tahlequah, an arts incubator space that is owned and operated by the Cherokee Nation. She lives with her husband James, a writer, and their adopted cats. Tell me a little bit about your journey to Oklahoma. I was in New York for about 15 years. It was really intense and stressful, but it was also great. I learned so much as an artist. But thinking about quality of life…I felt like I just reached

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a point where it was not cute to eat pasta five nights a week. I really wanted to concentrate more on my work so we just made the decision to move here. My mom lives here and she has basically lived here her whole life except when she raised me in Florida. Were you born in Florida? Yes, but we came here a lot in summers to visit my granny. I have a lot of family here and I have felt like I have a connection to this place, but I never really felt like I just got to come here and explore. So, my husband and I decided we were ready for a change. We decided we could come out here and compile ourselves and strategically decide what we wanted next for ourselves, where we want to go and how we want to get there. That’s quite a transition to move from New York to Tahlequah. Yeah, it was sad leaving my friends, and I miss having some of the crazy wacky things that would just spontaneously happen there. I miss things like traveling just half an hour and then I’m in a museum in front of a Vermeer. But,

it’s really hard to reflect on your life if you are always in an intense mode. I was always compromising my health….having to go without eating and sleeping. Here I don’t have to be quite as neurotic…I have space and air. There was a point where I didn’t leave the city for three years, so I never saw a horizon that entire time. I mean I would go to Central Park, but I never got out of the city. I realized I did not have a relationship with nature at all. It’s really great that I have that here in Tahlequah. Tahlequah is really nice, too. Did you have a studio space in New York? I did have one in my apartment. It was an industrial space and the studio was in the basement . But it would flood….it had bugs, mice, rats and roaches. It was really dank and I think there was black mold. It was still a good space for New York City, but it was kind of depressing. Apparently it was a Vietnamese restaurant before we got there. It was a big open space, but I didn’t have any heat. So very non-hospitable.

Art Focus Oklahoma, July/August 2014  

2014 July/August Art Focus Oklahoma is a bimonthly publication of the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition dedicated to stimulating insight into a...

Art Focus Oklahoma, July/August 2014  

2014 July/August Art Focus Oklahoma is a bimonthly publication of the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition dedicated to stimulating insight into a...