By RENEE FITE
Art expresses an artist’s experiences, observations and mood. And for artist Amy McGirk, a graduate of Yale University School of Art, design can tie an artist to ancient cultures that used the same pattern.
McGirk describes her “style” as non-representational geometric abstraction.
“I don’t do ‘subjects’ per se. I follow a line of inquiry through different forms of investigation,” McGirk said. “All of my work is painstakingly handmade, but I like to make it appear as if it’s not.”
Shredded tire rubber, enamel, aluminum, plastic, and lots of industrial materials have found life on one of her canvases, but always in a two-dimensional format.
“For some reason, I can’t breach the third-dimensional boundary into sculpture,” she said.
Most contemporary art doesn’t have a function, so on some level, it doesn’t serve much of a purpose, she said.
“But if people are interested, it can help them learn something intellectual and emotional about themselves and the world,” she said. “Art can tie people to something larger than themselves, when you think about how different ancient cultures used the same designs and how those forms are being used or appropriated today.”
McGirk recently opened a studio in the Cherokee Art Center, and she’s discovering her roots.
“The Cherokee Art Center is an old Works Progress Administration building that my grandfather [Arie Seaton] worked on during the Great Depression, so it’s nice to think that maybe he helped build the space I work in,” she said.
The classically trained artist has traded the excitement of New York City for fresh air and family in Tahlequah.
“My husband and I wanted to have an adventure, but didn’t want to move somewhere too random,” she said. “My Mom [Mary Morse] lives here. She is a Cherokee Nation citizen and grew up in the area, so it’s very familiar to me.”
Arriving in New York as young artist, she absorbed a full spectrum of life, energy and personalities.
“It helped me learn who I was as a person and artist, but eventually I came to a place where I didn’t feel like I would be missing anything if I left. Artists shouldn’t feel bound to large cities,” she said.
The museums in New York were special to McGirk.
“It’s such a complex, humbling education to stand in front of all those iconic works, and to be able to return over and over again, and to see tiny brushstrokes you haven’t seen before, or notice how an artist made his or her canvas or try to figure out how they mixed a certain color,” she said.
Tahlequah has a charm and open space that appeals to her. A new location can also inspire new artistic expression. McGirk enjoys everything from painting to pottery, from video to dance and music, and just about everything in between.
Art, for her, means leaving something of value behind.
“Since there will come a time where I will cease to exist, whatever time I have I will always choose to further my work,” she said.
Inspiration could be something as simple as a cat’s whisker or a beautifully-designed Cherokee basket.
McGirk earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts in New York City, and also received a Master of Fine Arts in painting from the Yale University School of Art. She’s been in several group shows and a solo show back in New York, and put some pieces in the Cherokee Homecoming Show and the Cherokee Holiday show at the Armory.
She lives with husband James, a freelance writer, and their cats.
Plans include applying for university teaching jobs, and she’s eyeing other artistic endeavors.
“That would be telling,” she said.