Cynthia Motian McGuirl ~ Maine

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Artist statement: "I am the granddaughter of Armenian Genocide survivors who settled in Providence, RI in the early 20th century. A series of intense dreams about my ancestors led me to research what happened to the Ottoman Armenians during World War I. I have expressed my dreams, family stories and ancestor portraits through my artwork.

"I feel a strong message from my relatives to tell their stories. I find myself drawing the dreams and the narratives. I create portraits of the people I want to know better. My work combines what I do know with the black holes that I am trying to fill. I hope the work will lead both the viewer and myself to further insights. Visual art has the power to express that which cannot be known or put into words. As I continue to explore my connections to the past, I have discovered larger themes that are important to me: human rights, the perception of history, women’s rights, and justice.

"I use the processes of printmaking as tools for creating the image rather than as a medium of creating duplicates. But you always end up with lots of prints- proofs, imperfect images, a few extras of the finished prints. All that paper lying around just begged to be used so I started cutting it up and putting it together in different ways. I have always been involved with repetitive techniques in my artwork. I currently work with fiber, metal, and paper utilizing the techniques of stitching, hammering, and bookbinding. I have discovered a back and forth repertoire between creating narrative images and creating objects. I think there's a meditation that happens in the rhythmic 'craft' work that helps the 'art' work to evolve. I think craft and art are intertwined and of equal importance.

"I try to work in an intuitive way when creating books. One image or word leads to another and when I feel it has come together completely, the book is done. I hope people find the narrative informative and entertaining but also inspires them to think about their own stories.."

Mean Mother
By Cynthia Motian McGuirl
Thomaston, Maine: Cynthia Motian McGuirl, 2016. One-of-a-Kind.

6.75 x 8025"; 12 pages. Stitching; Bound in marbled paper over boards. Signed and dated by the artist. Laid in cloth-covered clamshell box with title label inset on front cover. Signed and dated by the artist.

Cynthia Motian McGuirl: "Mean Mother is also the title of the etching on the cover of the book. An older relative I connected with through genealogy research told me the story of my Grandfather’s step-sister. I’d never heard anything much about her before. This man was adopted by her and her husband, so I automatically thought they must have been nice people. When he got to the end of his story, I realized what a mean, abusive person she was. I felt like he hadn’t told many people these things. Hence the secrets people keep and the dual nature of many personalities.

"The cut figures: Every summer I attend an outdoor life drawing group where I sometimes cut silhouettes instead of drawing. It has always amazed me that many people find drawing nudes shocking or offensive. The beauty of the human form can also have a dual nature. The object in the pocket of the book is a woodcut of my Grandmother on one side and a kind of toy with an etched snake tail and miniaturized silhouette. Humor and play can be an antidote to sad stories."

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The Dragon Lady Papazian
Dream no. 36

By Cynthia Motian McGuirl
Thomaston, Maine: Cynthia Motian McGuirl, 2014. One-of-a-Kind.

6.75 x 7.25"; 8 leaves. Materials: copper, etchings, marbled papers, and waxed linen thread. Letterpress printed in handset 18 pt. Baskerville. Bound in copper boards. Marbled paper pastedowns. Circular cutout on front board displaying etching. Laid in cloth-covered clamshell box with title label inset on front cover. Signed and dated by the artist.

Cynthia Motian McGuirl: "The Dragon Lady Papazian is a story that combines several dreams that I had about my ancient and recent Armenian ancestors. The woodcut is a portrait of Papazian, the leader of my Maternal clan. She led a troupe of traveling performers around the primeval Armenian landscape.

"I worked as a waitress for many years, and ‘waitress nightmares’ are a common theme among the serving staff. This particular dream transformed from running up never ending stairs with food to an insight into the importance of knowing your family history and keeping it alive.

"Yeksabet was a real person, my Grandmother’s oldest paternal aunt (Horkor in Armenian). She rescued my Grandmother and her sister from 10 years of slavery in Turkey. I only knew her through photos and verbal stories. But for some reason, she is the one who comes to me in dreams urging me to tell the stories."

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Grandma Stories
By Cynthia Motian McGuirl
Thomaston, Maine: Cynthia Motian McGuirl, 2013. One-of-a-Kind.

7 x 6" closed tunnel book. Materials: copper, paper, and waxed linen thread. Etchings. Laid in cloth-covered clamshell box with title label inset on front cover. Signed and dated by the artist.

Cynthia Motian McGuirl: "Grandma Stories is a combination of etchings. The first etching is Nemrud Dagi which is about how my Grandmother had to take on the identity of her dead sister to immigrate. At Malatya was a disturbing dream about the murder of score of Armenians while they were harvesting wheat. Yeksa Calls is my depiction of Yeksabet calling me in a dream. Maryam is a portrait of my Grandmother’s oldest sister as a young woman. Rebekah is a portrait of my Grandmother titled with her given birth name. The tunnel book is a fitting presentation because looking through the stories leads to her, and getting to know her better on the way."

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Page last update: 04.15.16


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