The painter talks about his upcoming projects and the piece of D.C. maybe only he will miss.
We spoke with 15 innovative creators around D.C. to learn more about their work. Check out the full roundup here.
Artist Patrick McMahon, a native Washingtonian, has been painting for years, but decided this year to dedicate more time to his creative practice. We caught up with him about prioritizing art, where he goes for inspiration and how he explains the art world in D.C.
District Fray: What made you focus on prioritizing your work this year?
McMahon: What really changed for me this year was signing a lease on a studio. I’ve always made work in the margins of my life — weird hours, working out of an improvised space in my apartment or my parents’ carport — that kind of thing. A studio puts the pressure on me in a positive way; it challenges me to really make a go at this stuff, to justify taking up space. Also, it’s great to make messes in a place that is not your home. Highly recommend.
What project are you really excited about right now?
I’m in the talking stage with a client who wants me to paint his chimney (not an innuendo). I love a creative challenge, a unique or difficult space, something that makes me adapt — and this is that.
Where do you go in D.C. when you need inspiration?
The West wing of the National Gallery of Art is a special place for me; seeing Barnett Newman’s “Stations of the Cross” in the tower was one of the experiences that made me want to focus on art, and that showed me what painting was capable of. I’m also drawn to the great architecture we have here, especially — I’m sorry in advance — all the Brutalism. A late afternoon walk in the concrete and the shadows? That’s all I need. I am probably the only person in this city who will miss the Hoover Building when it’s razed.
Favorite art gallery that helped your work?
The place that launched me was live/workspace Hole in the Sky. It’s not an exaggeration to say that everything I know about being a working artist I learned there — before I first showed there in 2015, I’d never introduced myself to anyone as an artist, talked about my work in a serious way or sold anything. That all changed there. They were forced to close their doors last summer for good, and I miss them.
How would you explain the art scene in D.C. right now?
This can be a tough city to be an artist. Rent is high, studio space is hard to come by; I feel like most of my artist friends have loose or firm plans to leave at some point. That said, I also believe deeply that you owe it to yourself to try to create the scene you want to see and I’m not giving up yet. DM me your event or your open call.
Keep up with McMahon’s work by following him on Instagram @patrickmcmahon.art.
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