Maguire mines Celtic mythology in a new exhibit

Hartigan student lives and works in Wales

Arts: museums, literature

February 24, 2005|By Glenn McNatt | Glenn McNatt,SUN ART CRITIC

The former students of Baltimore's renowned resident painter Grace Hartigan are surely one of the most diverse groups of artists anywhere, each having taken something of their mentor's approach to painting while turning it to their own distinctive purposes.

Maura Maguire, whose paintings are on view at Galerie Francoise, is a former Hartigan student whose densely layered images pick up on her teacher's fascination with mythological subjects but treat them in an altogether more figurative style than Hartigan's abstractions.

Maguire's myths are drawn from Celtic tradition rather than from ancient Greece (for the past five years the artist has lived and worked in Wales), and as a result her narratives may not be as immediately recognizable as those of the classical heroes and heroines.

Yet it is evident that the paintings deal with similarly universal themes: the symbolic relationships between humans and animals, the migration of spirits and the various levels that constitute the human experience.

These themes are so common across different cultures that one almost doesn't need to know the specific references to assimilate their meaning intuitively.

Many of the paintings refer to the transformation of animals into humans and vice versa, which in the Celtic myths are metaphors for various human experiences.

Her canvases are filled with mysterious, hybrid creatures, impossible architectural forms and fantastical landscapes that recall the visual tricks of surrealist painting during the 1920s and '30s.

There are about a dozen canvases in the show, ranging from mural-scale works that fill whole walls to paintings of quite modest dimensions.

"What I'm trying to make is something beautiful," Maguire has written. "The paintings are a kind of devotion to beautiful line and color and drawing," she adds. Beyond that, "you can forget what they are about."

The show runs through Feb. 28. The gallery is at 2360 W. Joppa Road, Green Spring Station in Lutherville. Hours are noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Call 410-337-2787.

For more art events, see Page 35.

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