How Dallas Painter Aralyn McGregor Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Art
"It's okay, I don't get art either," Aralyn McGregor claims when asked about her line of work.
After receiving her BFA in studio painting from UNT in 2009, McGregor worked for a while as a middle school and high school art teacher before "retir[ing] at the ripe old age of 25 to pursue painting full-time." One thing she found most humbling about her experiences teaching was a consistent refrain -- even her youngest students frequently doubted their understanding of art and their creative abilities.
"I find that most adults never outgrow this insecurity," she says, "'I don't get art,' or, 'I'm not good at art,' is the most common response I get when someone finds out I paint for a living."
McGregor began showing her work publicly while in college, and most recently her solo exhibition, Muse, opened at the Magnolia Theater Gallery in West Village. Based on McGregor's response to the poetry of Sylvia Plath -- which she quite humbly claims to "not understand" either -- the exhibition combines two distinct, but symbiotic, artistic media to expose and celebrate the act of interpretation -- not from the critical perspective of an arts scholar, but in a way suitable for anyone who finds herself in a moment of inexplicable artistic arrest.
McGregor says that reading poetry -- the "muse" that jump-starts the majority of her creativity -- is a method she uses to tap into an artistic mindset for painting, but she doesn't claim some gnostic understanding of the work that she found overwhelmingly intimidating as a student.
"I still probably miss the big, beautiful statement the poet was trying to make," she says, "but parts of the poem that makes sense to me lead to some pretty interesting paintings."
For Muse, McGregor excised sections of poems that directly inspired paintings and placed them in conversation with her work, creating a textual bridge between her own moment of inspiration and a viewer's reception of her work. Rather than posting Plath's poems in full, McGregor chose particular lines, forcing viewers to do a close-reading of small and palatable utterances.
Aralyn McGregor, "Sheep in Fog I" 2012 oil on canvas 24 x 24"
This is rain now, this big hush.
And this is the fruit of it: tin-white, like arsenic.
From Elm, 1962, by Sylvia Plath