Magwire (Painter)

Magwire: An Interview with Molly McGuire

Chasing the elusive, fearing boredom,
and reflecting on the inspiration
behind the AHS Freak Show circus banners.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that I have a morbid fascination with the circus. Particularly, I find vintage circus memorabilia serve as fascinating windows into the history and culture of the big top.

The circus aptly defies conventions with its bravado displays of magical feats, supernatural elements, and its unabashed exhibitions presenting those who exist outside of the norm...the so-called "freak" shows. On the whole, the circus, in light of its often troublesome image, forces us to evaluate our roles as spectators and as participants. We are forced to question the existence of reality and that of fiction. In the circus, after all, things aren't always as they seem.

A contemporary artist's depiction of past circus forms further lends a fascinating perspective into an era not long forgotten. This application of contemporary sensibilities further breathes life into an antiquated and still valuable art form. As you can imagine then, I was thrilled to be contacted by an artist who designs circus banners and designed the banners found in one of my favourite AHS installations - Freak Show.

On that note, I present our fourth "Hidden Gems of the Macabre Art World" feature.

Circus Living introduces Magwire aka Molly McGuire.

What is the most challenging part about being an artist?

Finding the source point of my inspiration. Sometimes it’s as elusive and fleeting as a traveling carnival itself. I keep records and records of ideas. I’ve learned to become very organized about documenting my idea snippets. I can look through these folders and find out if there are enough snippets to bring a piece to fruition. If not, I do not force my hand, but rather move on to the next folder to see if the snippets contain enough elements to complete an idea.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I am originally from Ontario, Canada.

I have never thought about quitting being an artist. It’s the only thing that I haven’t quit.
Can you tell me a bit more about the artistic process you follow when creating your artwork? Particularly, can you tell me more about what inspired you and the process you followed when creating the posters for AHS?

My art is all created from recycled canvas drop cloths and used tinted house paint from movie sets. I sew and prepare the canvas myself and the pieces are finished with grommets.

The look of the banners for AHS was inspired by the banner painter artist from Chicago, Neiman Eisman who was alive around the turn of the 20th century. He’s my favorite circus banner painter and I was honored to have an opportunity to paint in his style. There were thumbnail drawings that were created by the set designer which depicted the character in brief detail, and then I went from there.

Any particular artists you admire or inspire you?

Neiman Eisman, Snap Wyatt, Fred Johnson, to name a few…

What's the best piece of advice you've been given?

Don’t hire your friends.

Any future plans you intend to pursue with your artwork?

Art fairs in FL, TX, CA and Mexico City. I am currently represented by galleries in Louisiana, Texas, New Jersey and California.

This is sort of just a fun question for readers to get to know you better :) If you had to build a treehouse that you could live in, what would it look like?

It would look like part of the wooded treehouse city in “Return of the Jedi.” All of my friends would live there too, as well as circus performers in the off season. I would have a lookout shaped like a giant owl.

What would you do differently if you knew 10 years ago what you know now as an artist?

I have only been a full time artist for less than 10 years. I was a traveling musician for about 15 years prior. I know now not to go back to doing that anymore...for now.

What terrifies you the most?


Has there ever been a time when you felt uninspired or felt like quitting? If so, how did you overcome this set-back?

I have never thought about quitting being an artist. It’s the only thing that I haven’t quit.

What is the most interesting complement or criticism you have ever received?

Carrie Fisher bought one of my paintings once. That was a monumental compliment if I’ve ever had one.

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For more info on Magwire

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