Rhinestones And Resilience: The Life Of Mixed-Media Artist Park McGinty

Sparkling sequins, beads, rhinestones, glass, paints, and various other objects are presented in shiny abstract forms in the brilliantly vibrant artwork of the late Park McGinty, a multimedia artist who favored the flamboyant. Park’s colorful creations have appeared at the Brooklyn Waterfront Arts Council, the Denise Bibro Gallery, the Dacia Gallery, the Phoenix Gallery and the famed ArtExpo exhibition via the Artvita Gallery.

Park McGinty was born in South Carolina in 1943. Despite having only one arm due to a birth defect, Park lived life to the fullest. He received a doctorate in philosophy, married twice, and embraced art late in his life. Despite only enjoying a few years working as an artist, Park’s visually striking creations earned him much praise before his untimely death from colon cancer in April of 2015.

After his passing, Park’s friend and former fiancée Lisa Carrillo took responsibility for his website and has dedicated herself to promoting his art. Lisa and Park met in San Francisco, California. At the time, Park was living in a commune and Lisa attended an event at the warehouse that the group called home.

“He wore jeans with sparkles on them and designer T-shirts and lifted weights a few times a week,” Lisa recounted in a recent interview with the Inquisitr. “On the outside, he had a daring look, and his voice was exceptionally deep. He was one of the most thoughtful and intellectual in the group; on the inside, he was more of a scholar and a philosopher type. I was excitedly anticipating a social evening, and he came up to me and said that he had to kiss me. I smiled, and he softly gave me a kiss.”

One week later, Lisa and Park went out to dinner and discovered that they shared passions for Buddhism, free-form dancing, literature, science, and psychotherapy. Before long, they became a couple.

Park lived an extraordinary life. He studied religion and philosophy, traveled extensively, and loved science. These interests greatly influenced his art, especially science and nature, in which he found a never-ending source of wonder.

“That things as complex as the human body or as intricate as meteorites or as stunning as mineral crystals ‘just happen’ fed his sense of awe,” Lisa explained. “He watched hundreds of ‘The Great Courses’ and, he became an avid collector of fossils, butterflies, meteorites and mineral crystals. He travelled to mineral meccas such as Brazil and scoured eBay. His apartment looked like a natural history museum with specimens selected for their bright hues; it was like walking through the end of a rainbow!”

Park McGinty’s ‘Red and Blue Arcs on Black.’ [Image by Lisa Carrillo]

McGinty had harbored a desire to be an artist since childhood, but he did not get serious about creating artistic forms until 2011.

“Paint on its own didn’t hold his interest,” Lisa stated. “He was surrounded by the glint of crystals in four cases around his apartment and by walls adorned with shimmering butterflies. Finding new materials was a quest that took him to his building’s garbage room, the Internet, Chinatown, the fashion district, and street fairs. Whenever he found a new favorite, he’d spread it across a sheet of acrylic. He’d bring over four or five bins of shiny objects—which were categorized by color—that could complement his new find and sprinkle them onto the sheet, capturing the glint of his materials necessitated three dimensions. He was driven by his love of luster and brilliance, which unawares, led him to sculpture.”

One of Park’s first sculptures was a collage made from a cut-up phone book. Early in his artistic explorations, he experimented with colored paper, stamps, computer parts, fabrics, Christmas ornaments, tiles, sea shells, feathers, toys, watches, and more. Once he discovered fluorescent acrylic, dichroic glass, and costume jewelry, Park found his niche since those materials strongly resonated with his highly-developed sense of color, light, clarity, and overall brilliance. Park’s artistic process involved assembling and rearranging the pieces in different lights. He would periodically take pictures to decide which positions he liked each piece in, and he frequently worked for 14 hours at a time.

“The photos would help him see the full compositions from different angles and in different lighting,” Lisa declared. “He would use them to help him see what worked and what he wanted to change. Often, he would send a picture to me, asking what I thought and what suggestions I had. It would take about two weeks to design a piece through its many iterations. Then, it would take several days to actually glue it all in place. A few times, they came together in a day. And a few more times, they didn’t quite work, and another took his attention. Months later, he would return and finish the first piece.”

McGinty was meticulous in the placement of each object in his artistic assemblages, something that was often quite difficult.

“With only one hand, the glue stands and drops were at times disorderly,” Lisa declared. “Sometimes they simply became additional textures in the piece. He didn’t think of himself as one-handed, and neither did his friends, as we quickly became used to his various adaptations. I remember when he saw a video of himself assembling his art, he was surprised to see how he was working with one hand. He had never noticed himself in that way before.”

"Whirlwind" is a mixed-media piece of art by Park McGinty.
‘Whirlwind’ by artist Park McGinty. [Image by Lisa Carrillo]

Park was deeply interested in history, and Greek mythology deeply inspired many of the themes in his pieces; in tone or mood if not in form.

“He never had a realistic model in mind; if something came out of the final pattern that matched a real-life object, it was always accidental,” Lisa explained. “His intention was always beauty, escalated to a point of near overwhelm. My favorite piece is ‘Blue Splendor.’ It is one of his layered pieces, so some of the elements are deeper behind the top pane. It glows while having a deep serenity, probably due to its many different blue hues. Like many of his pieces, I can look and look and am continuously rewarded. At the smallest scale, the separate elements are individually fascinating. Then, I step back and see the mini arrangements on the sheet, each a unique community rising together. Then, I step back further and take in the whole. Its beauty uplifts me. Its depths emanate tranquility.”

Lisa was living with Park when he started making art, and even after they broke up, they remained friends. When Park became ill with cancer, he decided to set aside funds to create an art foundation to promote his art after his death. He subsequently spoke with his lawyer and Lisa to establish the foundation.

“I was so excited to be able to promote his art with more focus and more freedom,” Lisa exclaimed. “My primary goal has been to have as many people experience his art as possible. It expresses the world that we all want to create. When I am carrying one of his works through the city to bring it to an exhibit, I get comments from passers-by the whole way. It is stunning and exuberant and speaks to so many people. I love the joy people share with me when they see it as we walk past each other or share a ride in the subway! My main goal is to have it continue to be seen by as many people as possible. I want to have it in homes or public spaces where it will have a prominent place and continue to bring joy and inspiration for years to come.”

Lisa noted that Park’s work was derived from the joy in his being. Creating was thrilling to him, and that excitement and passion is something that Lisa firmly believes should inspire young artists—and non-artists.

“The more we do everything out of our love for doing it, the more we find ourselves living fulfilling happy lives,” Lisa declared. “At that point, the outcomes don’t matter because our lives are so full and rewarding already. Park’s final work is entitled ‘Bounce’ and it was finished about ten days before he died. To me, it speaks of his transition to the next realm. He didn’t believe in the next realm, but a day after he died, I had a waking vision of sparkles raining down all over me. It was him. ‘Bounce’ also speaks to how we can move through life, using the various energies that come our way. Happiness is not about getting everything that we imagine we want. It is more about discovering that we benefit from everything that we have and then flowing forward from there.”

To learn more about the artwork of Park McGinty visit his official website, YouTube, and Facebook.

[Featured Image by Lisa Carrillo]