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Moira McQuillen: ‘Every Line Has to Count’

Moira McQuillen - Gasoline Alley II
Gasoline Alley II by Moira McQuillen, winner of the Dee Gee Watling Pastel Memorial Award.

Moira McQuillen has been featured on this blog before, for another piece of Americana — a piece of dessert, to be exact.

McQuillen has won the Dee Gee Watling Pastel Memorial Award again. This time, Gasoline Alley II was the big winner — a scene that looks like a 1950s pit stop, but it is in fact a modern day museum of sorts.

Read our previous Q&A for the story of how McQuillen’s mother became her biggest fan. For this interview, we asked about this particular hole-in-the-wall:

Is Gasoline Alley II part of a series? What place is depicted?
Moira McQuillen: This painting is the second in a series based on a unique home in northern New Mexico that is part time capsule, part personal chapel honoring the America of yesteryear. Gasoline Alley is a combination museum and shop, specializing in antique car and gas station memorabilia. The gentleman who owns it also leases his beautiful gasoline pumps to film and television studios where they use his collection as set pieces.

Gasoline Alley can be best described as sensory overload … gas pumps, oil cans, a 4-foot-tall Mobil Pegasus statue, neon signs, black and white photos, radiator caps, and even a few pink flamingos.

Gasoline Alley II (detail) by Moira McQuillen
Gasoline Alley II (detail) by Moira McQuillen

What was your goal with this painting?

It’s a bit intimidating to start one of these paintings. I spend a lot of time setting up the painting, as the “bones” of the piece have to be correct for the finished painting to make sense. I need to make sure that the larger, anchoring elements (the house itself, the gas pumps) are correctly drawn. Other elements (signage, bric a brac) are only lightly suggested – there isn’t space to draw them completely, so every line has to count.

These paintings are very much about drawing technique. I plan to return to this subject matter often — drawing both the outside and inside of the property.

“It’s a bit intimidating to start one of these paintings.”

What are you working on now?
I’m working on several pieces now, including a painting of stones underwater in a forest stream. These stream paintings are interesting to work on because they are so abstract. I never know if they’ll come together until the very end. I’m also working on several cloud sketches at the moment – I always look forward to working with clouds!

The September Open Exhibit is on view through Sunday, October 2.

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For this installment of “Art Bites,” we look into the diptych of America Remembers/The Lives by Hernán Murno in the July open exhibit. Murno’s strong, graphic lines are reminiscent of early American Abstraction art of the 1940s. American Abstractionist work rose from a time of political unrest in response to WWII, and looking at Murno’s piece, you have the feeling that the aesthetic choice was not only inspired by the abstract movement but also reflective of today’s unique political tensions.

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