In 2019, Brian Maguire visited Dr Greg Hess, Chief Medical Examiner for Pima County, Tucson, Arizona. Dr Hess gave the artist access to some thousand visual records of migrant lives lost in the crossing from South and Central America and Mexico, into the United States.
Each discovery of a body in the desert creates a case and digital images. Using a selection from this photographic source, Brian began a new series of paintings, acknowledging the many unidentified victims who undertook this perilous journey.
In explaining his process in creating memorial works Maguire has said: “for the Juarez Femicides series I used the family photograph as an image upon which to base the commemorative painting. The mothers of deceased women and girls recognize that the portrait remembers their children as they, the mothers, remember their children.” Elaborating on Arizona, he says: “This project is different in that it is the death I record or memorialise. No family would like to retain this image of a loved one, except as needed by a process of seeking justice. My work since 1997 has become increasingly focused on lives lost, often with a political perspective on the event of the loss.”
Maguire’s most recent bodies of work directly confront issues of migration, displacement and human dignity in the face of the current global unrest. They are some of his most nuanced and ambitious to date, which he has crafted with larger brushes and thinned-down acrylic on canvas. He works slowly, using photographic sources, searching for that point where illustration ceases and art begins: ‘Looking for a single image which tells the whole story” (from interview Katzen Arts https://vimeo.com/458381364)
Maguire has shown extensively in Europe and the US, most recently at the Museo De Arte de Ciudad Juarez, Mexico and the Rubin Centre, Texas University at El Paso, Texas (September 2019), at the United Nations Headquarters, New York, (in 2020), the Rhona Hoffmann Gallery, Chicago, (January 2021), and Galerie Christophe Gaillard, Paris (March 2021).
Image: Brian Maguire Arizona 3 (detail), 2020. Photo courtesy of Kerlin Gallery, Dublin, © the artist