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Fashionably Famous: DC Emerging Artist – John Brendan Guinan

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By Politiquette’s Marissa Mitrovich: Politiquette is a place to be inspired by the art of fashion. Readers gain an understanding of the politics of why to wear–and the etiquette of when to wear–specific styles. Marissa Mitrovich founded Politiquette with the goal of bringing further substance to the dialogue surrounding style in DC.

This past week I had the opportunity to spend some time with one of DC’s (and the country’s) most intriguing, talented and stylish emerging artists, John Brendan Guinan. John is one of the more interesting people I have encountered in a long time and has quite an amazing personal story. John began his post-collegiate career working in Northern Ireland for DC based NGO, Peace Players International.  He returned to the states and had a stint working in management consulting.  Subsequently, and most recently, John worked for a soccer and slam poetry organization, DC Scores.  He spent his free time going to shows, recording his own music, writing and hanging out with friends and family.  He assumed he would continue on a traditional professional path similar to many of his peers until John’s life took a very unexpected turn.

In 2014, John’s father, founder of Community for Creative Nonviolence (CCNV), prolific social justice activist and author, Edward Guinan became ill and ultimately passed away the day after Christmas.  John turned to painting as a way to channel his energy during this emotional and tumultuous time.  He shared his work with a few friends and they encouraged him to feature the art on a Tumblr blog. Within a short period of time, a DC based art curator that worked for the Smithsonian reached out to him in regards to his work and John has never looked back.  


In 2015, John had his first solo show in NY entitled The Art of Mourning – a tribute to his father.  The show was an incredible success and cemented him as a top emerging artist.  He now has a newly renovated, 1,000+ sq. Ft. gallery and studio space in the Logan Circle neighborhood of D.C.  You have to ask him for the address though.  It’s not publicized to ensure that he can maintain a focused studio practice.  Collectors from all over the world visit his space by appointment only to learn more about his process and look at his latest bodies of work.  He is currently preparing to show his work at Art Basel Miami’s Satellite Fair next month – one of the greatest accomplishments an artist can achieve in their career.  Moreover, he is preparing for a solo show in NYC slated for the spring.  And if all of this wasn’t enough, an Oscar-winning team of filmmakers is documenting his art career.  John’s paintings are large, vivid, emotive and visceral.  I think it’s fair to say that his monumental paintings reflect the brightness ahead for his burgeoning art career.  

John is clearly a busy man, but he made time to meet with me this past week at the very hip Hecht Warehouse in Ivy City.  His work was being documented there as part of the film.  While I think he was doing me a solid by inviting me on-site to see things in action, I am also suspect he needed an extra body to help move art around.  Thankfully, I wore sneakers.


Here is the conversation I had with John onsite:

Who is your favorite artist?

JBG:  I have a deep admiration and respect for DC Based color field artist Sam Gilliam.  Another one of my heroes is German artist Anselm Kiefer.  Kiefer is deeply spiritual.  I have a similar paradigm to him in many respects. 

What are your favorite DC spots for art?

JBG: I love the The Hirshhorn and The Phillips Collection.  They are world-class institutions.  

What is it like to be an artist in a town dominated by politics?

JBG:  I think it can be beneficial.  Washington is an incredibly educated and sophisticated city for the most part.  In turn, many of the people here are yearning for contemporary fine art.  Politicos are pretty well informed and can have a keen sense of culture and art.  

DC is becoming more known as a creative hub, why do you think this is?

JBG:  DC has a rich cultural history when it comes to jazz, food, go-go, and hardcore punk rock among many other things.  I think native Washingtonians have always been conscious of these roots.  It seems like recent DC transplants are beginning to have a deeper appreciation for its rich cultural history.  I also think many transplants have contributed a great deal to expanding upon our amazing and colorful artistic roots.  Also, DC Is comprised of a lot of Millennials and Gen Xers who have a deep interest in establishing and maintaining a colorful creative culture.   

Since this is technically a “fashion column” who is your style icon?

JBG:  I would have to say the pale rider himself, Johnny Cash. 

What is your favorite item of clothing?

JBG: My style is classic, Americana.  I like Dickies, Levi’s and black and white t-shirts.

You can check out John Brendan Guinan’s work on his website, Instagram or if you happen to be in Miami for Art Basel December 1-4.