Artist Melissa McGurgan on Being Slapped by Arizona Heat

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Best of Phoenix hits newsstands Sept. 26. In conjunction with this year's Vintage Phoenix theme, New Times is collaborating with R. Pela Contemporary Art to present "Hot Plate!" It's an exhibition of one-of-a-kind, Phoenix-inspired commemorative plates made by local artists. Leading up to the show's Oct. 4 opening, we're profiling each of the contributing artists and visiting their studios. Today: Melissa McGurgan.

Melissa McGurgan might have the cleanest home office we have ever seen. Opposite a modern shelving unit stacked with art books is a wall with an assortment of art pieces and prints displayed salon-style above the desk where McGurgan does most of her freelance design work. She shares the space and the phenomenal book/art collection with her husband Peter Bugg, who is a fellow staple of the Phoenix art scene. And after visiting their office, we can tell you one of these two creatives definitely has a thing for pink.

See Also: Hot Plate! Best of Phoenix Commemorative Collaboration Opens Oct. 4 at R. Pela Gallery

McGurgan's background is in printmaking; she has an MA from Arizona State University. She confesses that she does have a day job, but since 2006 she has also worked as a freelance graphic designer. Much of the visual material for IN FLUX and Scottsdale Public Art can be attributed to McGurgan's independent business.

What's your earliest memory of Phoenix? I arrived to Phoenix in August 2004. After driving cross-country for 3 days, I was greeted with Arizona heat for the very first time while unpacking all of my belongings at 5pm in the afternoon. The 115-degree temperature was incomprehensible. I felt surrounded by heat like I had never felt before; it was like standing in front of an oven and a hair dryer simultaneously. I have since grown to adore the climate that slapped me in the face upon arrival. This memory is not only my first, but one that will never leave me.

What inspired your plate for this show? I am intrigued by idioms and local language. In 2010 I created a series of tongue-in-cheek letterpress prints inspired by phrases and landmarks unique to the Valley. When I was approached by Robrt to participate in this exhibit, I immediately thought of this previous series and how a similar concept might translate to a commemorative plate. With heat being the element of Phoenix most vivid and iconic to me, I decided to create a mini-collection of plates which play on the exhibit name and common idioms referencing situations where one might feel hot.

Phoenix needs more: Phoenix needs more people who believe in this city's potential and are willing to actively make this a better place.

Phoenix needs less: Haters.

What's on your plate this fall? Embracing two digit temperatures, designing lots of fun collateral for the IN FLUX public art initiative, traveling to Connecticut for a guest artist residency, and celebrating my first year of marriage.

See Melissa McGurgan's work when "Hot Plate!" opens October 4 at R. Pela Contemporary Art.

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