John Brendan Guinan is an American contemporary artist. He was born at home in the Logan Circle neighborhood of inner city Washington, D.C. above the homeless shelter and soup kitchen founded and run by his parents. Mother Teresa served the first bowl of soup at the kitchen's opening. John's father, activist and author, John Edward Guinan "Ed" passed away in December of 2014. The Washington Post memorialized Ed by saying, “Throughout his life, [Guinan] earned a place on the Catholic left defined by the pacifism of Dorothy Day, the civil disobedience of Daniel and Philip Berrigan and the faith-driven calls of former Peace Corps director Sargent Shriver to replace peace through strength with strength through peace".
Guinan's solo exhibition, The Art of Mourning, which debuted in August of 2015 at the Artery Gallery in New York, was comprised of pieces grieving his father’s passing. Each piece was painted while his father was sick, in hospice or recently passed. In a recent article, Guinan is quoted as saying, "My hands, brushes, paint, and pallet knives served as conduits for my emotions: joy, despair, gratitude, transformation, grace and other undefinable inklings of subconscious. Through great pain this art came out of me. It simply had to". The Art of Mourning was a major success and cemented John as a top emerging artist. His pieces are in high demand and have been purchased by collectors throughout the United States and abroad.
Guinan exhibited at Art Basel Miami's Satellite fair in 2016 curated by Black Paper based out of Los Angeles. The show touted as "Rough Ride" investigated the role of abstract expressionist paintings as ephemera and not commoditized art prizes. John's series of large scale paintings in the show were constructed of glitter, ink, alcohol, polyurethane, and oil and acrylic paint. Each of the paintings were executed by hand without the use of brush as a means for the artist to reconnect with the unbridled wonderment of youth as it pertains to self expression and creativity. His series was from a greater body of work called the "Prince of Empyrean". Empyrean is the highest point in heaven, as referenced in Dante's Divine Comedy, where the holiest of saints and angels reside along with God. Each of the pieces was painted from the vantage point of a prince (John's father Ed) living in Empyrean and what he might be seeing.
On Trump's inauguration day, less than a mile away from the White House, Guinan opened the doors of his studio and art gallery in Washington D.C to the public regardless of their political ideologies, race, sexual orientation, creed or religion. With security on hand, Anarchists from the Black Bloc movement, Trump supporters, moderate liberals, and moderate conservatives communed in harmony. The day was billed as "The Art of Reconciliation, a Sanctuary on Inauguration day". There were two installations on hand; the "Bondage of Self " installation, a 100 year old artist's stool draped with 150 lbs of chains with a red moleskin notebook on top and the "Humanity Baptism" installation, a non-religious baptismal altar. The "Bondage of Self" installation involved participants writing their anxieties, fears, and insecurities in the moleskin notebook while sitting in the artist's stool wrapped in chains . Next, the diverse community of participants collectively removed the chains and the participant wrote their hopes, wishes and dreams. The "bondage of self" installation was proceeded by a symbolic, non-religious baptism of the participant in which they were called to be reminded of their innocence as a child and connectedness to all of humanity.
The following week, Guinan took the “Bondage of Self” installation to the White House for a grueling 8 hour performance. Dressed in archetypal Washington politico attire, donning a white faceless mask and white rubber gloves, he alternated between reading the Washington Post, and writing his anxieties, insecurities and fears into a notebook while shrouded in 150 pounds of chains in below freezing weather. He enlisted a young female immigrant from Brazil, dressed in garb reminiscent of Mary Magdalen, to comfort him throughout the performance.
Guinan's painting, "Tenleytown Zebra Map', was auctioned off at Sotheby's in NYC in February of 2017, alongside pieces by Jeff Koons, Yoko Ono, Shepard Fairey, Ed Ruscha, Mark Grotjahn, Urs Fischer, Jorge Pardo and many others. Proceeds from the auction benefitted WaterKeeper Alliance.
Guinan's spirituality, unique life experiences with the poor, exposure to the tenants of social justice, and his own mental health struggles have had a deep impact on his artistic process. John's goal is to remind people of the transcendent, mystical and sublime. He uses the material tools afforded to him to disrupt the spiritual and emotional paradigms of those that engage with his art. Guinan's process is rooted in meditation, prayer, and contemplation. He has been called an "artist priest" and a "conduit for the transcendent". In his own words, "Artists are the agents of the heavens. Our job is to do the bidding of the immaterial". As a largely self-taught artist that developed outside of the academy, Guinan demonstrates great virtuosity through a pure, inspired, possessed and often anti-academic approach to painting, performance and mixed media art. The Academy Award winning Fine Films Company, creators of HBO’s “Life According To Sam”, “War Dance” and “Inocente,” are currently shooting a documentary on John Brendan Guinan and his art career.