You could call her a muralist, and you’d be correct … sort of. You could call her an artist, and that would be correct but too general. You could call her a painter, but Desiré doesn't call herself that. You could ask Desiré McGinn what she does, but the answer isn’t so simple.
“It’s hard to describe what I do,” Desiré said, as we chatted in The Rocket at 903 West Garland Avenue in North Spokane.
Visit Desiré’s Facebook page and you’ll see samples of her artwork in various places, such as in her home; at a festival on San Juan Island where she used to live; at Chompers Café in Hayden, Idaho; at Batch Bakeshop at 2023 West Dean Avenue in West Spokane; and at Ruby Salon at 176 South Howard Street in downtown Spokane. Look at the images of her artwork and you’ll see right away that you won’t be able to easily categorize her artistry.
As time goes on, though, you may see more of Desiré's artwork as she develops and expands her business, which she’s done, in part, with the help of a local Spokane non-profit organization that many people may not realize does more than just help low-income people with their housing and financial-planning needs.
I first met Desiré at the Spokane Neighborhood Action Partners Women’s Business Center in 2015 when she and I (and others) attended several small-business workshops the WBC offered at no charge to people who wanted to start or build their small businesses. While my association with the WBC goes back only about a year, Desiré said she’s “been linked up with SNAP forever.”
“I absolutely love SNAP,” she said, adding that SNAP “has been a monumental part of my success.”
The SNAP Women’s Business Center is a gem of a resource for people who want to start or expand their small businesses, offering a variety of free workshops to educate people on everything from business planning to taxes to legal issues. The WBC also offers a technology grant for people who qualify financially, where they can receive some types of equipment, such as a laptop computer or tablet, to help jump-start or improve their business.
A few days before our conversation in The Rocket, I had the pleasure of photographing Desiré McGinn at the site of her work of custom painted wall art in Ruby Salon. There she recently completed a one-of-a-kind wall-sized mural that covers most of two walls and reflects -- in a stylized and artistic way -- Ruby Salon’s core service of retail hair styling.
When you walk through the main entrance to Ruby Salon, you can’t help but notice the mural that Desiré calls, simply, the “Ruby Salon Mural.” The wispy, flowing strands of hair that radiate from the face of a painted woman lost in thought seem to reach out to greet you and draw you into the salon as your eyes follow the hair lines and eventually land on the woman’s closed-but-suggestive eyes.
Except for the initial paint sketches Desiré made from a projected image of a woman’s face, the entire mural is an exercise in free-hand painting artistry that, says Desiré, is “something that you can’t get with wallpaper.”
And that may be the best way to begin to describe the artwork that Desiré produces for her customers. It’s custom, it’s unique, and, she said, it reflects her vision of the spaces in which she paints and her personal aesthetic influenced by patterns, graphic design and a fondness for things vintage. While paint is her medium of choice and painted art her product, “I don’t consider myself a painter” she said.
Desiré calls herself a custom surface designer. “I feel most comfortable in design,” she said, adding that she has a “decent eye for design” and naturally gravitates toward design. Of late she’s considered calling her business Baxspin Custom Surface Design, reflecting the vintage aspect of her design sensibilities along with the idea that she can create designs for any solid surface, be it a wall, a floor, a door, a sculpture, a large concrete ball – anything on which she can apply her medium of choice for that project.
When it comes to her art, Desiré doesn’t look to do what other artists do and isn’t really interested in the cliché scenes of gardens and bucolic landscapes that people often want for their wall spaces (though she’ll do that if that’s what a customer wants).
For her, “it’s all about what the design does for the space,” she said. “It’s a point of interest.”
She designs art to answer the question “What does this space need?” she said.
The wispy-haired painted woman who now adorns two walls in Ruby Salon is a perfect example of that, with her stylized hair tousled by a phantom wind that silently urges you to take a seat at one of the salon stations, or at least make yourself comfortable on the couch below the woman’s hair.
But while Desiré may not call herself a painter, painting offers her something intangible that many people probably don’t experience in their regular workaday lives: “Painting is therapeutic,” she said. “I can get lost in a painting and forget that time exists,” recalling one day at Ruby Salon where she painted for 14 hours, ending her day at 3 a.m.
Desiré has been involved with art from an early age, she said, continuing through grade school, high school and at Gonzaga University. She’s studied many forms of art, including painting, ceramics, drawing, photography and others, and now focuses on the surface designs that so enchant and challenge her.
“I’m always looking for something new and exciting,” she said. “Every job has stretched me in some way, and I love the challenge of a new project.”
One of the challenges she faces as an artist is to develop a portfolio of work that people can recognize as hers, “so people get what I’m doing,” she said.
What she does is create original artwork derived from her vintage, pattern and graphic-design aesthetic, which she said is the realm she prefers to work in, especially on a large scale, like an entire wall in a hair salon, or throughout a cafe.
Desiré's portfolio is sure to grow as she plans and executes future projects. If you appreciate her work and want to hire her for your large-scale art project, keep one thing in mind: Don’t expect Desiré McGinn to do exactly for you what she’s done for someone else.
“I definitely don’t want to repeat,” she said, adding that she always looks for the unique factor, emphasizing her distaste for that other wall covering.
“I like it when you can tell it’s hand-painted,” she said. “That’s what thrills me: Do what you can’t get with wallpaper.”
If you’re interested in what the SNAP Women’s Business Center can offer you, call the center at 509-456-7106, and then select option 5.