Checking in with Cynthia Burke


What are you working on right now?

I’m working on a large oil painting of foxes in an early Flemish style. And I’m working on small copper paintings of small birds. The big one’s probably going to take all summer. The little ones only take me a couple of hours.


Locally, who would you like to collaborate with?

I’m at McGuffey Arts Center, and just being in a building working alongside 40 other artists leads me to a lot of unconscious collaboration. That’s one of the really cool things about McGuffey, that you interact every day with lots of artists in other disciplines, and everyone’s always going to other people, saying “What do you think of this, do you think I should change this,” so, you know, in one sense I have collaboration going on all the time.


Cynthia Burke, a member artist at McGuffey Art Center and an actress, wrapped up a performance of Les Liaisons Dangereuses at Live Arts last month.

What is your first artistic memory from childhood?

I can say two different things. I remember some tiny little painting of a sailboat, although I have no idea how young I was when I did it. But as far as me remembering, when I was about 14, my parents got me into one-on-one lessons with an artist. It was really an important time because it made me feel like there was something special going on. It inspired me this year to mentor a student from Western High School. She was the same age I was, and I thought, oh, these kids really have an impression on her. I should do this. And it was a really wonderful experience.


Do you have any pets?

I have a cat. She’s a calico cat. I did a big painting of her, which is something I never do, because since I paint animals and birds, I’m constantly asked to paint pet portraits, which I have refused to do. It sort of sounds like the bottom of the barrel of the art world to me. But I did have to paint a painting of my cat, because she’s real old, and she won’t be around forever.

What work of public art do you wish was in your private collection?

That’s easy. Those big animal photographs hanging on the Downtown Mall at the LOOK3 photo festival, by Nick Nichols. I would love to have one of those filling up a whole wall in my house. And I wouldn’t mind having that rhinoceros on Preston Ave. in my backyard.


If you’re cooking a meal for yourself, what do you make?

I cook a lot for myself, because I find cooking really relaxing. But I guess I’d make pasta, pasta and maybe some more pasta.


Item you’d splurge on?

I love having other artists’ artwork in my home. It’s filled with artwork. The really neat thing is that I’ve acquired all of that artwork through trading my own artwork. There’s nothing better than trading one artist’s artwork for another, because you’re both getting the better deal. Since I do make a living as an artist, I can’t afford to break the bank on anything, so trading is the way to go.


What would you do if you knew that you couldn’t fail?

Maybe jump out of an airplane. What do you call it? With a parachute on your back. Skydiving. That really scares me. But if I knew that I couldn’t fail, then I’d do it. But then again, if I knew that I couldn’t fail, I guess it wouldn’t be as exciting to do.


If you could have dinner with any person, living or dead, who and why?

It sounds so sappy, but what comes to mind is my parents. Because they’re not alive, and they never really got to see me be successful as an artist. 


What’s your favorite board game?

I’m really addicted to Lexulous on Facebook. It’s Facebook’s version of Scrabble, and I play with people all over the country. Family members, old friends. It’s addictive. I come from a Scrabble family.