107 Bowers Gallery & Art Space: Artist Conversation with Meridith McNeal
Who are you and where do you live? Meridith McNeal, Brooklyn NY
Are you an artist for your full-time work? If not, what is your day job? While I am indeed an artist, I am also the Director of Education for Rush Arts, a not-for-profit arts organization dedicated to providing underserved youth with contemporary art education, and developing and supporting artists, curators and new audiences.
What was your pivotal moment in your life that drove you to create art? I have always been an artist. In fact, my earliest memory (at about the age of 3) is creating a collage while sitting on the stoop of our building.
Where do you show your art? My work is represented by Figureworks Gallery in Williamsburg Brooklyn. This spring my work has shown (or is currently on view) in the following exhibitions and venues: Inside/Outside Windowphilia, (one person) Figureworks, Brooklyn, through July 30; We Are All Puppets (one person), HEREart, NYC through June 18; The View from Here, (one person), FiveMyles, Brooklyn, NY through June 15; Political Unrest Revisited, Figureworks, Brooklyn, NY FabrianoIn Acquarello 2017, Torre Truglia, Sperlonga, Italy; Finestre e altei oggetti magici (one person), Il Tramonto, Sperlonga, Italy; In Reflection, (one person) Torre Truglia, Sperlonga, Italy; and also here in Jersey City in The Four Seasons, Village West Gallery, through July 30, 2017 and at Notes From Abroad 107 Bowers Gallery & ArtSpace through July 29, 2017.
What is the most exciting moment of your art career? I have had many exciting moments! Having work in a show alongside Andy Warhol in Fashion Forward at the Islip Art Museum in Islip, NY was pretty great! I was also thrilled when the Museum at SUNY Albany exhibited my series of Roman Windowphilia. The exhibition designer suggested painting the walls gray, however I suggested “Roman Yellow” as an alternative. The curator did not confirm the color choice, so when I arrived at the opening, and climbed the big grand staircase to the gallery where Windowphilia was featured, I actually squealed out loud, “YOU DID IT! ROMAN YELLOW!”
Does your art have a message that you want to share? I love this thoughtful piece about my work written by Lisa Peet, associate news editor at Library Journal, writer, reviewer, and artist living in the Bronx, NY.
“Every piece of artwork holds two sets of gestures: those of the artist and those of the viewer. The artist’s gestures are often literal and easy to discern in the ways paint is applied, how the pen is held, the thickness or delicacy of a line. But there is also the implicit intimation—how is the artist directing her audience; what is she asking of us?
Meridith McNeal’s painting, gains a fiercely dynamic energy from an opposing, yet entirely compatible, set of messages. The paintings—of windows in Rome and Sperlonga, and a collection of 12x12” objects entitled “Magical Things”—request two kinds of action from the observer. McNeal is clearly beckoning, inviting us through a series of life-sized windows that look out onto beguiling landscapes. But she is also asking us to stop, wait, and look more closely at what lies inside. In addition to their respective exterior landscapes, each window painting alludes to a rich interior, sometimes overtly but more often with just the hint of what lies beyond the frame. The Magical Things make this directive even more explicit. In each small piece, McNeal pays loving attention to ordinary objects that might otherwise be overlooked without her guidance.
Open, shut, ajar; curtained or naked; opaquely reflective or straightforwardly transparent—McNeal’s windows all have their own ways of inviting the viewer in. And at the same time, each one begs you to wait just a moment. The suggestion of amiably appointed spaces, with their lush houseplants and artwork on the walls, checks the impulse of flight. And the lushness of these interiors is fully capable of standing up to the fantastic world beyond, reminding us that what is contained in our own parallel points of view has just as much to offer as what lies outside.
And to further provoke contemplation, McNeal offers us the wonders of the mundane. Magical Things, a series of watercolor and ink studies, venerates the easily overlooked objects of everyday life: a bowl of olive oil, a paper boat, a jar of pepper. With the artist’s affectionate ministrations, these become totems, Milagros—charms of mindfulness, imbued with a power greater than the sum of their parts. While the window paintings encourage width and breadth, these smaller works speak out against the impulse to take anything for granted. They too play with the same sense of depth as the windows, but on an entirely different scale. The surprising tactility of a box of aspirin embossed with Braille, peppered cucumber salad in a flowered bowl, the quiet gleams of coins forgotten on the terracotta floor—these are indeed magical, and not just to the artist who celebrates them.”
Work from both my Windowphilia and Magical Things series are included in Notes From Abroad.