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Artist Interview: Mary Meyer

While Mary Meyer never gave up on art, for a short time she was not producing any new work, or showing at any galleries. So, it is especially exciting to see her new show, Mirrored now at the Eye Lounge in Phoenix, AZ. We should all be glad that she is back.

Mary is a lover of the natural world and all of it’s common patterns, and symmetrical properties. She really likes to get down to the biology and the minutia of what makes the universe work. These details are like a puzzle for her as she curates and organizes them in a way that makes sense to her. She is sure in her craft, and uses her ceramic and metal making talents to remake these natural elements as she sees fit. The result may not be recognizable as trees, pods, seeds, or cells, but they are believable as part of the natural world. Each element has their own identity, is organic, patterned, and hints at sexuality, but they become part of her own unique universe.

I met with Mary at her current show (now through Sunday May 13th) over the weekend. Here is our interview.

Culture Seen: It seems to me that you like to look at the world, find something that interests you, and take apart that piece, dissect it, and understand it, and put it back together somehow that you can understand. Am I wrong about that?
Mary Meyer: That is fairly accurate. I have a simplicity of vision– observing, exploring, happening upon something of interest then selecting what is essential based on a feeling. I work in a methodical, yet intuitive way based on process and materials,. Certain methods such as direct carving or hand-building lend themselves more to a stream of consciousness way of working, kind of like driving without a road map. Sometimes I have to live with a piece for a while to really understand what it means or where it came from.

I’ve recently been incorporating photography into my work, and utilizing digital images of natural found objects. There is an immediacy that I enjoy with photography that is unlike any other process. Images I capture while exploring nature on hikes and travels become the seeds by which something else manifests.

It is interesting that you use the word “dissect”, as that is an element that has long been part of my imagery. I have a very curious nature– always intrigued by the relationship between volume and surface– the inner structure that describes outer form. Dissection also speaks of duality, another concept that seems to bubble to the surface. Duality of self, notions of identity, roles we play or are expected to play. Opposing sides are needed for balance.

What inspires you? (What do you find inspirational?)
The observation and touch of organic form; symmetry found in the anatomy of botanical life, the human figure. I love the desert, and spend as much time as I can being in the landscape and drawing inspiration from it. There is a quote that describes this:

The body repeats the landscape. They are the source of each other and create each other
— Meridel Le Sueur

Tucked In (33-64)
painted & tea-stained ceramic, thread, muslin, wood

The tiny correspondences that structure the world–the veins in our bodies, the branches of trees— the inherent similarities that connect all living things are a constant source of inspiration. I find a sense of comfort and balance in the simple forms of beauty. The idea of comfort and place are very important to me, as evident in the work Tucked In. Made of painted and tea-stained ceramic, this wall installation features a series of hand-sculpted forms that are stitched into a framework of muslin pillows. For me they are a reminder of connectedness and how each thing has place as an important part of the whole… a grand design.

Biological science is another source of inspiration, and something I would like to research further. I am fascinated with microscopic images and find them quite beautiful. There is an internalized energy apparent in cell structures that I relate to and recognize in the forms that I create.

Are their any particular influences for your work (other artists, music, literature, etc)?
Brancusi was my first love and remains a strong influence, as well as Louise Bourgeois, Andy Goldsworthy, Anish Kapoor, just to name a few. I relate most to process driven artists such as Peter Randall-Page and Wolfgang Laib. Both speak to the spirituality of materials, and how the materials are there to make something else happen, to manifest an energy. Also, there is an emphasis on repetition as a way to access the imagination, the sub-conscious. Both have a very transcendental, ritualistic approach to their work that I identify with, and an interest in how objects affect the emotional response of the viewer.

There are also several photographers that I admire, Edward Weston for one. And Weed Against the Sky by Harry Callahan is one of my favorite images.

Music is essential to my life and is almost always playing in my studio, a part of my process. I listen to everything from Debussy to The Raveonettes.

Could you tell me a little about your current show?
The show features a series of installations that investigatesymmetry through a progression of form and material, with works ranging from waxed-dipped pigment prints, to painted ceramic forms, to polished aluminum castings. The word mirrored encompasses not only the physical characteristics of the space, but also describes what inspires me, the materials I choose, and the methods used.

Mirror Trees (10 – 16)
pigment prints, graphite, beeswax, thread, sewing  needles, wood

The works all carry forms with bilateral symmetry— an important element in my imagery reflected throughout our bodies and in nature. This balance of form is echoed in the process, and the dialogue I have with the materials which creates a sense of centeredness and presence.

Mirror Tree #15
pigment print, graphite, beeswax, thread, sewing needle, wood

The series Mirror Trees represents a new direction in my work, and features pigment prints of trees and branches photographed at the site of the 2002 Missionary Ridge Wildfire in Southwestern Colorado. I was drawn to the stark beauty of the charred pines and their very human, skeletal qualities. I knew I wanted to digitally mirror the images to further emphasize the inherent symmetry, and from there just started exploring each image/form through various layers of processes and materials. The finished pieces are comprised of prints and graphite drawings on hand cut paper that is dipped in beeswax, stitched with thread, then mounted on wood. A sewing needle is also stitched into each one, and serves as the backbone that divides each image.

Whether it be through sculpting clay or wax, or the many stages of metal casting, I have always been drawn to tactile materials and methods that foster a meditative state of mind. For me, this state of mind is achieved through the repetitive action of creating multiples. I enjoy seeing the individual components finally brought together in a given space, and how they inscribe the passage of time and movement through the progression of form.

The sewing needle has long played an important role in my work, as it does with this installation. It is symbolic of the repetitious activity that is so integral to my process. I am intrigued by the simplistic beauty of this object, and its capacity to simultaneously mend and pierce, penetrate and support. The forms created in both Tucked In and Reflect (which are polished aluminum castings of the ceramic originals in Tucked In) are all inspired by the sewing needle.

Reflect (1 – 16)
cast aluminum, graphite, sewing needle, wood

As with all my work, my goal with Mirrored is to reactivate the physical and mental processes of change that have produced each individual piece, and create an atmosphere of reflection and connectedness, stillness and movement. To solicit the viewer to pause and consider the moment, and themselves in it.

Reflect (detail)
cast aluminum, graphite, sewing needle, wood

The exhibition is currently on view at eye lounge contemporary art space and runs through Sunday May 13th.

Have you always made art? Do you remember when or where you first found the artist in yourself?
Yes, since I was old enough to hold a pencil, crayon, anything that made a mark. I was content for hours with only a drawing tool and paper, and intrigued with the figure at a very early age. It wasn’t until I discovered stone carving that my interest turned more towards sculpture. The thought process and methods I learned using a point and mallet on a chunk of alabaster are still with me today.

I have gone through periods in my life where I did not create any art and those were empty times. Looking back I recognize that I can’t deny the fact that I am an artist. I have the need to create. My studio is definitely my happy place in this world.

What are you thinking about now? (What’s next?)
Well, after talking about stone carving I’m ready to dust off that point and mallet and revisit my roots!

I’m also working on a series of pigment prints and drawings that continue to explore the idea behind Mirror Trees, but more specific to the desert. These pieces are planned for a show taking place this fall in Israel, as part of an international exchange exhibition between eye lounge contemporary art space and Agripas 12 Gallery in Jerusalem.

Tucked In (detail)
painted & tea-stained ceramic, thread, muslin, wood

For more about the artist, go to Mary Meyer’s website. Information is also available at The Eye Lounge

Photos: Mary Meyer

  1. Mary Neubauer (Reply) on Tuesday 8, 2012

    Great to see your new work, Mary! it is just beautiful. All the Best, Mary N.

  2. Anne Barton (Reply) on Tuesday 8, 2012

    This interview makes me want to see your work in person. Hope I can do that soon!