Beauty and Toxicity: Interview with Meganne Rosen
I just moved back to Springfield, Missouri after residing in Oakland, California for two years where I recently graduated with a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. I completed my Master of Arts (MA) in Studio Art and Theory at Drury University in 2011.
My recent projects include my thesis exhibition at Minnesota Street Project in San Francisco; the publication of “Isoluminance, Racial Trauma, and the Stamina of Perception: Amanda Wallace’s Field | House” for the Wattis Institute of Contemporary Arts and contemtporary.org; my curation and participation in Artifice & Nature, a four person exhibition at CCA; and my inclusion in group exhibitions in Davis, California; Ventura, California; Woodstock, NY; and Newport, OR.
I just returned from artist residencies at LACAWAC in Aerial Lake, Pennsylvania and Byrdcliffe in Woodstock, New York.
My next solo exhibition will be at Bookmarx in Springfield, Missouri and opens December, 7, 2018.
Observation and curiosity drive my studio practice. Through the investigation of and experimentation with different kinds of materials, I express discontent with the current political climate as well as reflect on my experiences growing up in the American Midwest. My work explores entropy, artifice, consumerism, and my place in the lineage of abstraction in contemporary and modern painting and its relationship with installation art.
I compose mixed media pieces which are layered in visual dialogues. Some of the works reference the body in scale and are costume-like. The work evokes an intimate recollection of garments worn, skins shed, and packaging discarded. Each assemblage or installation is a partnership between the materials I work with and the sociopolitical, cultural context of our times.
Currently, I am working on a series of oil paintings on transparent acetate. For these works, my palette is inspired by the alluring sheen of oil spills on pavement and the iridescence of polluted sea foam. The intersection of the natural and the artificial is a site of challenge, conquest, and cohabitation. This work explores toxicity through artifice and decay. As light filters through the paint and acetate, ephemeral auras are projected on the walls creating an additional layer of color. When the works are rolled, they become core samples. Black holes of color with little universes enclosed inside. When the various iterations of this series are placed in proximity to each other, a visual conversation emerges between painting and sculpture, density and light, toxicity and beauty.
Tell me about yourself. What was your artistic journey like up to this point? How did you arrive at your current body of work?
Art has always been part of my life. My family home is filled with art and books and artifacts. My mother is a fiber artist and teaches weaving at a liberal arts college. My paternal grandmother was an artist and a poet who made stained glass windows and velvet wall hangings (image of one of Barbara Rosen's windows is attached). On family vacations, we always visited art museums. I love museums. Growing up in a family that held art in such high regard and also created an environment embedded with art objects made studying and pursuing art seem reasonable and normal. I met a lot of people in college who were majoring in business or something equally pragmatic who lamented the fact that they had to give up their love of the arts because of familial pressure. I understand that I come from a place of privilege on many levels, but I am particularly aware of how fortunate I am to have parents who value art. Their support has been very fundamental to my pursuit of a career in the arts. As an undergraduate, I majored in art history and minored in fine arts and English. I have a master's of arts in studio art and theory (Drury University) and a master's of fine arts in painting (California College of the Arts).
My current body of work developed while I was pursuing my MFA at California College of the Arts. I relished the opportunity to have devoted studio time and feedback from advisors. I was able to spend a great deal of time experimenting with new materials and concepts to push my painting further.
Tell me about the inspiration behind your recent series.
Currently, I am working on a series of oil paintings on transparent acetate. For these works, my palette is inspired by the alluring sheen of oil spills on the pavement and the iridescence of polluted sea foam. The intersection of the natural and the artificial is a site of challenge, conquest, and cohabitation. This work explores toxicity through artifice and decay. As light filters through the paint and acetate, ephemeral auras are projected on the walls creating an additional layer of color. When the works are rolled, they become core samples. Black holes of color with little universes enclosed inside. When the various iterations of this series are placed in proximity to each other, a visual conversation emerges between painting and sculpture, density and light, toxicity and beauty. A large source of inspiration for these works comes from the material itself. Working with acetate opened up a new realm of possibility in the studio for me. I had the opportunity to further explore this work in a natural setting during two artist residencies (Byrdcliffe in Woodstock, NY, and Lacawac in Lake Aerial, PA). I attached a couple of photos from Lacawac and one of me in my studio at Byrdcliffe.
Describe your creative process. How does your work come together from inspiration to execution?
This is a tricky question to answer. I work in a few different ways. I am sometimes inspired by something I read or see external to my studio and I then start working with the theme or concept until I come up with an idea for a painting. Other times, I work intuitively with paint and other materials until something starts to take shape and then I start to steer the painting in a particular direction.
Your work is visually beautiful but has an important underlying message for the viewer. What do you hope those experiencing your work take away from it? What questions should they be asking?
I love the Helen Frankenthaler quote about a really good painting looking like it "happened all at once". I think that applies to my paintings as well. They tend to have an organic, haphazard feel to them like perhaps they came together out of a series of spills or accidents and then ended up strung from the ceiling somehow. In reality, they take me months to create a endure quite a lot of meticulous editing and arrangement. I suppose I want the viewer to been drawn in and to question what they are looking at and how it came to be. I tend to give hints (or in some cases greater enigmas) by the titles of the work. I hope the viewers end up thinking about beauty and toxicity. About the ethereal and the tangible.
What do you love to do when you are not in the studio?
When I am not in the studio I love to read; to play trivia and do crossword puzzles with my partner, Ken; and to play with our cats.
What's next for you and what do you hope to accomplish in the next five years?
I am teaching fiber arts and 2D design as a per course instructor this semester at Missouri State University in the art and design department. Next semester, I am teaching art history and art appreciation as an adjunct at Ozarks Technical Community College.
Since my MFA thesis show last May (2018) at Minnesota Street Project in San Francisco, California, I have exhibited work in several group shows (in California, Oregon, New York, and Missouri). I am preparing for two upcoming solo exhibitions. For Blips this December (2018) I am painting one-hundred small, four-inch square paintings for BookMarx in downtown Springfield, Missouri. I am also starting work on several large acetate installation paintings for Transparency and Toxicity, a solo exhibition at Artlink Gallery in Fort Wayne, Indiana that will open in November 2019.
My proposal for the 2019 PCA/ACA conference in Washington D.C. was recently accepted, and I have begun writing “Craft, Color, & Contours: The Influence of Pop in Contemporary Art” to present next April in the Art & Design Culture section. This paper represents another area of interest for me: craft technique and media in fine arts. The last five years have seen an unprecedented uptick in the appearance of fiber art and ceramics in blue-chip galleries, international art fairs, contemporary museum collections, and graduate level fine art curriculum. Techniques and materials previously relegated to the realms of craft and hobby arts publications are now presented front and center in ArtForum. The common thread (no pun intended) between these works seems to be a heavy reference to the paintings and sculptures of the midcentury Pop Art Movement both in terms of palette and subject matter.
I would like to have a full time teaching position at the collegiate level, at least one additional solo exhibition, and at least three more published articles within the next five years. You can read my first published piece here.
I enjoy writing about art and find that the research and analysis that goes into my writing projects often influences my studio work.