Megan Whitmarsh's solo show Radiant Artifacts, at Michael Rosenthal Gallery opened on October 23rd here in the Mission in SF. I was super excited to see so much of her work all in one place. Megan took full advantage of the space, utilizing the walls and floor space with her sewn paintings, sculpture and installations throughout the gallery. It's a literal sewn and sculptural walk through Megan's colorful and creative world. I asked Megan a few questions about her latest show, subject matter and her colorful medium...
Special thank you to Michael Rosenthal Gallery for letting me take pics of the show.
Your current show Radiant Artifacts is really detailed with literally radiant items in both color and material everywhere in the exhibition. I personally related to so much in the show. The Cyndi Lauper & Flock of Seagull Tapes, the Rubiks cube, the rainbow erasers, moonboots, etc all brought me back to my childhood/teenage years. Can you tell us about the show & your inspiration behind it?
I grew up in 70’s and 80’s with parents that limited my exposure to pop culture (or maybe I should say curated it) so what I was exposed to made a huge impression on me. I went to art school in the middle of the country in the early 90’s and my sense of what constituted art was pretty limited. I think young artists today feel free to use any medium and reference any kind of cultural ephemera- but for me this was a radical kind of action. I think partly the radiance that you see in my work is the pure pleasure that I have in making it. I take art-making seriously and I am rigorous in it’s pursuit, but am mainly aiming for happiness and creating a world that feels immediate and enveloping.
Can you tell us about your Yetis? Who are they and what are their personalities like?
I don’t see them as iconically as other people seem to. It really started quite humbly--- I did not think I was good at drawing people but I wanted to make narrative work that people could access through a character and the yeti became a kind of surrogate for the misfit which is how I felt growing up and how a lot of artists feel growing up I think. I always thought he was a kind of sad character with some comedic possibilities and this is my favorite kind of person.
A lot of your work is soft sculpture or has some sort of sewing/embroidery involved in it. How long have you been sewing and embroidering?
In undergrad I sewed things for my sculpture classes but I actually got berated for it. I went to Kansas City Art Institute, which at the time had a really macho sculpture scene and my teacher told me I was going to end up delivering pizzas for Domino’s if I kept making such diminutive work. My work wasn’t small necessarily but always had emphasis on detail. I remember in response to that I welded this giant metal thing and covered it in paper and set it on fire for my next critique. He made me mad but I am not sure it made my art better.
It wasn’t till grad school in the mid 90’s that my work became totally focused on embroidery and using textiles and sewing objects and I kind of abandoned painting.
Do you work in/with any other craft medium? Do you see yourself branching out? Is there a medium you would like to work in that you haven't?
I don’t specifically want to work with any other craft mediums per se. I think what attracts me to fabric and thread is texture and color. These are the things I am in love with and whatever materials that play with these elements will attract me. Beyond that I am a lazy learner meaning I don’t like to have to use mechanical means or read manuals so if I can’t figure out how to work with something on my own I probably won’t master it. I am pretty impatient and like to work fast. This might seem antithetical to embroidery but the simplicity of this medium has kept me engaged. I also like limited technologies because if everything is possible I get overwhelmed and can’t commit. It’s like a restaurant. I don’t like big menus. I want things to be simple and singular and well chosen.
If you had one thing to tell a younger you about how to proceed into the art world what would it be?
I would tell myself there is no rush. I think any innovation that has happened in my work almost always came after I discerned failure and that this painful realization of freedom led to self evolution. I work hard to listen to myself and make what I feel compelled to make and this is a hard won discipline.
What is coming up for you in 2011?
I have solos in LA (this gallery), Brussels (Elaine Levy Projects) and Seoul (Factory Gallery), and an installation at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts. In the summer I will do a residency at Robert Wilson’s Watermill.