Gwen Meharg



GWEN MEHARG


Gwen Meharg - Golden Hour 60 x 60

Gwen Meharg
Golden Hour
60 x 60

Gwen Meharg - Marking Time Series. 2019- 2020

 


Do artist brains work differently?
I don't think so, but I only have experience with the one brain.
A psychiatrist friend of mine disagrees. She tells me I see the world in a unique way.
As an experiment, join me for a walk through of the conception of my painting series, Marking Time.

It began in the car listening to an NPR radio broadcast about the connection between language and color. I was working on a solo show and decided to break from those preparations and explore ways that language limits how we perceive the world. I am not fond of limits. The dance of questions began unbidden.

Does language impact what I see? Is color a social construct? I see blue. You see blue. Are we seeing the same thing? I don't want my capacity to experience colors to be limited! Red, yellow, and blue, three primary colors, is an indisputable fact. Right? Not right. Cyan, yellow, and magenta have skin in that game. The way we classify color temperature is not even the same across cultural lines. AUGH!

Language also impacts what we are capable of comprehending. Understanding is limited by vocabulary. The American vocabulary is quickly shrinking. We are lesser for that educational crime. Without vocabulary to express a concept, what happens to that idea? Can it exist beyond the mind? Can it even exist within the mind without words for it to embody? Are we more than our words? Words are not universal. How does one interpret poetry from one language to another without an equivalent word? Like plants and animals, languages risk extinction. The loss of a language is unspeakable.

Does fit in a discussion about art? Is art a language? If so, it is a language interpreted through individual experience. Individual interpretation of and experience with a piece of art is beyond the artist's grasp. Is it possible for art to hold a place where there are no words? What of Music? Dance? Literature? What happens to the stories when there is no longer a language to share them? Can our artists carry something of the story forward? I lack the vocabulary to answer. The answer lays some place between yes and no.

We learn "our" colors before we learn to tie our shoes (or Velcro them.) In many languages, the linguistic difference between blue and green is referential; blue like the sky or blue like a leaf. The Himba tribe in northern Namibia organizes color in such a way that they can perceive greens I am incapable of distinguishing. In English we say, "eat your greens." In Japanese, vegetables "smell of blue."
Gwen Meharg - Like the Leaf 48 x 48
Gwen Meharg
Like the Leaf
48 x 48


Like the Sky and Like the Leaf were created as I pondered of the idea that someone might experience my art so differently than I experience it.

What seemingly centralized our global understanding of a color was a child's toy. Crayons, those little boxes of wax pigment sticks, began the standardization of color across cultures in 1917.I have never had a conversation about color with someone who categories color differently from my Crayola box understanding of color, but I hope to. With that little paper box of Crayolas, did the world become larger or smaller?

I think smaller.

Every Morning came was the first of the Marking Time series. I did not recognize it as a series, but I did recognize it as new for me. Prior to NYE 2019, the brisk hash marks had not appeared. A new mark for a new year. Surprised, I trusted the process and followed the painting.
Gwen Meharg - Every Morning 72 x 48
Gwen Meharg
Every Morning
72 x 48


The rhythm of the mark making resonates with me. Life abounds in repetitive marks. Get up. Brush your teeth. Make the coffee. Feed the dog. Grab a bagel. Go to work. Clock in. Clock out. Go home. Eat. Feed the dog. Watch a show. Brush your teeth. Go to bed.

Someone asks, "What did you do this week?" and I freeze. What, what DID I do this week? I can't remember. I AM WASTING MY LIFE! Marking Time is helping me through the existential crisis of answering this question.

Asked what I have been doing during the quarantine, I answered, quite sincerely, "Nothing." My husband cleared his throat and reminded me that it was not true. What about the 50 Rose Portrait drawings? What about the 25+ Rose Portrait paintings. (If my little rose bush holds out, my goal is at least 50 paintings.)

The Rose Portraits are my response to the lives lost and lives shattered through unchecked police violence. 100% of sales of the Rose Portraits will be donated to the Equal Justice Initiative (www.EJI.org)

How does that relate to the Marking Time series? Because making is such a daily part of my life, if I am not careful, it becomes invisible. Due to various circumstances, I have been unable to work on my large-scale Marking Time paintings for several months. Focusing on what I was NOT doing, I failed to recognize what I was doing. I was not being "present" in the moment. As soon as one piece is complete, I set it aside and start another. Out of sight, out of mind. I forget to savor the beauty that is not only the completed work, but the process. What did I do this week? Nothing. Actually...nothing is incorrect.
Gwen Meharg - Life the Flame
Gwen Meharg
Life the Flame
60 x 60


The ordinary becomes invisible. And if not invisible, unappreciated. This is a life issue, not an artist issue. Art imitates life. I hope my life can embrace the story of Marking Time. I see these paintings as a reminder to myself, an invitation for us, to see again. To explore colors we don't have the language to comprehend. To wrestle beauty from chaos. To recognize beauty that is not pretty. Changing that diaper is a beautiful thing. It means all the world to the wearer. Thank you. Marking Time celebrates the tenacity required to get up and do it again. The grace to risk the chance that beauty is even possible.

The rhythm of the marks, the rhythm of our days, can take two paths. They can become repetitive and boring. The sameness becoming a burden and an idol. Horror and panic set in when a mark does not quite line up.

Or the rhythm can embody a beat that is celebratory and meditative. In the mundane repetition, the mind is free to explore, to dance, to make new connections. Language, color, spirit, art, music, movement, breath.

Early in my parenting journey I heard Beth Alves share how she turned daily chores into her prayer time. Prayed for family when she washed the dishes. Prayed for her enemies when she cleaned the toilet. I appropriated her practice 30 years ago and it has carried me through the good, the bad, and the very very ugly.
Gwen Meharg - Inhabitation
Gwen Meharg
Inhabitation
72 x 48


When I paint, I ask of the binder and pigment to carry hope from my heart to yours.

As you step forward into the painting to explore the individual marks, you may be able to recognize the beauty in the rhythms you are living. Each mark carries with it an admonition to keep going. Each mark celebrates the bravery it takes to live life ONE More Day. And then do it again. One. More. Day.

Each mark is unique and each is part of a greater whole. An individual mark matters and yet the weight carried by a single mark is lessened when seen as part of the whole.

Days are like that. Monumental and yet insignificant.

A painting reveals both the life of the painter and the life of the viewer. We each carry a lifetime of days. A lifetime of marks. We do not choose the number of our days any more than I choose the number of marks to complete a painting. All I can do is make my marks until it was complete. That is all any of us can do.

Here, I stop and acknowledge that life can really and truly stink. Life is not easy. In my almost 60 years I have seen pain break people. I have seen others find a way forward and continue to make their marks. The Marking Time paintings ask that you consider the possibility that beauty is more than pretty.


In uncertain times, the Marking Time series is a declaration of hope.


Gwen Meharg - Transitions
Gwen Meharg
Transitions
60 x 48
Gwen Meharg, artist Marking Time paintings and Rose Portraits available for viewing and purchase at www.GwenMeharg.com Sign up for the occasional newsletter to keep informed and entertained.

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