From the Dirt to the Skies is a group exhibition featuring new works in painting, drawing, and printmaking from four of Main Street Arts’ gallery artists — Pat Bacon, Chad Grohman, Meredith Mallwitz-Meyer, and Lanna Pejovic. The artwork is inspired by fog-laden lakes, wooded paths, gardens, and objects plucked from nature.
Executive director and curator Bradley Butler sat down with each of the artists and asked them some questions about their work and what inspires them to make it. An interesting overlap began to develop between these artists — from the motivation for making art
in the first place, to the imagery, and color palette. First up in this interview series, Finger Lakes artist Meredith Mallwitz-Meyer.
From The Dirt to The Skies:
Q: Can you talk about your paintings and what inspired them?
A: Different trips or experiences or places I have been to over the past year or so. Places I have been that I have experienced and I just found to be really beautiful that just struck me in a way, whether it be the light or a number of different things. It’s usually the light
that is the number one thing that really gets me. They were just places that I loved and took photographs of and then based on my photos and my memories and sketches that I did there in the moment, I took all those things and started paintings based on
them. In the end, the painting takes on almost a memory sort of feel. They all start from I place I have been, a place that I saw and they all are located around the Finger Lakes area.
Q: Is this inspiration and process different from what has happened for you in the past or has this always been your process?
A: It’s been a consistent process. It’s a series I started about 10 years ago now that has just continued to work for me. It’s been consistent, they have all started the same way. Now that I know my process a bit better, I know when I see something and know where it’s going to go.
I can do the research and do all the things that I need in order to get a good strong painting from it.
Q: What is on your mind when you’re working? Is there a conscious “trying to remember” things about the place?
A:Yeah! The most important thing for me is that I need peace and quiet. I need to be working by myself with no interruptions. It’s rare that I have just one photograph, I usually take a few so that I can see the way the light changes and I can put it all together to create what I think is the most compelling, strongest look. I have all those photos in front of me, whether it’s on the computer or printed out, and I usually have a vision board. And that’s really it. If I have music going it’s nothing distracting, it’s just something quiet in the background.
Q: The painting “Sonnenberg Tribute” depicts nature in a different way than most of your other work. Can you talk about what caused that shift and if that’s something you’ll be doing more of?
A: I want to do more of that going forward. I used to live down the road from Sonnenberg Gardens in Canandaigua and I would take walks through there. I love all the trees on the property, they are absolutely beautiful. One day I heard a story from someone who worked there that Mary Clark Thompson—she and her husband built the mansion at Sonnenberg—used to plant a tree in honor of every guest that she had back when she lived there. I thought that was a really cool thing, what a great way to honor a guest. I thought that deserved a painting, so I found a tree that stood out really proud and I wanted to treat it almost like a portrait but still really get the washy luminescent layers in there. I definitely hope to take this further.
Q: Can you talk about your color palette? Are these colors you have seen in the skies or are they more amplified?
A: They are colors that I have seen in the sky but they are definitely amped up. I love the soft color palette from nature but I really enjoy being able to change it and put my own take on it. It’s important to me to not be painting exactly what I see. I want it to be a little bit more of a personal experience, I think this interpretation is really important.
Q: How does your environment impact your work?
A: Oh gosh, I think my environment impacts me more than I even realize. I think going back through my paintings and remembering where the inspiration came from reminds me how much my environment influences me. I love landscapes so the Finger Lakes region always seems to be my subject matter. And it just happens to be that way. I don’t necessarily plan it to be that way it just kind of happens. So I think that because I live in such a beautiful area and the light is really beautiful and the weather and the clouds, there’s always a dramatic change in the light you can get from one moment to the next. It has a huge, huge impact on my work.
Q: I know that you were working in a different studio space this summer, what was it like being out of your usual set up?
A:I had a completely empty large room, no finished flooring or walls so it freed me up a little bit, which is important. I was able to just get things started and let the paint fly and I didn’t have any reservations. It became a really freeing experience. So having that space and having that freedom, not just the physical space but also not having to worry about getting anything dirty, I think it was a great exercise for me. It loosened up my flow of how I work a little bit more.
I was able to work on several pieces at once because I had the space which is typically how I like to work it’s just not always the most practical thing for me. I had all of the paintings in this show out while I was working on another one so I could pull from all of those. It’s important for me when I am having a show to make sure there is cohesion and a common thread through one piece to another and that they all work nicely together but still have their own identities.
This space granted me all those things which was really wonderful. It has beautiful light as well, it was a big open space with sliding glass doors and a big open backyard in the back. It was the perfect scenario.
From The Dirt to The Skies runs through Friday, October 4, 2019. Work from the exhibition can be previewed and purchased through the gallery’s online shop.