Meghan Chase was, until recently, part of the Porter Mill community in Beverly. Now, she is a first year student in an MFA program at the University of Colorado, where she hopes to evolve as an artist—one who continues to explore diverse media and the possibilities inherent in their intersections. She names nationally acclaimed Ghanaian artist, El Anatsui, as one whose exploration of those junctions very much speaks to her. As a young artist, she explains, “He took cans and string and trash from his village and made them look rich and lavish and expensive and beautiful.”
Currently, Chase has an exhibit on view at the Flatrocks Gallery in Gloucester. We popped in to meet the young woman responsible for the unique collection of collage pieces and to find out how they came to be.
First, she verbally subdivides the works into two categories—one group is a series of muted minimalistic compositions, the other a more developed and involved set of architecturally inspired works.
She tells the story of how she had lost interest in painting for a number of years and started “prioritizing things a little bit differently.” In response to the ennui she felt with her routine, she set out on a cross-country road trip. “I felt like I was settling into a life I don’t know I intentionally picked. I was happy but I wanted more intention and to be challenged.”
By the end of what turned out to be a six-month journey, she started making art again—in the form of small, primarily paper-based abstract pieces reminiscent of the buildings and earthy tones she was seeing, particularly in New Mexico, Texas, and Utah.
“The format of it…was conducive to my environment. I was living out of my car and on a farm for a while so I was working in small [spaces] without traditional art materials.” Hence, the paint swatches, cardboard coffee cup rings, and thread that comprise the works.
The more mature pieces in the current exhibit grew out of those earlier collages, and indicate her return to the Beverly area, where she had more art supplies with which to work, and inspiration took the form of “old buildings at the brink of their extinction.” She details their meaning, saying: “It’s about examining these places that we walk by a lot; they are cast aside and have such a rich history and life. And like everything, they have a natural life cycle and will crumble back to the earth. I like that moment of their demise.”
Chase imaginatively captures the structural elements of such places—they stand up and droop all at once. Her process mirrors the way in which old buildings begin to fall apart. She rips at paper, layers it, rips it away, and reveals patches of paint and sketches. Words and photographs are also part of the mix, making for a rich tapestry that tells a complicated story, much like the deteriorating houses she so appreciates.