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Meet the award winners from XXXV Arizona Aqueous

Meridith McNeal

Artist Meridith McNeal

“Inside Outside Quarantine A Cropolis” Juror’s Award Aqueous XXXV

Q: What exhibits at Tubac Center of the Arts have you participated in and have you won any awards there or elsewhere?

In 2020 Meridith’s work received Curators Choice for Excellence in WASH 2020, Sacramento, CA; awarded Curators Choice for Excellent Artwork in Open Exhibition for Art Room Contemporary; and awarded Honorable Mention, Open Art Show, Grey Cube Gallery. She is currently a finalist International Emerging Artist Award and the Cape Cod Museum/Cape Cod Players Summer Play competition (final selections delayed due to pandemic). In 2020 and 2019 she was recognized with Artists of the Year by the Circle Foundation for the Arts, Lyon, France. In 2019 she was awarded an Individual Artists Grant, Brooklyn Arts Fund Program, by BAC (Brooklyn Arts Council); Best of Show in Arizona Aqueous XXXIV at Tubac Center of the Arts, Tubac AZ; cited for top merit in 2019 Contemporary Art Survey at Lincoln Center in Fort Collins, CO; and received the jury top merit award for my work included in Loss, Redemption and Grace at EBD4, Chamblee, GA. In 2017 she was a finalist in painting for the Arte Laguna Prize International Art Award, Venice, Italy.  She is included in You Are Here/NYC: Mapping the Soul of the City, Katharine Harmon, Princeton Architectural Press, 2016; Map As Art Contemporary Artists Explore Cartography, Katharine Harmon, published by Princeton Architectural Press, 2009.

Q: How did you first connect as an artist with Tubac Center of the Arts?

My work was included in Arizona Aqueous XXXIV. I called to discuss the installation of my unframed work which is pinned to the wall with map tacks.  I spoke with Karon Leigh who was gracious and enthusiastic.  She was pleased to hear I ship my large paintings rolled in heavy mailing tubes which helps when organizing international exhibitions and was pleased to accommodate the installation. I am a Brooklyn-based artist.  While I show very frequently in New York City and abroad, I made it a goal a few years ago to exhibit in more areas with broader audiences, potentially expanding my exposure to art lovers and collectors.  I am thrilled to spread my wings to Arizona! 

Q: Since most of us are stuck at home due to the Pandemic, we’d like to know about what you’ve been doing creatively during the quarantine. We’d love to hear what you have been working on and have you learned anything new.

I am working on two distinct bodies of work during the pandemic: Inside Outside Windowphilia from Quarantine and Magical Things From Quarantine.  My studio is the top floor of my Brooklyn row-house (built in 1863) in the Clinton Hill neighborhood.  In the center of my studio there is a larger red rug which operates as art storage covering a thick stack of large paintings and drawings on paper.  It makes for a strangely buoyant surface to walk on!  I pin paper to the wall and work standing.  I share my studio with my cats Rik and Lola. 

I live on a residential block that was originally built for service industry and carriage houses between two very grand avenues.  Across from my house is a public playground where I commandeer a handball court for one hour every day to hula hoop with my 20+ hoops.  NYC shut playgrounds for many months during quarantine but fortunately I have a small back garden, quite a luxury in NYC, where I make the best of it hooping every day.

I do not drive and before stay-at-home orders I walked at least 10 miles in the course of a regular day.  I still walk but not quite as much.  The few forays beyond my Clinton Hill neighborhood: Lower East Side to see an exhibition about women and power; Crown Heights to see my friend Jeffrey Gibson’s exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum; Williamsburg to honor 20 years of exhibition at the pioneering Figureworks gallery; and PS1 to see Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration (one of the most powerful and profound exhibitions I have seen in decades!).  Even during the pandemic these splendid and groundbreaking exhibitions are on view in NYC.

I am fortunate to have a wonderful community of students and fellow artists in ART YARD BKLYN.  We use contemporary art practices to foster critical thinking among underrepresented youth, helping them to improve academic achievement, increase civic engagement, and realize personal goals. We believe art is a holistic endeavor that allows young people to delve into any topic imaginable, and that the practice of learning, creating, thinking, sharing, and self-examining helps to nourish body and soul, and to build social responsibility.  

Before the onset of COVID-19, ART YARD provided art education programs in public schools, and classes and workshops at the Kentler International Drawing Space in Brooklyn during the afterschool hours and on Saturdays. With the pandemic, we pivoted to full online programming, providing a forum for existing students, instructors, and artists as well as former students and others who have moved from NYC. As a result of COVID, we have enriched and expanded AYB’s community far beyond the New York metro area.

The pandemic has forced all of us to reassess what is important and valuable in our lives, our homes, and our social interactions. Through ART YARD virtual programs, I have been able to continue working with an eclectic, exciting talented network of artists of all ages and experiences. After our ART YARD Zoom sessions end I often say to myself (out loud. more than once): “This session was genius.” Following months of crisis, we are all feeling haggard, worn, and defeated. Many of us are without paying work and missing the affirmation of social interactions. I have created a community where people from all ages and walks of life are supported and encouraged to be artists, acknowledged for their ideas, and listened to with respect. All of them have told me how important ART YARD is to them. It is definitely an oasis for me.

Q: Where do you create your artwork? In your home?  A studio? What is your workspace or studio like? Is it clean and neat or messy? Do you listen to music, podcasts?

My studio is very neat and inviting.  It is filled with colorful rugs, mismatched furniture, and during the day filled with light from 6 windows and two skylights.  It has very uneven but beautiful original wood floors.  There is a string of crystals hanging in the back window which spin rainbows on the walls most afternoons. I call this the Rainbow Hour.

I enjoy silence and often work in quiet.  However, I find that at different stages in a piece I am able to listen and work intuitively.  I am an avid reader and listen to audio books when I am the right point.  I just finished listening to Helen Macdonald read her splendid book Vesper Flights and have just started Barbara Tuckman’s Before A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century.

In my opinion, James Baldwin is one of the geniuses of the 20th century.  When I heard about Ikechúkwú Casmir Onyewuenyi’s Spotify station Chez Baldwin selections of vinyl records left behind by James Baldwin in Chez Baldwin after his death in 1987 I signed up for Spotify!  I am loving listening to Baldwin’s records!  I am also really enjoying Brooklyn- Based Artist David Ellis’s Spotify station Broken Glass Everywhere.  Or I’ll just cue up some Prince and crank the volume.

Q: How do you want to affect people with your artwork and is there anything you would like to improve upon in your work?

I was just talking with the collector who bought my painting Inside Outside Leaded Glass (Yorkville, NYC), 2020, watercolor on paper, 78×55”.  He has it hanging in his office (essential business) where it has been admired by colleagues.  One thought it was Lebanese architecture, another person was certain the painting depicted a typical Moroccan Mosque.  The collector assumed it was an image from one of my sojourns to Italy.  In fact, it’s an image of a rather decrepit church in Manhattan now operating as a daycare center!   This is an example of how I think it works – the viewer sees the piece through their own experience.  I consider that the “access point”.  Once you’ve lured them into the work the magic can begin.

Q: Where can people see some of your work? Provide your website, Facebook, Instagram, other places virtual or in-person.

My website is: https://sites.google.com/site/meridithmcneal/home

You can read what we are up to each week at ART YARD BKLYN here: https://www.artyardbklyn.org/blog

My site-specific exhibition French Windows, is currently on view at Appetit Bistro, Port Chester, NY.  My upcoming exhibitions include The Way We See It at FiveMyles Gallery in Crown Heights,  Brooklyn and my exhibition Graceful Confusion which was postponed due to the pandemic will be on view at Magazzino Gallery, Palazzo Polignac, Venice, Italy in spring 2022.

My work is recently included in several literary magazines including:

Vox Viola Literary Magazine: amplifying women’s voices through poetry, prose, and visual arts. https://voxviola.com/issue-three-meridith-mcneal/

Reed Magazine, San Jose, CA, Winter 2020 https://www.reedmag.org/paris

The Stirling Spoon A literary Journal https://thestirlingspoon.com/inside-outside-windowphilia

Up the Staircase Quarterly, issue #48 https://www.upthestaircase.org/meridith-mcneal.html And Barzakh Magazine https://www.barzakhmag.net/spring-2020-visual-art/2020/6/29/meridith-mcneal