Brooklyn artist Meg Franklin was raised in the mountains of North Georgia, and carries with her the rhythms of those hills while fitting in perfectly in the New York art scene. And like her melding of multiple worlds she takes various media and styles to create something unique. In her art you can feel her childlike wonder with the world, and her desire to make sense of it through art. I say “art” because what she does is difficult to categorize, like a band that is impossible to place into a specific genre, to call her only a painter is too simple of a term. She is like a photographer who stages an elaborate scene and then lets the magic of the camera turn the scene into something beautiful that may be beyond what even the photographer can comprehend. Franklin shows us a new way of looking at art with paint, crayon, and whatever tools will bring the work to life. We are pleased to share some of Meg Franklin’s favorite pieces in our inaugural issue.
“I paint from photographs of still life groupings I put together in my studio,” Meg said. “The objects I use for my set ups range from bicycle horns, to roll-on deodorant sticks, to dog treats, to pieces I’ve made myself from clay. I prefer, though, that people not recognize the objects in the finished pieces, and usually they don’t. It’s fun to hear guesses.
Green Still Lifes, 2014, gouache on sandpaper, 9 x 11 each
“I did this green painting on sandpaper. There’s something about the way the paint falls on the grit that works for me. And I like to think the strangeness of the surface makes the pieces kind of feel like artifacts from some far away place or time.”
“With these I was trying to intensify the strangeness of the objects with their placement in space. They are in a plane that seems to float. The first is based off of a still life I did in my first graduate school painting class. The objects are actually some sort of vegetables that I found in Chinatown.
“The second I painted from imagination, but you could probably find that stuff in Chinatown too, if you looked hard enough,” Meg said, inviting us to explore the world as she did.
Blue Still Life, 2014, acrylic and crayon on paper, 9 x 12
“I wanted to experiment with mixing mediums with this one. It is acrylic and crayon. Aside from the strange vegetable painting, I have never used organic objects to paint from, but the light object in the center of the piece is a shell.”
Single Still Life, 2014, oil on canvas, 8 x 10
“It’s rare that I paint one single object. In fact, I think this may be the only time I have done it. This is one object made out of several things stuck together. I love the contrast of light objects against a dark background. One of my favorite contemporary painters, Lesley Vance, is amazing at working with dark backgrounds.”
“Recently, I have begun painting figures with faces based on my still life compositions. It all started with this guy, who is basically a still life on its side. I was unhappy with the piece, and turned it around on its side hoping I could transform it into something else. His face popped out at me.”
In the Woods, 2014, oil on board, 11 x 14
“When I paint still life, I am really interested in the sheer physicality of the objects: their color, texture, shape. And I’ve always sort of linked that physicality in my mind to human physicality, to our inescapable ties to flesh and blood. So it’s a fitting next step that I combine figurative work with still life.
“This new work is sort of like Arcimboldo, but as with my still life, it is not important to me that the objects look so recognizable in the end. I just want them to have a sense of thing-hood, however slight. And I’m really interested in how these objects that make up the figures’ features begin to take on expression merely by being put in the position of eyes, nose, and mouth.”
“I am not sure why I felt compelled to make these figures running. In fact, I don’t even know why I suddenly began painting entire bodies,” noted the artist.
“Until now, my figurative paintings have always been very still portraits of people from around the waist up. It’s fun to have these new things pop up in my work, and I’m okay with not being able to explain them.”
Goochie Goochie Goo, 2014, acrylic on paper 11 x 15
“This baby’s face started as a still life, but maybe more than the others, I modified the objects to seem more like a real face. People are sensitive about babies, understandably. And she just looked way too scary before I edited her face a little. Not that she’s cute as pie now. I dreamed that I had a baby and painted her nails, so that’s where the nail polish comes in.”
Meg Franklin closed our conversation with, “My still lifes are made up of objects that fall just short of identifiable. Reminiscent of everyday objects, they feel recognizable, but they remain too elusive to actually name or assign with a function.
They could have come from another time, another place, or another world. The paintings explore the haziness of identity in the face of the human need to establish it. They also focus on the raw physicality of objects. When I take away the known function of my objects, I leave behind something purely physical: texture, color, shape. It is my hope that the paintings reawaken the viewer to the pleasures of closely observing physical things.”
Meg Franklin was born in Young Harris, GA in 1982. She lives and works in Greenpoint Brooklyn. In addition to her self-directed painting, she also operates Filbert and Bright, a portrait painting business: www.filbertandbright.com