Meghan Smythe is an up-and-coming artist who is originally from Ontario but now lives and works in Long Beach, Calif. She received her MFA from the Alfred University School of Art and Design in New York. Her biography states that she works within “contradicting extremes” in humans: intimacy and brutality, beauty and ugliness, the lewd and tender. The Mark Moore Gallery in Culver City, Calif. states that her most recent exhibition, A Swollen Light Behind the Eye (Jan. 8 — Feb. 14, 2015), reaches for an “elegant vulgarity,” with the conflicting poles eventually defining our mortality.
Above image: Installation view of Meghan Smythe, A Light Culture, 2015, ceramic, glaze, resin, epoxy and plasticine, 70 x 50 x 60 inches
The gallery states of the show:
Says the artist, “I work in and out of representation to find a visual lexicon where the weight of an archetype gives way. At this breaking point, lunacy meets levity and the indulgent narrative falters, turns back on itself, and is ultimately undone.” Glass, ceramic, and concrete are woven together in an elaborate, orgy-like web of body parts and organic artifacts, as if suddenly cast within Pompeii-like circumstances. Like excavated antiquities or fossils, Smythe’s glazed materials allude to the recurrent nature of civilization, and our perpetual hunt for the sublime – a dramedy in which all of the players are subject to conquest and demise.
In her review of the exhibition, LA Times critic Leah Ollman said Smythe, with her hand-sculpted, pinched forms “invoke(s) the very stuff of life,” as they tilt between erotic highs and “deathly dismemberment.” Ollman states:
“Young Unbecoming” is the most complex of the group, a breathless orgy of bodies grasping, bending, licking, twisting. There are three, or more precisely 3 1/2, female figures in the mix, plus an assortment of stray phalli and a plethora of clutching hands.
Limbs are entwined, tongues extended. Clay is rarely, if ever, this carnal. Some of the skin is mannequin-smooth but veined with cracks. Some seeps a pink foam or a pale fecal flood. Erotic pleasure plays a part here, but is only one of many competing charges.
Throughout this, and Smythe’s other works, there is a violent fragmentation that zigzags between sexual fantasy and deathly dismemberment. With its human shipwreck of compromised flesh, “Young Unbecoming” brings to mind Gericault’s “Raft of the Medusa,” and exudes comparable, palpable urgency.
Call us spooky, but eventual dissolution is on our minds a lot these days and it’s intriguing to think how our peaks, indulgences and failures are all leading us to similar ends. In the works’ eroticism we are confronted with a picture of sex we were too afraid to explore ourselves even though we have been living within it for some time.
Any thoughts about this post? Share yours in the comment box below.