June 2014: My Turf, watercolor by Helga Flower
My Turf, watercolor by Helga Flower

Featured Artist: Meegan Flannery

Last updated: June 12, 2014

Works by Meegan Flannery
Click for a larger version

Works by Meegan Flannery

Sundrenched Afternoon

Works by Meegan Flannery

Emerging

At our annual auction last fall, a very large, almost mesmerizing painting of a moose arrested everyone’s attention and generated enthusiastic bidding.  The artist was Meegan Flannery of Marquette.  Meegan’s subject matter varies enormously but her style is consistently bold, her colors intense, her strokes powerful.  And while the subjects and backgrounds are varied, they all come out of personal experience, reflecting areas she loves, people she knows, animals that inhabit the area in which she lives, images or experiences that have made an impression on her.  You don’t see simple landscapes, florals or portraits—there is always something that has made a personal connection or impact on the artist, which is perhaps why the paintings make such an impact on the viewer.

Meegan grew up in the EUP, surrounded by creative people and her art training followed a traditional course.  Her mother writes music, stories and poetry and plays both piano and guitar; her aunt is a visual artist who works in ceramics, fabrics, ink and other media.  Meegan  says that:

Art has been my chosen career since I could grasp a crayon in the palm of my hand.  I also wanted to be a wildlife photographer, a veterinarian and a writer.  I did pursue art through high school beginning at Rudyard High School under the tutelage of Judy Hamilton.  She encouraged me to explore different media and to consider a career in visual art.  When choosing a major for college I did experience some doubt that art was a practical choice.   I had considered forestry due to my interest in animal biology and connection to the natural world.  Art was something I could do regardless of employment.  A friend of my mother explained during a walk through the woods that life was brief and to pursue what I was passionate about; [that] everything else would fall into place.

We’ll come back to the comment later, as it pretty much encapsulates the path she took.

Megan spent 1990 to 1991 at LSSU and 1991 to 1993 at Kendall College of Art and Design before moving on to NMU, where she graduated in 1997 with a BFA.  She took art classes at LSSU, focused on Drawing at Kendall and on Drawing, Painting and Creative Writing at Northern.  She grew up in the small towns of the EUP and

at the age of four, standing atop Sugar Loaf Mountain and looking across Lake Superior, I knew without doubt that I would return someday to live in Marquette.  The pink granite tops have provided me with imagery and stories for twenty years.

And so she did, but chose to earn her living in a field other than painting because she wasn’t interested in being a teacher or a museum manager.  Early on she worked as a barista; now she is a cook and baker at Barbier’s Villa Capri.  She says that her experience in cooking and baking resulted from working several different food service jobs during college and that she chose kitchen work over art-related work mostly because it left her time to do what she went to school for—to be an artist.  Working in a large, noisy and very busy kitchen provides a welcome contrast to painting where she is a self-described “studio hermit”.  So, basically, she is doing what she planned, painting as and what she likes and exhibiting regularly.

Works by Meegan Flannery

Works by Meegan Flannery

Mine Building, Novi, 2005

Works by Meegan Flannery

Cinnamon Bear Stargazing

Works by Meegan Flannery

Terry's Morning Coffee

Which brings us back to her paintings.  Most are large and vibrant and subjects are largely Upper Peninsula.  Meegan’s Alberta House exhibit, Road Trip, in June of 2006, focused on U.P. ghost towns—the vacant buildings of early factories and mills.  Her interest in animals and forestry has resulted in paintings of the dominant, dramatic animals of the forest—the moose, mentioned earlier; the wolf; the bear.  Her paintings embody the power these animals exude, along with an almost mysterious presence.  The focus is on their heads and in every case, their eyes are compelling.  Meegan also paints people she knows and scenes that have made an impact on her.  All her paintings have an underlying tension—sometimes of power, sometimes of arrested motion, sometimes of sheer mass and sometimes, as in the paintings in Road Trip of the echoes of activities long over.  Even what she calls “an attempt at still life gone experimental” (below) has that dramatic feel—the old boot of the skate a dark mass looming in the foreground.  The boot—bedraggled and inanimate—has somehow become a juggernaut. 

Work by Meegan Flannery

Works by Meegan Flannery

Sure, the Abandoned Gum Felt Vulnerable, but the Sun Was Warm

Meegan’s comment: This painting of an old leather pair of roller skates and the disembodied beer can in the upper left hand corner, was an attempt at still life gone experimental. It is a fictional moment captured in a visual strata of hue, shapes and texture. Sure, the Abandoned Gum Felt Vulnerable, but the Sun Was Warm is the mile-long title for this piece. I used this painting as a postcard image for a show I shared with a sculptor named Earl Senchuck at the Huron Gallery in the Peter White Library in Marquette. It was a multi-artist exhibit.

Meegan’s range is wide because her interests, although centered in the EUP, take in every aspect of the area, and she paints buildings, forests, sky, animals, machinery and people with equal facility.  Although the strokes are broad and the colors intense, when it comes to something as small as eyes, the realism is jolting.  It seems almost intrusive, an invasion of privacy, to be looking back at them.  If she paints a scene, one has a real sense of the activity it depicts; if a ruin, one senses the aura of what used to be; if the subject is an animal, that animal has power and presence.

You can see more of Meegan’s work in October <2014>, when she joins Maureen Mousley, Diana Blazek, Ron Corey and Diana Grenier in Figures and Forms, an exhibition curated by Maureen Mousley, that will fill both Alberta House Galleries.

Works by Meegan Flannery

Works by Meegan Flannery

Stilt Walkers 

Meegan says: Stilt Walkers is taken from a parade we witnessed at a music festival downstate. . . I wanted to illustrate the vibrant color and costumes, along with bystanders,  also colorful and uniquely dressed. This festival takes place in the deep oak forests near Hart Michigan, providing an emerald green backdrop for such a visual banquet.

Sault Area Arts Council Home Page 217 Ferris Street, Sault Ste. Marie, MI 49783
e-mail: saac@saultarts.org Phone: (906) 635-1312