NEWS

My tiny oil paintings on NYC MetroCards for Single Fare 4

I'm very excited to share my 3 tiny submissions to Single Fare 4, a big show of small works on used NYC MetroCards. This is my second time participating in a Single Fare exhibition. The last show took place back in 2011 and now it's back by popular demand. Artists from around the country (and probably the world) create work with just one limitation - it must be created on the surface of a used NYC MetroCard.

Painting on such a small surface is definitely the challenge it appears to be. Even though my work has been shrinking slightly in the past few years (more typically in the 20"x20" to 24"x24" range than my previous 36"x48" canvases), that's nothing compared to the few inches you get with a MetroCard, which is roughly the size of a credit card. Painting so small forces you to be economical with your decisions - every tiny brush stroke matters in a critical way. 

The show opens September 16 from 5-10pm at Highline Stages (441 West 14th Street, NY, NY) and will be on view again Sunday, September 17 from 12-6pm.

Each card will be for sale for $100 each. The artist takes $70, and $30 go towards new scholarships at the New York Academy of Art and the Alumni Association of the New York Academy of Art. 

For more info, connect with Single Fare on Facebook and Instagram @singlefare.

My paintings of fighting women: the origin story

My latest series of paintings and drawings portray women fighting and grappling with each other in poses inspired by wrestling. For a long time, I have described this series as characterized by anger and the passion of violent, animalistic rage. But that's not entirely true.

These works are about a wide spectrum of emotions and psychological states. They're my humble attempt to render some of the most powerful aspects of the human experience in corporeal form, with the female form serving as a vehicle for this expression.

The postures themselves are only the surface level, and simply set the stage for a broader range of possible interpretations. These vignettes of wrestling - tangled limbs and intertwined body parts - can reveal not just the passion of anger, but the passion of something else, something more ambiguous. To one viewer these scenes may appear less like expressions of fury, and more like the raw contemplation of our deepest fears. To another, more like erotic desire or pleasure than anger. Like sharp, crushing grief or despair. Maybe multiple emotions and internal experiences, all at once. All-consuming love and overwhelming joy, mixed and stirred up with the darkest hour of the soul, inseparably. The uncontainable everything. Perhaps, if I can only paint well enough, transcendence.

During my adolescence and early twenties, I struggled with bouts of depression and its common companion, anxiety. In my first year or two out of art school, I also experienced terrifying panic attacks. Every emotion was intensified. Every negative thought or feeling felt magnified. This, even when my fight-or-flight response wasn't short-circuiting.

During this time, I was living in Austin and found myself attending a concert I didn't really want to be at, in a small, dark and packed venue. Standing in the back, the music and bass pulsing through my body, a wave of powerful dark emotion crashed over me out of nowhere. It began as deep, clawing, claustrophobic despair. But it was more than just a feeling - the experience was inherently physical. Standing still and silent, I had a deeply sad, violent urge to crash my body into the nearest brick wall - like something inside was trying to crawl out of my skin. In that moment, an image flashed into my mind. A sea of flesh and limbs, dozens of figures grappling and intertwining in a vicious struggle. Instantly, I recognized this experience as inspiration, and I saw the image as a painting. Even though I was at no real risk of acting on it, what began as an absurd and destructive impulse became creative.

Detail, Flush, 24"x24" oil on canvas, 2017.

Detail, Flush, 24"x24" oil on canvas, 2017.

After this curious experience, I became fascinated with the idea of using the human figure to physicalize these abstract, complex, often contradictory emotional and psychological states. After all, that was what my mind had done - rendered this emotion into an image, taking me out of my dark moment and giving me a project.

Some have asked me why I only paint women. I specifically use the female form in these scenes because I'm personally most interested in how women process and display these complicated, messy human emotions and experiences. And too often in entertainment media (and throughout art history!) women have been treated rather one-dimensionally, with only certain emotions and experiences deemed feminine or acceptable to share with audiences. This normalizes the idea that women and men are more different than we are alike, and ultimately dehumanizes us both.

Therefore, it's important to me that the physical expression of these universally human experiences, and the richness of our inner lives, comes packaged in female form.

As for nudity, there are few images more universal than the human figure presented in its most authentic, natural form. In art, clothing is often a distraction; it immediately conveys a time period, a place, a culture, imparting something specific - something that in this body of work, would not serve my purpose. Stripping away these elements evokes a more visceral response to the work. Though it makes my images a little harder to distribute on social media, the work just wouldn't be the same if my models weren't nude.

On a secondary and perhaps more obvious level, these painting and drawings are also about the relationships women have to each other.

Too often, women view other women as competition - always sizing one another up, and sometimes tearing each other down. I, like probably all women, have been guilty of this too. I want people to look at the altercations in my paintings and wonder, why are they fighting each other? What motivates this? And who stands to benefit from our division?

Although inspiration struck me nearly a decade ago, only in the past two years has this concept really begun to take shape as its own series. Immediately, I made half-steps here and there. In 2010, I painted Bakery Brawl, and in 2011 I made a delightfully confusing small painting of two women wrestling that I didn't intend to show or sell, titled after a lyric from a Neko Case song: "I'm an animal, you're an animal too." Little did I know the path this intended one-off would eventually take me down.

"You're an animal." 18"x24" oil on canvas, 2011.

"You're an animal." 18"x24" oil on canvas, 2011.

But I wasn't quite ready to take it further. In the ensuing years, I focused on honing my love for hyperrealism (inspired by seeing Chuck Close's "Mark" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art) with large, blown up oil portraits. As much as I enjoyed these for the sake of painting them, I knew I was growing bored.

Finally, a familiar, restless urge brought me back to my earlier fascination, and this craving to paint the strange scenes in my head became an entire series.

Some ideas need time to marinate. And two years and several paintings and drawings in, the work is still evolving and being refined. I've only just begun, and I'm grateful to have a rich, deep well of inspiration (and lovely, brave, open-minded models) for the path ahead.

Awarded a Publication Fellowship by Peripheral Vision Arts for Salon 2017

I'm pleased to share some exciting news from art journal Peripheral Vision Arts. I've been awarded a Publication Fellowship for their forthcoming Salon 2017, and will be featured in the publication with a portfolio of my work. 

From their release:

Peripheral Vision is pleased to award Publication Fellowships to forty eight emerging and mid-career professional American artists in conjunction with our inaugural salon-style exhibition, curated by critic Georgia Erger. Submitted works represent the diversity of contemporary art practice and occupy various points of intersection around common themes and aesthetic concerns. Salon 2017, forthcoming this fall, will take the form of an introductory essay by the curator containing links to artist project pages.

I look forward to seeing the all of the work together with Georgia Ergers' commentary when the publication is released this fall.

Thank you to Peripheral Vision Arts for the opportunity to be part of such a great group of artists. To check out the full list of artists, click here.

My work published in The New Nude, curated by Walt Morton for PoetsArtists Magazine

thenewnude

Two of my paintings were recently published in The New Nude, an art publication by PoetsArtists magazine, curated by Walt Morton. 

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I was so thrilled to receive the book - not just to see my paintings, but because the rest of the work was so fascinating. Flipping through the pages, I felt inspired and motivated. In today's art world, it's considered a little old-fashioned to focus on painting the figure, but the artists in this printed exhibition confirm that figure painting is still as relevant, modern, and fresh as ever.

You can get a printed copy or purchase a PDF version here. You can also access the publication by becoming a supporter of independent arts magazine and community PoetsArtists on Patreon.

Flush, 24 x 24, oil on canvas

I first wrote about this piece a few weeks ago, marveling at how it only took me 3 weeks to paint from beginning to end - a labor so brief that it's pretty much unheard of for me for a painting of this size.

I now have high-res, color-corrected images to share. I love this part - being able to show the detail in almost as much accuracy as viewing the piece in person; the grain of the canvas, the little raised strokes from paint thickly applied.

When I finish a piece I'm either exasperated or energized. When it feels like I'm getting close to hitting a wall (the edge of my interest in a series, the near-final crack at an idea, the conclusion of some kind of creative era) I'll be happy to finish the piece -- it's not unlike the dopamine rush of finishing a race -- but I may feel puzzled as to where to go next. The end of this piece felt more like a beginning. Zoomed closer in, it's almost a happy medium between my recent dual, dueling figures and my 2012-2014 hyperrealistic portraits, in which I brought the viewer so close to the skin that it rendered almost abstractly, like a landscape of pockmarked desert. Here, the close crop leaves out context - where that limb goes next, who's with her - and imbues the mystery I seek. The proximity also gives way to a hyper level of detail and brushwork, scratching my eternal itch to render skin and features in a lifelike yet playful, painterly way. I don't have any other medium or large pieces in the works at the moment begging for attention (just two very small studies), so I am free to start fresh and follow this path where it leads me, and it feels good.

This series explores aggression in both broad and specific interpretations of the term. Flush felt appropriate to me as a title, not just because of the magenta flush of blood to the subject's face, but for its other meanings. It can also refer to a kind of emotional catharsis, or a cleansing. In her face, I can see that interpretation. But the term flush is also sometimes used in reference to hunting, to predators driving prey from their cover. In that context, the strained, twisted grapple of our subject and her opponent becomes dark again.

Flush, 24" x 24," oil on canvas. © Megan Van Groll, 2017.

Flush, 24" x 24," oil on canvas. © Megan Van Groll, 2017.

Flush, detail, 24" x 24," oil on canvas. © Megan Van Groll, 2017.

Flush, detail, 24" x 24," oil on canvas. © Megan Van Groll, 2017.

Flush, detail, 24" x 24," oil on canvas. © Megan Van Groll, 2017.

Flush, detail, 24" x 24," oil on canvas. © Megan Van Groll, 2017.