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New York
Meridith McNeal
168 North 6th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211
January 8, 2010 - February 21, 2010

The Presence of Time Within "In the Footsteps of the Starry Messenger"

In the Footsteps of the Starry Messenger, now on view at Figureworks Gallery in Brooklyn, is a show of works about time, but not necessarily time as we know it, manifested as the undeniable force which makes the second hand continually tick for all eternity. Time, in Meridith McNeal’s work, speaks of the timeliness that underlies all things human; the human spirit and its course. The works within In the Footsteps of the Starry Messenger were inspired by the artist’s residence at the American Academy in Rome, but more importantly, the work was inspired by the steep history of the ancient city, and one can most certainly feel the human interactions the artist encountered there. It is possible that the experience of being an outsider in a foreign land required the artist to become more attuned to a universal way of communicating with others, which, after all, may be said to be the sole purpose of Art. This aspect may have subconsciously influenced McNeal’s humanistic approach to her paintings and drawings. Meridith McNeal has successfully captured in her nib and ink drawings, as well as her watercolor paintings, the spirit of her subjects along with the presence of a past that cannot be detached from the emotions that arise while looking at them.

Included in the show is a striking pair of nib pen and ink drawings that are both seen as soon as one enters the Figureworks Gallery. They are both 32” x 32” squares that are unusually arresting from across the room and also at an intimate closeness. This is a quality McNeal’s work possesses; a certain desire that is evoked in the viewer to study up close. These intricate drawings have a surface built upon them from layers of overlapping nib pen strokes that build to create the image of a cat, but these two works are not simply drawings of cats side by side. These cats revel in their own grandiose personalities. One lies across the curves of an adorned chandelier in one drawing, while it’s neighbor looks out towards the viewer from an embellished oval-like chandelier, enclosing its foreshortened torso. Both cats are set in a surrounding aura of shadows created by the repeated motion of nib against paper. The artist’s hand can be felt swaying through the darkness that surrounds the two felines. McNeal’s strokes evoke the feeling of watching seaweed swaying in the invisible currents of a dark ocean. These two drawings undoubtedly recall two spirits, not of mere house cats, but the ghostly presence of two after hour visitors, of perhaps, a deserted dance hall.

Of the smaller works in the show, there is a collection of sixteen paintings of shoes displayed upon one of the very first walls of the gallery. All sixteen paintings are 7” x 7” squares, in rows of four and four to create one large square from a distance. However, the subtleties do not go unnoticed from the larger format. Once again, McNeal draws her viewers inward, and invites them to look deeper at her stark, quivering lines of black ink; to follow them around the contour of the pointed toe of a shoe, and then to bring the eye to the softly spoken holes of the lace upon it. This is not to say that the paint is applied daintily, but that it is applied in way that reveals itself to be brand new each time the viewer discovers these details. The way McNeal chooses to crop each shoe, or pair of shoes, in some instances, borders abstraction in a very beautiful way that only subjects derived from life can do. These smaller shoe paintings are not just visually pleasing, but they are also portraits that are so well done, it would be impossible for one to stand in front of them and not see the shoes of someone they know, or the shoes of their own subconscious persona. In a way, the series of shoes are like yearbook photos of the internal “shoes” we wear with every new circumstance.

In the Footsteps of the Starry Messenger is a show of intriguing portraits taken from a unique perspective of an all- embracing human spirit, traveling in the all-encompassing vortex of time. Meridith McNeal’s show, In the Footsteps of the Starry Messenger will be on view until February 21, at Figureworks Gallery.

Posted by Odetta Dangerfield on 1/19/10 | tags: figurative

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Placeholder70x70-2 Excerpt from Figureworks website:
Figureworks is pleased to present In The Footsteps of the Starry Messenger by artist Meridith McNeal. The exhibition includes over 40 nib pen and ink drawings painted in watercolor, ranging from 7 inches to 7 feet, and is inspired by a seminal scientific event that changed the course of history. Some background: In January 1610, Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei observed three very bright objects close to Jupiter. After several nights, he noticed that the pattern changed and a fourth bright object became visible. Galileo explained there were four satellites which revolved about Jupiter and Jupiter and its satellites revolved around the sun. To Galileo, it followed that the sun must be the center of the universe. In March 1610, he published the results of his observations in his book, The Starry Messenger. On the evening of April 14, 1611, Galileo demonstrated his theory to the influential philosophers and mathematicians of the Jesuit Collegio Romano, letting them see with their own eyes through his telescope the reality of the four moons of Jupiter. They were also able to read an inscription on a building three miles away. While in Rome he was also made a member of the Accademia dei Lincei, the first formal scientific society founded by Prince Federico Cesi. McNeal explains the connection of her exhibition to Galileo: “While in residence at The American Academy in Rome in spring 2009, I was working in a studio on the actual site where Galileo first set up his telescope for his colleagues at the Jesuit Collegio Romano, which was followed by a formal banquet to celebrate the occasion. This fascinating historical link became the springboard for my exhibition, In The Footsteps of the Starry Messenger. The work is about the people who have been in that particular space and what they have done there. I chose to draw shoes to represent the people themselves. For source material, I stopped people on the street in Rome to photograph their shoes, made sketches in...

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