Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
A large crowd of all ages filled LPAC Cinema this past Saturday to hear a talk by artist, Brian Meunier. The lecture and slide viewing preceded the opening of his show, “Marvels of Things Created and Miraculous Aspects of Things Existing,” now on display at the List Gallery.
Meunier has received numerous honors for his many sculpture series, including grants from the Pennsylvania counsel on Arts and the Ford Foundation, shows at the Noise Museum of Art and in New York City, and an award from the Joseph Pulitzer Foundation. He has also been a valued member of the Swarthmore Art Department for nearly three decades.
Meunier’s work, the majority of which consists of series of three-dimensional pieces in wood, can best be described as whimsical tinkerings – lighthearted experiments with themes such as nature, machinery, architecture, and the body. He playfully challenges the viewer’s preconceptions of the ordinary, mounting a bird on a wheel-like structure, for example, or entitling a painted wood block, Salmon Steak. “I’ll make a sculpture based on anything,” he cheerfully declared.
At Saturday’s talk, the artist shared in slide form the drawings, magazine clippings, and found objects that have inspired him, back to back with the finished pieces that sprung from them. Meunier described his process as beginning with a faint shadow of inspiration, which comes to him “like a bat in the dark.” The idea is not fully realized until the eighth to tenth piece in the series, at which point, “I feel like a demigod,” said Meunier.
The series currently on display is a delightful collection of works in ceramic, most featuring an animal interacting in some way with man-made material. Highlights include a stag head mounted on a metal canister, a pair of mosquito-like insects embracing atop an ornate column, and a tortoise bearing a small tank on its shell. These surrealistic hybrids contain metallic elements like screws and plates, but they are naturally colored and textured with the organic imperfections of clay. The result is an assortment of bizarre concoctions that are as endearing as they are imaginative.
The show will be up at the List Gallery in LPAC until February 23rd. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Sunday, from 12 to 5pm.