100 Dallas Creatives: No. 30 Delicate Touch Margaret Meehan

Meehan in action.
Meehan in action.
Robert Boland

Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order. The touch of artist Margaret Meehan is delicate. Which is not to say that her work is sugarcoated, but respectful, intricate and sensitive. Gleaning subject matter from history and literature, much of Meehan's work pulls back the curtain on those culture has outcast or deemed "freaks." Her art is obsessed with monsters and the creation of them, repositioning the grotesque within the lovely, exploring questions of race, gender and how we build history.

Her work is layered and laboriously researched. She creates in numerous media, and has shown her work at The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, The Dallas Museum of Art, Soil Gallery in Seattle, David Shelton Gallery in Houston and Conduit Gallery in Dallas, to name a few. Her art moves people, because she works in concepts we all understand and participate in on a daily basis. And she seems to be encouraging us in the most beautiful way to reconsider -- which is one of the loveliest things art can accomplish.

Margaret Meehan, Lady Golum, 2014
Margaret Meehan, Lady Golum, 2014

How did you end up in Dallas and what keeps you here? I moved here in 2003 from NYC when my husband, Noah Simblist, got a job teaching at SMU. Eleven years later it's become our home thanks to great opportunities, a valued community and delicious breakfast tacos.

In much of your work you blur the grotesque with loveliness, and it - at least for me - results in a sort of romantic allure or mystery. Would you say that you're compensating for a collective societal distaste with certain undesirables or do you approach your subjects with genuine affection?  Genuine affection. Life is lovely and very corporeal.

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I know that growing up in suburban Dallas, I had an inexplicable attraction to the Frankensteins of the world, was there a certain point in your life or in your career that you became interested in this concept of "monsters" or "freaks"? I think I've always been interested in the idea of what makes a monster and the science of teratology. Mary Shelley's monster was feared because of his body. The rejection and mass hysteria from the town created his shame and pushed him to act out violently. I tend to be overly sensitive and as a child I was always trying to figure out who was considered worth protecting and whom "we" needed to be protected from.  I was 14 when Ryan White became the face of HIV/AIDS in the United States. Someone that made the disease and its reach extend beyond America's belief that it only affected gay men. I think trying to make sense of his pain while being a kid myself opened my eyes to how ugly "normal" could be. It started my search for empathy and strength in all kinds of people.

You base a lot of your work in history, and you've incorporated the stories of a lot of people whom society has outcast in your art. In your research are there any stories you've come across that are too devastating or too precious to use as art?   I'm not interested in the sadness as much as the underdog, the survivor or the unexpected heroine. I try to make work that honors difference and people who exemplify defiance and symbolize hope or at least will when I reinvent their story and give them an alternate ending. I want to upend the freak show by reversing the gaze and throwing it back on the voyeur.

When you're putting a layered exhibition together, Hystrionics and the Forgotten Arm for example, does it start as a big vision or do you build it piece by piece? And are you always (or ever) able to execute it according to your intention?  I always start with a larger idea that's a little blurry and hard to see as a whole. Usually a title pops into my head like Hystrionics... or a person like Alice Doherty, my muse for the Pugilist, and I start expanding from there.  

I work visually the way a writer might start to gather the parts of a novel. The exhibitions generally take shape over two years with research, trial and error in the studio, collaboration, editing and then completion. The execution from start to finish is exactly like and nothing like what I expected because there is a lot of growth in-between.

Was ArtPace a good experience for you and your craft? It was amazing. I was given the time, budget and assistance to make work on a level I have only dreamed of being able to do. It raised the bar and I now know what I am capable of accomplishing given real support.   100 Creatives: 100. Theater Mastermind Matt Posey 99. Comedy Queen Amanda Austin 98. Deep Ellum Enterpriser Brandon Castillo 97. Humanitarian Artist Willie Baronet 96. Funny Man Paul Varghese 95. Painting Provocateur Art Peña 94. Magic Man Trigg Watson 93. Enigmatic Musician George Quartz 92. Artistic Luminary Joshua King 91. Inventive Director Rene Moreno 90. Color Mavens Marianne Newsom and Sunny Sliger 89. Literary Lion Thea Temple 88. Movie Maestro Eric Steele 87. Storytelling Dynamo Nicole Stewart 86. Collaborative Artist Ryder Richards 85. Party Planning Print maker Raymond Butler 84. Avant-gardist Publisher Javier Valadez 83. Movie Nerd James Wallace 82. Artistic Tastemakers Elissa & Erin Stafford 81. Pioneering Arts Advocates Mark Lowry & Michael Warner 80. Imaginative Director Jeremy Bartel 79. Behind-the-Scenes Teacher Rachel Hull 78. Kaleidoscopic Artist Taylor "Effin" Cleveland 77. Filmmaker & Environmentalist Michael Cain 76. Music Activist Salim Nourallah 75. Underground Entrepreneur Daniel Yanez 74. Original Talent Celia Eberle 73. Comic Artist Aaron Aryanpur 72. Classical Thespian Raphael Parry 71. Dance Captain Valerie Shelton Tabor 70. Underground Culture Mainstay Karen X. Minzer 69. Effervescent Gallerist Brandy Michele Adams 68. Birthday Party Enthusiast Paige Chenault 67. Community Architect Monica Diodati 66. Intrepid Publisher Will Evans 65. Writerly Wit Noa Gavin 64. Maverick Artist Roberto Munguia 63. Fresh Perspective Kelsey Leigh Ervi 62. Virtuosic Violinist Nathan Olson 61. Open Classical's Dynamic Duo Mark Landson & Patricia Yakesch 60. Rising Talent Michelle Rawlings 59. Adventurous Filmmaker Toby Halbrooks 58. Man of Mystery Edward Ruiz 57. Inquisitive Sculptor Val Curry 56. Offbeat Intellect Thomas Riccio 55. Doers and Makers Shannon Driscoll & Kayli House Cusick 54. Performance Pioneer Katherine Owens 53. Experimental Filmmaker and Video Artist Mike Morris 52. Flowering Fashioner Lucy Dang 51. Insightful Artist Stephen Lapthisophon 50. Dallas Arts District 49. Farmer's Market Localvore Sarah Perry 48. Technological Painter John Pomara 47. Progressive Playmakers Christopher Carlos & Tina Parker 46. Purposive Chef Chad Houser 45. Absorbing Artist Jeff Gibbons 44. Artistic Integrator Erica Felicella 43. Multi-talented Director Tre Garrett 42. Anachronistic Musician Matt Tolentino 41. Emerging Veteran Actor Van Quattro 40. Festival Orchestrator Anna Sophia van Zweden 39. Literary Framer Karen Weiner 38. Man Behind the Music Gavin Mulloy 37. The Godfather of Dallas Art Frank Campagna 36. Rising Star Adam A. Anderson 35. Artist Organizer Heyd Fontenot 34. Music Innovator Stefan Gonzalez 33. Triple Threat Giovanni Valderas 32. Cultural Connector Lauren Cross 31. Critical Artist Thor Johnson


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