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Selective Focus: Catherine Meier

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Catherine Meier pours time and detail into her large drawings, and then she puts even more time into animating them. She talks about the meditative process of making these large, quiet installations.

C.M.: My work is based in drawing. I suppose that drawing was my entry into art making. Since I was very young I have been able to draw well and it has been something that I have done throughout every phase of my life — even when I was a truck driver hauling cattle across the Great plains, I had drawings in progress.

Standing Witness, site: Sage Creek, August 29, 2014, 9:03 p.m., 12 min video installation

Standing Witness, site: Sage Creek, August 29, 2014, 9:03 p.m., 12 min video installation

I started college at a the age of 27, and I was so excited to be learning and pursuing a life as an artist. In my first year I saw the animated drawings of William Kentridge at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. I was forever changed by that day at the museum. A few months later I was sitting in an art history class and I had the thought – “I’m going to create an animated film of my own!” And I did, as an undergrad. The first animation that I made was a narrative film about two people caught in the circumstances of meth-amphetamine addiction and living in a rural context. I had witnessed this story in my life, and it felt important to make.

When I went on to graduate school at the University of Michigan, I was super excited and felt very fortunate to be there. I had a national Javits fellowship through the U.S. Department of education, and this funding meant that I had the time, space, and resources to delve into my artistic practice and find a question that I could pursue in my life’s work as an artist. For me, this became examining how I, and others, experience landscape, and specifically vast, open landscapes such as the Great Plains. I was still drawing, everything was drawing and printmaking, but the subject of my work was more important to me at the time because I felt that for me to successfully prepare for my life’s work as an artist, I needed to find the question that would fuel my art making for years to come.

Standing Witness, site: Sage Creek, August 31, 2014, 7:50 p.m., 12 min video installation

Standing Witness, site: Sage Creek, August 31, 2014, 7:50 p.m., 12 min video installation

 

 

I received another research grant and traveled to Mongolia, a country opposite the Great Plains on the planet, so that I could immerse in a landscape very similar to the Plains. It was transformative, because even though visually familiar, it was unknown — both culturally and logistically — and I was pushed to a raw encounter with land. (You can read about that here.)

To this day, the work I make comes from immersive experiences in place. For example, the Standing Witness, site: Sage Creek project that I have been working on the past five years or so starts with my family and I spending days and weeks in that wilderness area in Badlands National Park. While there, I draw and document through photographs the land that I closely study. I take that information back into my studio and create large-scale drawings and the animations that become immersive installations.

Sage Creek Rim Road, Graphite Drawing, L&R panel: 5 ft w x 11 ft h, Center panel: 7 ft w x 11 ft h

Sage Creek Rim Road, Graphite Drawing, L&R panel: 5 ft w x 11 ft h, Center panel: 7 ft w x 11 ft h

There is a lot behind this work, beyond the land itself, that has to do with history, land use, and politics, but in the end I want the experience to be a personal encounter for the viewers. And I would say that what is created are spaces of quiet, deep stillness.

Sage Creek Basin Overlook, Graphite Drawing, 5 ft w x 11 ft h

Sage Creek Basin Overlook, Graphite Drawing, 5 ft w x 11 ft h

I love what I do. I deeply enjoy drawing and the animation process — sitting for hours and hours to create bits of movement that unfold over just a few minutes in real time. It is a very meditational process, and a meditative experience for viewers.

Standing Witness, site: Sage Creek, 24 min video, Animation Installation at Minneapolis Institute of Art, 2015

Standing Witness, site: Sage Creek, 24 min video, Animation Installation at Minneapolis Institute of Art, 2015

The challenge is that it is so time intensive, and therefore I have to find ways to carve out and fund large chunks of time to make the work. In addition to that, I do not put out a lot of work – but large-scale or intensive singlular pieces of art that have many layers to them. I always say that my work as an artist is similar to a novelist in that it is large in scope and intensive in time, so that there are fewer ‘pieces’ created over the course of time. So sometimes I fear it seems as though I am not ‘doing’ anything, but there is a lot of time needed in and between projects.

You can view my work at catherinemeier.com.
Also at my Vimeo page.

Standing Witness, site: Sage Creek, 24 min video, Animation Installation at Minneapolis Institute of Art, 2015

Standing Witness, site: Sage Creek, 24 min video, Animation Installation at Minneapolis Institute of Art, 2015

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