September 13 - October 9, 2015
Opening Reception: Sunday, Sept. 13, 2 - 4 p.m.
Meg Walker has often spoken of “images that flit obsessively through my head” when describing her process of making art. The word, “flit” has stayed with me. It comes close—even its sound—to capturing the essence of her work on the brain. I say comes close, because if a word or words could fully capture these sculptures, drawings, and collages, then the works’ provocative power would be diminished. The online thesaurus.com offers up synonyms for “flit” that also characterize Walker’s work and process: flicker, hover, dart, dance, flash, skim, etc.
Like these words suggest, the Brain and the Mind are concepts that defy being fenced in or tied down. They are not only hidden “inside the head” but they dance around each other, sometimes partnering, and sometimes resolving into one. Walker has set her own working definitions for the terms: she states that the brain is “the two pounds of gray matter that nestles in our skull, with its networks of neurons and dendrites, chemical and electrical impulses; it also houses our mind. The Mind, for me, is the ephemeral non-tangible activities–the ideas, thoughts and emotions that go on in our brains and make us who we are and what we do.”
Her works don’t illustrate the physical brain but rather mirror the mysterious relationship between brain and mind. One might think her images would therefore be delicate or ethereal: they are not. They are substantial and often made of clay, plaster, wire, and wood. A number of pieces also incorporate electric elements: lights, audio and sensors. Like the brain-mind dyad, she often pairs mass and form with conceptual and less tangible elements. Brainstorm, for example, consists of a hefty irregular sphere made of plaster on a solid pedestal; it emits chirping sounds when a motion sensor is tripped and displays a flickering light seen through a tiny porthole in the sphere. Brainstorm plays with the human dilemma of being simultaneously inside our heads and outside looking in on the action.
Two large suspended sculptures, Brain Unraveled: You Remain and Patterning: Bouquet, have no solid components but maintain a sense of physicality by suggesting parallels to everyday items—a long unraveling sleeve of knitting and a bouquet of flowers. The flickering LED lights are anchored by the wires which carry the electric pulses to them and these organically tangled networks provide structure and form. Both works could help us perhaps understand the signals that underlie the central task of the brain: communication. How communication is achieved is a challenge to scientists, the lay person thinking about her brain, and also to the artist. As recent research has been confirming, the familiar concept of “stream of consciousness” is a faulty metaphor. Neuroscientist Gregory Hickok says in his New York Times May 8, 2015, essay that “the brain itself is sampling the world in discrete chunks.” This parallels a statement by author Kevin Birmingham’s in this book on James Joyce’s Ulysses which was quoted in another New York Times article: this one from June 25, 2014. “Thoughts don’t flow like luxuriant sentences …Consciousness is not a stream. It is a brief assembly of fragments on the margins of the deep…”
Meg Walker’s work has been exhibited in galleries and museums in the United States, Great Britain and France. Selected solo and group exhibitions include, in the US : Grounds for Sculpture the International Sculpture Center, Hamilton NJ; the Jaffe-Friede Gallery, Dartmouth College, Hanover NH; Robert Hull Fleming Museum of Art, University of Vermont, Burlington VT; Brattleboro Museum and Art Center, Brattleboro VT; In the UK: the Royal College of Art, London, England. The Cairns Gallery, Peebles, the Tolbooth Art Center, Kirkcudbright, The Fruitmarket Gallery and the Shore Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland. In France: Salon International D’Art Contemporain, St Quay Portrieux, Brittany. Walker was a National Member of A.I.R. Gallery, New York, NY until 2011.