February 26 — April 3, 2021
Conduit Gallery is pleased to present After Laughter, Margaret Meehan’s fourth solo exhibition with the gallery.
Focused on new mixed media ceramic sculptures and collaged drawings, this body of work was created during the global Covid-19 pandemic, the United States’ recent political unrest and a reawakening of the Black Lives Matter movement; born from outcries against anti-black violence and systemic racism.
While these issues are not the dominant subject matter of Meehan’s work, they played an important role in her understanding of why and how to find connection in the face of social and political trauma on both a personal and global scale. After Laughter reflects on a year of isolation, personal loss, and the absurdity of tears that come suddenly from both sadness and joy. It explores themes surrounding mourning, longing, transition and hope with humorous and melancholy imagery.
With After Laughter, Meehan continues her 20-year investigation into otherness by linking those who identify as women with a parliament of overly emotional owls and stoic songbirds. Owls were chosen for their symbolism of both wisdom and death and as shape shifters who can warn of danger but also usher in change.
The exhibition’s title After Laughter comes from the 1964 song "After Laughter (Comes Tears)" by Wendy Rene, as does one of the larger ceramic sculptures which dons a haphazardly placed pink wig.
The influences on this body of work include Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring, as well as current climate justice activists Greta Thunberg, Vanessa Nakate, Isra Hirsi, and Autumn Peltier who lead with both anger and ambitious expectation. Music such as Julie London’s “Cry Me a River”, Alison Kraus’s “I’ll Fly Away”, Elton John’s “Sad Songs Say So Much”, and The Pretenders “Stop Your Sobbing”, among others played on constant rotation in her studio and became some of the sculpture's titles.
Extreme emotions can fluctuate, and the chaos of 2020, now leaking into 2021, has been a constant reminder of the need to have a healthy release in these turbulent times. But for Meehan this year has also been a rediscovery of the simple pleasure of making art as a form of catharsis as well as remembering the need to share joy. Margaret Meehan’s practice is a research-based, multidisciplinary exploration that pulls from film, music, popular culture, folklore, and traditional crafts. She considers the origins of outcasts through their representation – in particular, the tendency for women and societal “others” to be seen as monsters. Her research includes teratology and medicine, ornithology, the esthetics of cuteness, materiality in high and low culture as well as modes of feminist protest. This all stems from her curiosity about the lines that separate what is protected from what is feared and how gendering plays into these expectations.
She has been shown at ArtPace San Antonio, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, The Dallas Museum of Art, Flowers Gallery in London, Conduit Gallery in Dallas, TX and Ulterior Gallery in New York. Awards and residencies include the Nasher Sculpture Center Microgrant (2015), Artpace International Residency (2014), The Lighthouse Works Residency (2013), Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts Residency (2009), Dozier Travel Grant from the Dallas Museum of Art (2008) and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Fellowship (2020). Meehan’s work has been featured in the Guardian, Sculpture Magazine, New American Paintings, and Artforum, among others. She currently lives in Richmond, Virginia but misses her Texas community terribly.
Read the Glasstire feature about Mercy Mercy Me (for Greta) here.