Artist of the Week: Megan Stroech

Megan Stroech is a visual artist living and working in Chicago, IL. Stroech received her MFA in Printmaking with Exceptional Merit from Illinois State University in 2012, and her BFA in Studio Art from the University of Texas at Austin in 2008. She recently completed an artist residency at ACRE in Steuben, WI, and is currently artist in residence in the HATCH Program at Chicago Artists Coalition. Some of her recent exhibitions include: ROCKELMANN& (Berlin, Germany), The SUB-MISSION (Chicago), and Anderson Ranch Arts Center (Snowmass, CO), where she was an artist-in-residence in 2012. Stroech has been a featured artist on the contemporary art blog OtherPeoplesPixels, Make-Space and New American Paintings (#101).

croppedpassportTell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. I’m a native Texan fairly new to Chicago; I’ve lived here a little over two years. I received my BFA from the University of Texas at Austin in 2008 and MFA in Printmaking from Illinois State University in 2012. Currently, I’m an artist in residence in Chicago Artist Coalition’s HATCH Projects and outside of the studio I work as Shop Technician at Columbia College Chicago in the Printmaking Studio.

Clam Up, yoga mat, faux fur, plastic flags, latex paint, 18" x 25", 2014.

Clam Up, yoga mat, faux fur, plastic flags, latex paint, 18″ x 25″, 2014.

How has living in Chicago affected your art practice? I think being in Chicago post MFA has definitely had a positive effect on my practice. It being a pretty affordable city for its size, allows me to have a separate studio space from my apartment, which is critical for me. Logistically, I have been working a bit smaller, but have begun to push other elements in my work like incorporating painting areas on the floor and walls. There are new alternative/apt galleries popping up all the time and there’s never a lack of art related things happening. I think so many young artists in Chicago are doing really exciting things and my practice definitely feeds off of that.

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Cheesehead, found pink foam triangle, wooden plaque, collage, 12″ x 12″, 2014.

What kinds of things are influencing your work right now? I’ve been incorporating photographic landscape imagery into my work as of late, mostly found in old nature books or teacher supplies (bulletin board coverings). I’ve also been thinking a lot about means of display, particularly through trophies and placards, and trying to upend their implied function through their placement within a work or using them as a platform for the landscape imagery.

What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? I recently installed work for a two-person show with Jens Heller, called Complex Relationships at ROCKELMANN& gallery in Berlin and now I’m preparing work for Modi Operandi opening January 9, the final show as part of my HATCH Residency at Chicago Artists Coalition. The show is being curated by Alexandria Eregbu, and will feature work by myself, Delaney DeMott, Dan Paz, Rami George, Hope Esser and Jenyu Wang.

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Installation view from residence at Anderson Ranch Arts Center: Pistol Whip, Candy Striper and Green Giant.

What artists are you interested in right now? Rebecca Morris. Alex Da Corte. Tatiana Berg. Trudy Benson. Jessica Labatte. Sarah Hotchkiss. Isa Genzken. Benjamin Gardner. Bob Jones. Stacy Fisher.

Tell us about your work process and how it develops. My work is pretty materially driven. I often shop for materials at dollar stores, hardware stores or use found materials left by past studio mates. Lately I’ve been dismantling older works and using those parts to form something new. I think a lot about injecting an awkwardness or humor into the way that materials interact with one another and the gallery space. Layering of material and paint becomes important, choosing what will become obscured or remain visible to the viewer. Implying movement in the work is also very important, playing upon a material’s physical qualities as a way of referring to the body.

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Splits, sawhorse, faux fur, collage, latex paint, 40″ x 30″ x 30″, 2014.

Describe your current studio or workspace. My current workspace is actually Alex Chitty’s former studio, so I feel like there is extra good energy there. It’s the second floor of an old warehouse and there are about 16 other artists working there. Everything is open, and technically we’re a collective so we vote artists in and out of the space. I like the group dynamic and enjoy the communal aspect of being able to peek in on others’ studios and chat about what everyone is working on.

What were you like in high school? I actually really enjoyed high school, had a good circle of friends, made some art, played tennis and went to a zillion emo/hardcore shows which seemed to be the only ‘cool’ activity in Corpus Christi, TX…that and eating amazing breakfast tacos.

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In a While Crocodile, sun visor, pool float, carpet, latex paint, 50″ x 35″, 2014.

Can you share one of the best or worst reactions you have gotten as a result of your work? While in residence at Anderson Ranch Arts Center, I created an installation of painting/collages that cascaded from the wall onto the floor. The paint that extended onto the floor resulted in a map-like configuration. Viewers interacted with the space in a very playful way, physically jumping in and out of some of the painted areas. It was a nice, unexpected reaction, and since then I have become more interested in finding ways to dictate the viewer’s interaction within specific works.

What are you reading right now? The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz and Other Criteria, Leo Steinberg

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Ice Cream Collar, carpet, pool float, wooden plaque, collage, latex paint, 27.5″ x 21″, 2014.