Friends & Neighbors

This month’s interview is with Meghan Gerety, an artist friend and the owner of Pure Joy Gallery.

Anett Gabriel: First of all, thank you for organizing the candlelight vigil for George Floyd this Sunday. It is heartbreaking to see that the news over the past few weeks has yet again shone a spotlight on the incredible injustices and racism that exist in America. Times like this, I miss the packed, full streets of New York City and participating in peaceful protests.

Meghan Gerety: In New York, so many New Yorkers are politically active and its kind of part of life there, participating in the Women’s March or the gay pride parade. New York has a strong community of protest and activism and taking to the streets to share your views. It’s so heart wrenching to see what is happening there and across the country right now.

AG: As a former New Yorker yourself, what do you miss about New York?

MG: I miss the anonymity, being able to be in a crowd, surrounded by people – people you don’t know. Although I do really love the closeness of the community here in Marfa, don’t get me wrong! That’s why I’m here! But I love the freedom of New York: the freedom to do whatever the hell you want whenever the hell you want with whoever the hell you want, wearing whatever the hell you want and no one gives a hoot. I love the diversity of New York: racially, culturally, socially, economically, although a lot of that has changed since I left.

AG: Can you tell me a bit about your life in New York City?

MG: I lived in New York for 21 years where I went to college and then had my studio, art practice and career. New York was always my dream, beginning when I was about nine years old and realized being an artist could be my “profession.” I showed my work in New York and nationally and after working in the art world, I did freelance design work. I first came to Marfa from New York in 2005 when my ex-husband was in a show at Ballroom. We bought the “old Colomo building” – a converted grocery store/gas station – as a live-work space and were here part time until I moved full time in 2009 with our son.

AG: I was at your studio last week and I really like your current block prints and the vivid colors you’re using. Can you tell me a bit about this phase of your art and the inspiration behind it?

MG: My work has always involved the landscape. When I was in New York, my work had been black and white: pencil on very large sheets of paper or drawings directly on the wall. I think working in only black and white in New York City kind of calmed the city down for me and calmed my mind down. But after moving to Marfa I craved bright, vibrant color. (Although the sunsets provide plenty.) The desert landscape is so minimal. It’s so pared down. When you do see bright color in the desert landscape, it’s impossible to ignore. I needed to bring vibrant color into my work and began just putting a mashup of bright colors on the paper or canvas. Here our experience of the landscape is dominated by the sky, and I turned my attention to the night sky. I made a large series of woodblocks and prints based on my observations of the night sky. Like most of my work, it wasn’t really about creating a picture of the sky, but about creating a picture of time passing, to capture that moment in time.

I exhibited the blocks themselves rather than the prints, as I like how they show the evidence of the printing process and layering of color, specifically blues in the night sky. I then began making much larger woodblocks from full sheets of plywood, carving into the plywood and printing on paper. In the past few years I started cutting out shapes of plywood and printing with those cutouts; they also function as sculptural elements. During the pandemic I’ve started making very large pieces of paper mounted on canvas. The surface is very textural and looks more like a New York City sidewalk than paper. I recycle Big Bend Sentinels and Interview magazines to make the pulp. I’m printing and painting on those, and that is my latest work. I don’t know what’s going to happen with the art world, but it feels good to be making work.

AG: Are there any future plans or upcoming exhibitions at Pure Joy that you can share?

MG: Pure Joy is an art-project space that I created that has exhibitions as well as a collection of artists’ books, objects, editions and ephemera. The name “Pure Joy” is appropriated from a John Baldessari painting and kind of began as a nihilist question of “joy” but has evolved into actual joy, which I think we all experience in our days and nights in Marfa. It’s been a way for me to curate shows, invite artist friends to do projects and also to put together a selection of limited edition objects and books that I myself love. A fellow Marfa resident, artist friend, Ester Partegas, is going to do a show in mid-June, the date is to-be-announced. She makes sculptures as well as photo-based wall pieces. Richard Tuttle said, “For me, art is something that can set things right,” and I believe that.

AG: What are your favorite things to do in Marfa & places you like to go to?

MG: I love visiting the rock shop to see what nice gems they have, and I love taking a run down Pinto Canyon Road. During the current social distancing, it’s nice to try to have a socially-distanced yard-visit with a friend or three. This time has been very challenging on many different levels, but since time has slowed down and become so much about the very present, it has allowed for some very present moments with people. I hope we look back on the time of the pandemic with some fond thoughts, and I hope what is happening in the streets across the country now brings some evolution to our country too.