Sculptor Mary Meyer on Finding Inspiration in the Foothills of the Superstition Mountains

Artist Mary Meyer is 55 in the 2016 edition of 100 Creatives.
Artist Mary Meyer is 55 in the 2016 edition of 100 Creatives.
Mary Meyer

Every other year, New Times puts the spotlight on Phoenix's creative forces — painters, dancers, designers, and actors. Leading up to the release of Best of Phoenix, we're taking a closer look at 100 more. Welcome to the 2016 edition of 100 Creatives. Up today is 55. Mary Meyer.

"My roots are in the Midwest, but the desert is where I've grown up the most," sculptor Mary Meyer says.

She spent her earliest years in Illinois, growing up in the Chicago suburb of Streamwood. At 8, her family moved to a South Dakota farm. The transition was tough, but Meyer says she ended up loving the "open spaces for the imagination" that came with it. Since then, she's lived in Minnesota, California, and Nebraska. 

Now 51, Meyer lives in the foothills of the Superstition Mountains, where she practices her art full-time and finds herself surrounded by serenity and inspiration. "I have always been sensitive to my surroundings, drawn to open spaces and more intimate, quiet settings," she says. "There is an honesty to the desert that is unlike any other place. I enjoy investigating the landscape, capturing images and collecting organic materials while exploring the trails near my home. I am ever fascinated by the beauty that thrives here, and the transitory cycles of life, growth, and color."

This sense of curiosity and the physical experience of making are what informs Meyer's work. "I look to nature for inspiration," she says, "amazed at the connectedness of all living things."

Through sight and touch she absorbs and then works to reflect her environment. Meyer works with materials including clay, wood, metal, and found objects, and enjoys such intuitive methods as carving and hand-building for assembling her sculptures.

"My training in sculpture began with traditional stone carving in the direct carving method: working intuitively with the stone and letting the form develop without preconceived ideas, a la [Constantin] Brancusi," she explains. "That method stills remains an integral part of my process, regardless of media."

Although Brancusi was her first love, she says, "I feel most connected to contemporary stone carver Peter Randall-Page. We are both driven by the physicality of the natural world, and all its symmetries and patterns ... He has a very transcendental, ritualistic approach to his work that I identify with, and an interest in how objects affect the emotional response of the viewer."

That gets to the heart of Meyer's work. "I am happiest when I'm working with my hands and building things," she says. "The physicality of it all is a cathartic realm; a state of presence that becomes my truth."

A detailed look at Meyer's Luster 10.EXPAND
A detailed look at Meyer's Luster 10.
Mary Meyer

I came to Phoenix with a new husband, a beagle, and anticipation to begin a new chapter in life. Also, 20 years' less experience than what I have now.

I make art because being an artist is my true path. It took me a while to get here but I'm glad I found my way. For most of my life, I've worked as a professional makeup artist. Though it was creative and glamorous (sometimes), I always felt a void. I continued to work in cosmetics during and after my art studies (I finished my BFA at ASU in 2000, and MFA at the University of Arizona in 2005). In 2011, I finally made the decision to become a full-time studio artist. I'm a late bloomer, but a happy one. I also work part-time as an adjunct instructor teaching 3D design, and occasionally conduct sculpture workshops
for the Visions Youth Program through SMoCA.

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I'm most productive when the following things in my universe align: the looming deadline, the right music playing in the studio, and the meditative state of mind that occurs when I'm one with the process and materials.

My inspiration wall is full of exhibition cards from friends and artists I admire, notes, letters, botanical studies, gourds, pods, images from my life, works from Brancusi, Peter Randall-Page, Karl Blossfeldt, and a little swatch of saffron fabric from Christo and Jean Claude's installation "The Gates."

I've learned most from people and creatures in my life, past and present: my family, friends, students, brilliant husband, and loving dogs. Also, making mistakes, listening or not listening to my intuition, and being tenacious.

Good work should always come from the soul, be authentic, be seductive.

The Phoenix creative scene could use more venues for professional artists to gather, exhibit, critique, collaborate. Workshops and learning opportunities for artists, especially those that focus on the business side of being an artist — that is one big missing component in art education.

Meyer's work clay studies.EXPAND
Meyer's work clay studies.
Mary Meyer

The 2016 Creatives so far:

100. Nicole Olson
99. Andrew Pielage
98. Jessica Rowe
97. Danny Neumann
96. Beth Cato
95. Jessie Balli
94. Ron May
93. Leonor Aispuro
92. Sarah Waite
91. Christina "Xappa" Franco
90. Christian Adame
89. Tara Sharpe
88. Patricia Sannit
87. Brian Klein
86. Dennita Sewell
85. Garth Johnson
84. Charissa Lucille
83. Ryan Downey
82. Samantha Thompson
81. Cherie Buck-Hutchison
80. Freddie Paull
79. Jennifer Campbell
78. Dwayne Hartford
77. Shaliyah Ben
76. Kym Ventola
75. Matthew Watkins
74. Tom Budzak
73. Rachel Egboro
72. Rosemary Close
71. Ally Haynes-Hamblen
70. Alex Ozers
69. Fawn DeViney
68. Laura Dragon
67. Stephanie Neiheisel
66. Michael Lanier
65. Jessica Rajko
64. Velma Kee Craig
63. Oliver Hibert
62. Joya Scott
61. Raji Ganesan
60. Ashlee Molina
59. Myrlin Hepworth
58. Amy Ettinger
57. Sheila Grinell
56. Forrest Solis


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