Megan Van Groll studies her own relation to body, function, and gender through her neo-realist interpretations, and does so in a way that feels mundanely human while rendering each piece particularly poignant and oddly evocative. Her ability to recreate scenes where egos and their respective bodies collide is truly a gift, especially since she uses it as a personal reflective tool, not as some thrift store badge of pseudo-hipsterness.
Instead, her artwork serves as an honest intersection point – a place, outside our dreams, where we’re able to relive and rework the dynamics at hand, all the while cuddling and cajoling the aspects of personhood that some of us would surely like to see go by the wayside. Her unabashed undertaking of food and femininity sets the stage for work that could spiral off in various directions, and we’re glad to have caught up with her while she solidifies her current approach.
As masks of identity are peeled back by Megan’s culinary art, her intense, seemingly over-pixelated images are so real that they veer over the top; all the while allowing the viewer enough space to come to a variety of conclusions. If you need something more abstract, off you go… but when it comes to food for thought, Megan Van Groll has an appetite.
EL: Your work admittedly prods at the way women relate to food….for as much as it appears in your work, would you rather people make their own judgement, or is there a specific message you’re trying to get across?
Megan Van Groll: This is a tricky question. Some people feel that all art is political — that it’s impossible for the artist to separate herself from her beliefs or opinions when creating a work of art. Others feel that art with any kind of agenda is propaganda, not art. I want to make art that asks a question, not that delivers an answer. I want to make art that inspires introspection among its viewers. I don’t have answers to my own questions, if I did, it wouldn’t be interesting enough for me to base a painting on. The process of creating the painting and hearing the perspective of viewers inspires a better understanding of the topic at hand.
EL: Your aesthetic is fairly honed in. All your stuff almost feels like part of a series. Has your work always followed a theme?
Megan Van Groll: The questions and topics that personally interest me certainly play a role in determining what kind of art I choose to make. I often work by deciding upon a theme or approach for an entire series at one time, and write down examples for possible subject matter, along with a first draft for a future artist statement. Only after much writing and introspection will I begin work on the first painting in that series. It takes a painfully long time for me to uncover a pattern or theme in my ideas that I feel has a solid chance of becoming a series, so there’s usually a long period of thinking, digesting, and waiting…but when the time is right, inspiration will come as a flash and within thirty minutes or so I’ve begun to plan every painting in the series.
EL: How do you think you came to settle on your aesthetic? What aspect of your life made your particular expression what it is today?
Megan Van Groll: I love to make visceral images that immediately engage the viewer, and for my work, a neo-realistic or narrative style is the most effective for this. I also love the process of painting realistically. My left brained, perfectionist, list-making side, absolutely loves the hours agonizing over the tiny details of the human form, and the countless brush strokes that finally achieve a human likeness. My work is definitely a stylized form of realism, and one of the things I want to explore with future paintings is how I can more effectively use this disconnection from complete photorealism as a communication tool in and of itself.
EL: It feels to me like you’re trying out real-life situations through the fantasy of painting yourself into the scene, kind of like a dream…how do u view it?
Megan Van Groll: There’s an element of surrealism to this aspect of my work. I of course wouldn’t be able to have a fight with myself, or walk around naked in public spaces. If I could, photography would be the most effective medium for me to use. I enjoy the fantastical result of creating a painting of something you can’t photograph. That’s been an effective tool for visual engagement, it’s also pretty fun.
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