Using a traditional sculptural format (the monument), Meghan Smythe captures contradicting extremes within human gesture: intimacy and brutality, beauty and ugliness, or the lewd and tender. In her attempt to achieve an “elegant vulgarity,” she encapsulates moments that define our mortality in unanticipated ways; oftentimes toeing the delicate line between erotic and macabre tendencies that give way to life, and ultimately death. Glass, ceramic, and concrete are woven together in an elaborate, orgy-like web of body parts and organic artifacts, as if suddenly cast with Pompeii-like circumstances. Like excavated antiquities or fossils, Smythe’s ceramic compositions allude to the cyclical nature of civilization – a dramedy in which all of the players are subject to conquest and demise.
As art critic Leah Ollman stated in her review of her 2015 exhibition at the Mark Moore Gallery in the Los Angeles Times:
"Limbs are entwined, tongues extended. Clay is rarely, if ever, this carnal. Some of the skin is mannequin-smooth but veined with cracks. Some seeps a pink foam or a pale fecal flood. Erotic pleasure plays a part here, but is only one of many competing charges."
"Throughout this, and Smythe's other works, there is a violent fragmentation that zigzags between sexual fantasy and deathly dismemberment. With its human shipwreck of compromised flesh, "Young Unbecoming" brings to mind Gericault's "Raft of the Medusa," and exudes comparable, palpable urgency."
"Smythe is a sculptor of struggle. Primal forces contend in the work, as do various aesthetic and formal dispositions. The sobriety of the relic is countered by the whimsy of glass and resin follies. Figures pallid and cadaverous lie upon a surface oozing with puddles in the happy hues of Easter eggs."
"The friction between generation and decay, elegance and entropy, is what makes Smythe's work so alive and also so tough to digest. It doesn't go down easy, or at all. Stubborn, sensual, visceral -- it sticks."
Mehgan Smythe (b. 1984, Kingston, ON) received her MFA from the Alfred University School of Art and Design (NY). Her work has been shown at the Arizona State University Art Museum (AZ) and the Gardiner Museum, Toronto (ON). She was the Visiting Artist in Residence at California State University, Long Beach (CA) from 2012-2014, where she continues to teach Ceramic Arts. The artist lives and works in Long Beach, CA.