Culture Maker: Artist Meghan Borah
I’m excited to launch a new series on SCM today: Culture Makers; Interviews with artists, designers, writers, musicians, and innovators who are making the world more interesting, in an attempt to understand their motivations and, ultimately, what makes them so dang cool.
First up, artist Meghan Borah. I came across Meghan’s work recently, LOVED it, and realized, “I know her!” Well, sorta. She’s the sister of my former student and cousin of my good friend. She’s also a fellow SAIC grad, with an MFA in Studio Art. Her work was recently featured in the 2017 Midwest and MFA Issues of New American Paintings. She kindly agreed to answer a few questions about her day-to-day, her interests beyond visual art, and the underlying themes of her work. Read on for her thoughtful responses and striking images.
What do you do most days?
My weekdays are split between working in my studio and working as a studio-assistant to artist Amanda Williams. I work for Amanda about twice a week. I don’t do well with monotonous desk jobs, so I appreciate the unpredictable and varied routine of working for an artist, especially one with work as inspiring as Amanda’s. Her busy schedule keeps me on my toes! If I’m working for Amanda, I usually finish by 3 or 4pm, so I’ll grab a coffee at Bridgeport Coffeehouse and head to my studio for a few hours. Even if I don’t have the energy to make anything, I like to go into my studio to think, read, draw, write, or just sit with the work, even if it’s for an hour. When I am not working for Amanda, I’ll head to my studio around 10am and work until about 5 or 6pm with a quick break for lunch.
On a good evening, I like to get outside for a run or walk, but I am usually so wiped and hungry that I end up eating a thrown-together dinner instead. After dinner, I hope for a second wind and work some more in my apartment. I have an area where I screen print and sew, so I spend a few weeknights sewing or working on my fabric designs. On the weekends, I work at Ace Hotel’s restaurant City Mouse. The fast-paced and high-energy environment of a restaurant offers a nice balance to the solitary nature of the rest of my week.
Do you have any daily rituals?
I would say that my mornings are pretty ritualistic. I’m an early riser and I like to spend the first hour of my day sitting on my couch with a cup of coffee. I worked at a coffee shop one summer where I mastered the art of the “pour-over” coffee. The whole process of boiling water, measuring and grinding beans, and timing the pour is comforting and allows time to think and reflect about what lies ahead of me for the day. Then I sit for an hour with NPR or music in the background writing to-do lists, answering emails, drawing, or writing. If I don’t wake up early enough to have my “hour” I totally notice it; it throws off my entire day.
What are you currently working on?
I’m on a bender of painting female pop stars from the 60s & 70s. I’m currently working on a painting of The Shangri-Las and The Ronettes, and then there’s a painting of a disco-dancing scene I’ve been chugging along on. I’m sort of obsessed with disco’s transition from underground subculture to mainstream and all of the social, cultural, gender, and racial implications that went along with it. When I’m painting performers or dance club scenes, I’m thinking a lot about fashion and its connection to identity-definition. I’m thinking about false narratives we project onto other people, and the narratives or identities we craft for ourselves.
I’ve also been working on a series of clunky sculptures of platform shoes (made primarily of paper mâché and plaster) for a little over a year now, and I just started the first stages of a reiteration of previous sculptures I did titled The Lookyloos.
I was sewing a lot in the fall for a flag installation I did at Lillstreet Art Center in December, so it’s been really nice to be covered in paint and plaster again. Lastly, I’m in the process of designing a line of scarves, but that’s been going slow as molasses lately. I set a goal to have a website launched by March, but at this rate it’s looking like it will be later in the spring.
Who/What is inspiring you?
I just came back from a trip to New York, and was especially impressed by the Laura Owens show at the Whitney. Owen’s fearlessness and commitment to sticking completely within the established material parameters of painting while still doing so much for the medium is really inspiring. Her work has been on my mind a lot lately.
What music are you digging these days?
Oh man, I listen to a lot of music. I can’t focus on podcasts or audiobooks when I paint, so I’m listening to music all day long. There’s a really exciting young jazz scene happening in Chicago right now, and I like checking out shows as often as I can. I follow the label International Anthem pretty closely, and never miss a chance to see Makaya McCraven or Jeff Parker play live. I also curate a playlist every month on Spotify, which I end up playing on rotation until I get sick of it. February has been a lot of East African Jazz, Blondie, Pixies, and then some newer bands like Faith Healer, Lucy Dacus, and U.S. Girls.
What clothes are making you feel good?
I know it sounds cheesy, but I love wearing overalls for the same reason I love wearing a dress. They take care of an entire outfit in one fell swoop. I also recently purchased some white patent-leather heeled booties that I feel pretty good in.
Any other favorite artists, poets, designers, or activists we should know about?
You should definitely know about my boss, Amanda Williams. She is an artist, designer, and activist all in one, not to mention an amazing mother and mentor. Amanda is the busiest lady I know, though I still have yet to see her without a smile on her face. She motivates me to take risks and to appreciate the sacrifices that come with pursuing a creative lifestyle. My brother also just recently introduced me to the work of Chicago-based poet/curator/actor Mykele Deville. The first time I listened to his poetry, I had instant chills.
Finally, what’s your professional goal? OR What keeps you motivated in your work?
My professional goals mainly consist of maintaining the ability and a space to make work in. If I can maintain a lifestyle where I’m making work and still making a living, I’m happy.
As of last night, I'm the proud owner of one of Meghan's paintings (she was cleaning out her studio and I got to snag one)! It's big and pink and wonderful and I'll share some pics as soon as it's properly hung.
If YOU are interested in seeing more of her work, in person or on the webs,
visit her website: www.meghanborah.com
follow her on Instagram: www.instagram.com/meghanborah
email her: email@example.com
THANK YOU SO MUCH, MEGHAN!!
all pictures provided by the artist