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All Things Ampersand

Artist Profile: Meg Walling – Art Salad

Bold. Inventive. Intense. Colorful. Elaborate and full of texture. Are we talking about Meg Walling’s art or her cooking? Both! When she is not painting, when she is not at one end of her garage studio immersed in cold wax medium and oil paint or at the other end, working in acrylics, she is in the kitchen, taking a break from one kind of creativity and immersing herself in another. (Meg coined the word ‘garagiste’ to describe herself, joking that she’s just like Mark Rothko, whose studio was also in a garage!)

Meg knew she was an artist when she was a little girl. She was captivated by a television show that told her so! It was called ‘You Are an Artist’ and it appeared on NBC. Hard to believe that a show that she followed on her family’s little black and white TV would set the path for her life. But art didn’t move from being something meaningful in her life to the primary focus of it for a very long time. That’s because Meg dutifully and obediently tried to do what her practical parents wanted for their children, to be educated and get a secure job. She got her teaching credentials.

After moving from western Pennsylvania to the west coast, Meg reinvented herself several times. At first, she wasn’t inspired by the desert landscape where she lived in southern California – she’d been “marinated in green” in her previous life, but she eventually learned to “love the stretches of open land, the palette of the land and sky, the magical desert light.”

She took every possible art class at a community college and established a pottery studio. After she married and had children the time constraints of clay led her to other things. Meg painted and sold needlepoint canvases and got a job in a visual non-profit where she started as the person who brought the donuts to the volunteers and ended up as the executive director. And then in the mid 90’s she went to graduate school to become a licensed clinical psychotherapist specializing in couples therapy. She built a thriving practice.

Ampersand ‘bords’ are a treat I give myself. The quality is high, the surfaces are fabulous, and the attention to detail is what I love. It’s ‘Fit and Finish’!

Art might have remained something she loved, something that occupied only part of her time, but after a challenging health crisis in 2007 when she almost died, she learned to “follow my bliss” (thank you, Joseph Campbell…). Meg slowly closed her practice and pivoted to doing the thing she’d avoided because of those early messages from her parents and her own fears. She opened an art studio in her home.

Before 2007 her work was very personal. After that, she began to show it – at first, to friends, and then to the broader community. By 2012 she’d sold a painting for “a LOT of money” – a work that hung in a juried show at the Palm Springs Art Museum. Not only did a buyer think it was worth the price she’d set, she also won a prize. It validated what she’d always known. She was an artist.

For years Meg painted landscapes and created figurative work. As she describes it, “textural and vivid, highlighting the beauty, geometry and starkness of the desert…” Then things changed yet again. She was in a horrific 6-car accident in September of 2017. A broken back and broken right hand took her out of the studio for many months. Though she was unable to get to a workshop she’d long hoped to attend, the teacher, Lisa Pressman, provided ‘Virtual Mentoring’ and Meg began working with cold wax medium and oil, a medium that lends itself to abstraction, a direction in which she’d already been heading.

Her substrate of choice? Need we ask? Ampersand Art Supply’s panels won Meg’s heart and her loyalty. Andrea Raft, one of the three other women with whom she is collaborating on a year-long monthly challenge to be shown on the All Things Ampersand blog, introduced Meg to Ampersand Art Supply. Meg says, “It was like Christmas when the box of products for the collaboration arrived! The Ampersand ‘bords’ are a treat I give myself. The quality is high, the surfaces are fabulous, and the attention to detail is what I love. It’s ‘Fit and Finish’!” (‘Fit and Finish’ is a boating term that can be summed up as excellence, craftsmanship, and highest standards.)

What is the thread that ties it all together, the secret sauce? Meg says she “believes in the process.” She trusts that if you develop a skill set, learn the fundamentals and how to work with materials, that lays the groundwork. Then you need to be comfortable not knowing the outcome. That’s where the trust comes in. “I don’t make sketches. I think for a long time. I have a vision, then I start. If I get myself in a corner I step away and take a breath and come back to work my way out of the problem.” Sounds a lot like what she’d tell a couple in crisis, what she’d do as a provider of therapy. Sounds a lot like what she’d do when faced with a fridge full of fruits and veggies and a leftover chicken leg.

She also mentioned that it’s important to “paint for yourself, not for the audience,” and “learn to be articulate about your work.” For in the act of being able to describe the work you learn what is successful and what parts you want to keep or repeat.

Meg Walling has a strong sense of herself and it shows in her work, work that has been exhibited in numerous galleries and commercial public spaces and in the Palm Springs Art Museum and can be found in private art collections from New York to California.

What a shame our interview had to be conducted over the phone and via email. It would have been wonderful to taste some of her cooking.

Meg Walling is a painter and mixed media artist who was raised in western Pennsylvania, where she first registered the impact of color and developed an appreciation for the natural world that remains an important inspiration to her artwork today.  Colorful, textural and vivid, her paintings highlight the beauty, geometry, and starkness of the desert landscape where she has lived for the last 45 years.

Meg is drawn to geographic areas that are visually rich, have a strong sense of place and extremes in environment.  Now known for her abstract landscapes and figurative work, she has exhibited in numerous southern California galleries, commercial public spaces and in the Palm Springs Art Museum.  Her paintings are found in private art collections from New York to southern California.


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