Catherine Meier explores the meaning of “open space” through animation, site-specific installations, and large-scale prints and drawings. Representing a state of mind as well as a state of being, these expansive works are redolent of the artist’s own travels crossing the Great Plains of North America and the Mongolian Steppe where her experience of freedom and boundlessness also fueled feelings of fear and paranoia. Meier has shown her work in gallery and museum settings in the Midwest, South, and Japan, at film festivals, and in the very landscapes that gave rise to her drawings. She has a BFA in Studio Art from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and an MFA from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her awards include a Jacob K. Javits Fellowship for Graduate study, two from the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council, and a McKnight Visual Artist Fellowship.
Open Space. These two words describe for me both an idea and a particular juxtaposition of earth and sky. They describe a state of mind and a state of being. And they lie at the heart of my curiosity for understanding the distance between the external, physical landscape of earth and the internal, intricate landscape of the human mind.
I create moving graphite drawings and large-scale drawings and woodcut prints of earth, sky, and horizon – of the vast, open grasslands of the North American Great Plains and the Mongolian Steppe. These open lands are beautiful to me in the simplicity and subtle richness of their composition. I find freedom in their expansiveness, but I have also experienced fear and paranoia due to their boundlessness. It is fascinating, to me, that in order to traverse immense space the mind must become finely attuned to subtlety. Across time and cultures, these open lands have profoundly affected their inhabitant’s lives and have deeply affected mine.
I grew up in a small Nebraska town and for seven years I worked as a truck driver hauling cattle throughout the Great Plains. While my personal and family history is tied to the plains, my work is not based in nostalgia – it originates from a deep physical, mental, and emotional need to move in and through open land. For me, a walk through a field of grass results in a journey through both space and time. My interest extends beyond visceral, personal need into a deep and abiding engagement with the history, culture, and environmental concerns of these large but delicate grasslands. In 2008 I traveled to Mongolia to see a similar yet foreign landscape. I went in search of true openness – place unplaced. I found it, and with it fear and claustrophobia from an openness I did not know how to control. Open landscape is powerful and I believe the preservation of these extensive grasslands is as important to our human existence and environment as are the ocean, forest, or mountain terrains.
Drawing and personal experience in the physical landscape form the core of my artistic process. The places and figures that I draw originate from my travels throughout the land, which I document through field drawings and photographs. I create graphite drawings in large-scale on rolls of paper, and my woodcut prints are expansive fields of color that bring to life delicately carved details and are printed on long rolls of paper. My animations are created from graphite drawings that are drawn, erased, and re-drawn. Within the gallery context, these are projected in large scale, filling the space and encompassing the viewer with gently moving land. I also make the landscape itself the exhibition space, trekking out with a computer, projector, and power source, projecting animations at the site of their initial source drawings. My artwork is a platform through which I can investigate, make visible, and share my experience and deep understanding of open landscape.