Donna M Meeks paintings & drawings

Artist Statement

As an artist, I am committed to creating aesthetic objects that foreground the materiality of the work in the construction of any visual meaning. This commitment grew out of having worked with diverse materials and techniques in both two and three-dimensions, both figuratively and abstractly. As a result, my work often purposefully combines media to create drawings and paintings that are both objects and images, producing content as much through material selection as depicted form. Throughout my work, the figure or its substitute is present or inferred, existing in tension between image and text, narrative and metaphor, and actual and depicted space. For me, this dichotomization of form and reference conceptually equates to the complex social positioning of the individual between the personal and the political, between experience and understanding. Through wry juxtapositions of images, textual references, and materials, my work is intended to provide an opportunity for social critique within a contemporary visual discourse.

For some time, the imagery has focused on the surface of the body, with supportive research ranging from tattooing to medical models. Through the development of several bodies of work, I have come to think of skin as a site of deeply personal, cultural and social complexity. As the body’s surface, it is, in fact, a barrier demarcating the internal and external world while simultaneously chronicling the phenomenology of that separation. Wounds provide evidence of the abject human condition while equating themselves readily to the mark-making process. Self-imposed marks record the subject's intervention into the human condition on at least its surface, the skin. Whether a result of injury or augmentation, each mark once made is subject to change through natural processes such as healing, aging or death that alter the original quality of the mark over time. Each work is a phenomenological palimpsest, with layered artistic processes and selected imagery reflecting the complexity of human experience, itself, while asking the viewer to engage in some "viewing forensics."

These ideas are explored through three distinct series; Human Condition, GSW, and GDK. The newest series, American Dream, continues the exploration of social positioning of the individual.

Begun in 2006, the Human Condition series references medical and scientific illustration along with skin disease through depictions of the phenomenology of human skin including aging, injury, and healing. Works in this series involve painted hydrocal castings mounted on stainless steel supports. The resulting object oscillates uncomfortably between reality and illusion engaging notions of the abject and the medical.

Begun in 2008, the GSW series is inspired by the popular fascination with criminal forensics in the media while echoing nineteenth-century poetic notions found in Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal. Painted in an expressive style with both palette knife and brush, these artworks depict gun shot wounds as today's flowers of evil in order to reveal a difficult beauty.

Begun in 2011, the GDK (Guns Don’t Kill?) series is a continuing exploration of gun shot wounds in the silverpoint medium. Repeatedly punched, rolled, stabbed and drawn, silverpoint is used non-traditionally to create marks and works reflective of violent circumstance. In this series, embossed silver text, Guns Don’t Kill?, is found only with close examination inside a white floater frame. Small, each work is intended for individual contemplation.

Begun in 2017, the (American Dream) series is based on selected family photos from the early decades of the twentieth century. The work attempts to mine intersections of the everyday and history in time. Work in this series combines inkjet transfers with water-based media on rag paper.