AIR Cycle 9 Highlight: Meghan O’Sullivan


How did you first get interested in textiles and textile work?

I have always been really drawn to clothing, so going to school for fashion design was the entryway into where I am now.

What was your trajectory like as an artist? How did you end up at the TAC residency?

Initially I wanted to be a painter. At the same time, I would spend hours online collecting runway shows. I liked a lot of things… film, photography, art, and fashion has all of it.

I took a painting class in college and I really had a good time with it— figure painting. The teacher even tried to get me to switch majors! I didn’t listen, and now it’s always creeping up everywhere I go. He was right. Anyway, in my fashion courses my process always began with textiles. I would start around material first and then come into the shapes. I ended up at TAC when my boss suggested this program. I met her because she actually had been a guest critic in my college print design class. Which is scary because I was considering dropping out of it.

Can you tell me more about your current project or what you’re working on for the final exhibition?

The process is like, I find something that I like–like an image or a thing, and I’m working towards a painting backwards. I’m using source images as the actual images and manipulating the surface, and then it becomes stretched on canvas or a form. So my process is about taking the photo and recreating the same art I found that’s happening inside the photograph while making the structure surrounding it.

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How do you visualize it will develop as a body of work?

I’m developing a series starting with this picture I found on the street. I mean, I only recently understood it was a single photograph. I kept this wadded up, huge paper ball in my studio, and near the end of the program Yuchen (another artist in the residency), helped me lay out all the crinkled scraps together. It’s a portrait of a girl in New York, waiting for a train. I do not know who took the photo, and the quality is very pixelated from whoever blowing it up. Every piece was kept inside, there wasn’t a missing section.

What process or technique has been most integral to your work?

Photography. Recording images. Taking Pictures. When I take a picture it’s more about… this color, this shape, or this mark. When I think about my school work it was with the idea that you’re making clothes, so you have this conversation with the body, and that’s not what I’m doing anymore. I’m not thinking about the body— or dressing the body.

Do you consider your heat press works more as paintings initially, or as textile designs for an eventual garment?

When I started the program, I thought I was going to reconcile making clothes again. Right now, I’m working towards more experimentation. To return to clothes, I would want to make honest garments. I am speaking about comfort. I possess too many clothes I don’t want to wear…and I don’t want to continue contributing to my dysfunction. Still clothing… identity… and transformation is an obsession of mine.

Right now, I am painting with pictures.

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How has the residency at TAC changed you or your work?

It’s helped me understand my process even more. I had neglected myself since graduating, and really only putting myself in a stable situation with money, bills, blah, working, sustaining, and taking a break (avoiding). Ultimately, my BFA senior year was a year from hell. And all I really wanted to do in this program was heal. I’m very happy I came to rehab.

I also feel like the residency has given me a lot of experience about audience. It can confuse or support, depending on The Who. If there has been change, its more that I am understanding the fragile process and my agency. They say you “need” words. Lot’s of words to protect ideas. What should you share? What do you know? I did acting before, and you get a script which everyone agrees on. I don’t want to make art like that though. With the wrong audience you can feel like a performer. That’s not a TAC thing, it’s an everywhere thing.

 I found the history & writing parts of the residency the most inspiring. Sometimes it can feel like you know or write something backwards and forwards, but when you really go back and look its a whole other thing completely.

Tell me about the source images you use for your work – the photography and found objects and how you use appropriation and deconstruction within your work?

I don’t understand the word “appropriation,” because the photographs that I shoot on the street have images that have already been mashed together, there’s already a non-image. So while I take a photograph of a structure that exists- it wasn’t made to look like that, no one person conceptualized it to be like that…until I take the picture (Ha.Ha.). I feel like when I’m walking down the street and I find some objects on the sidewalk, it’s really like if I found a site specific sculpture. That’s how I feel. I think, “Oh, this is art.”

I’m mostly using pictures that I take with my phone. I’m taking one image and degrading it into little pixels, playing in photoshop to come to a piece. This image over here is actually of a website loading, it’s not my image, right? It’s a screenshot of the fuzzy picture when it’s about to become itself. So I even picked that apart. In my work I am further deconstructing deconstructed images and analyzing the surface on top of them.

I am also interested in combining my photography with portraiture. I found a giant smashed gathering of a paper sculpture/ball, which revealed itself as a photo of a girl the size of subway advertisement. It was torn, crumpled, and ripped into several pieces, but no part was missing. It’s eerie and beautiful image that I want to put it back together. I am also interested in going backwards into it as well. Reverse google image searching and keep pulling back the layers of it even further. There’s almost too much to say about Girls and Images. It might be for another time. But you obviously know the amount of data there is on Instagram on this topic.

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If I were to watch you work in the average studio day, what would I see?

You would see me printing photos and making mood boards with fabric swatches that I’m thinking about using. I’ll have something on my table for a couple of days, and this very reactionary method or intuitive process will take over. Then mini plans happen from each action. It feels like how I would design clothes, I design paintings.

What inspires your work? Have there been any persistent concepts or material exploration?

…it’s this honest state. It’s like when I was painting figures, I was naturally exploring this conscious non-decision making process (that happens when you create without considering the physical body) and that sort of freedom is what I’m attracted to. When I see things and when I work – I want to not think. Or I just don’t understand what I am doing per se. I am not wanting anything. During a painting critique the people and teacher told me whatever you are doing keep doing it! And I was pretty confused because there wasn’t anything going through my mind, I wasn’t thinking. I very interested in this core honesty.

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What are some of your interests outside the studio?

I’m reading The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf at the moment, I’m going through my clothes and letting go of the past, learning film photography (does this count as outside the studio?). I’m really passionate about fashion, beauty, makeup, and skincare…so if you have also read The Beauty Myth you might get a little laugh from that.

Who are some of the artists, designers, creators, that you look at, or that have inspired your work in some way?

I would say Andy Warhol.

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you or your work?

I guess I want to share my future dreams. I am making with textiles now, and when I take a break from this exploration I want to style, direct, and shoot a fashion editorial.

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Save the date for Three Walls – AIR Cycle 9′s final exhibition – opening September 20th at the Gowanus Loft! LEARN MORE.

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