Art of the State Artist Interview: Meghan Baum

Here Is Where It Happened © Meghan Baum oil on panel
Here Is Where It Happened ©2015 Meghan Baum oil on panel

Walking through this year’s Art of the State, I was struck by Meghan’s painting. I kept looking at and picturing it in my living room. When I looked her up online I was surprised to see that she just graduated art school this Spring! You can find her piece, Here is Where It Happened, at Art of the State: Pennsylvania 2015 at the State Museum of PA or visit the Meghan Baum website to see more of her work.

1. How did you get started in your craft? (using your media)

My favorite teacher in high school inspired me to go to art school. Her name is Mrs. Linn and she was considered to be a very tough teacher with a challenging class. But only because she didn’t consider art class to be an easy A, like many of the students thought it would be. She encouraged me more than any other teacher I have ever had and taught me to think about art in a different way. My senior year of high school she gave us an assignment where we had to make an oil painting outside of class. She gave us very little instruction on how to use oil paint. She wanted to see what we could do. What we could figure out on our own. My senior year of high school was when I started to become interested in oil paint.

The coil pot Meghan made with her teacher in high school
The coil pot Meghan made with her teacher in high school

But it was also when I started to really think about things differently, and to reconsider the potential of any project. I remember making a coil pot in her class and struggling with it. The day before the project was due I stayed after school to work on it and the pot collapsed in my hands. She could tell I was frustrated and she came over and said, “Do you trust me?” After I said yes, she pulled my coil pot apart until it was nothing but pieces on a table. She said, “It doesn’t say anywhere on the rubric that it has to look like this. You don’t have to see the coils. It doesn’t have to be this shape. The only requirement is height.” And together we took the pieces and made an entirely different coil pot. I still have the coil pot in my house, and it is one of the most sentimental pieces of art that I own. I didn’t get started using oil paint until my junior year of college, but I feel like I wouldn’t have even gone to school for art if it weren’t for Mrs. Linn.

The Ocean Inside ©2015 Meghan Baum Oil on panel, 2 ft x 4 ft
The Ocean Inside ©2015 Meghan Baum Oil on panel, 2′ x 4′

2. What has been inspiring/influencing your work lately?

Recently I’ve been inspired by music. I moved home after graduating from college, and its felt strange not being surrounded by other visual artists. So I like to listen to music that inspires me to paint- music that puts me in the same frame of mind as if I were still painting for six hours a day at school. I’ve been listening to a lot of music by Courtney Barnett. She has a way of storytelling within her songs that is an art form in itself. I think that her music is incredibly genuine and by listening to it while I’m working I feel I’m staying genuine also.

3. Who are your favorite artists in your field?

I’m very attracted to the work made by Claire Desjardins. I love her use of color; it’s playfully bright and unexpected. I admire her use of transparency next to thick mark making; it is something that I have started to do within my own work.

M + MA ©2015 Meghan Baum oil on canvas, 3'x4'
M + MA ©2015 Meghan Baum oil on canvas, 3’x4′

4. What is your favorite customer quote or story?

During a critique in college, a Professor had told me that one of my paintings looked like “something Monet and Marie Antoinette would make if they got together and made a painting.” I thought this was a hilarious idea to think about but it also made sense. I named the painting M + MA because I thought it suited.