The Farmington Depot Gallery kicked off fall for the rest of us this week, breathing life back into the Athens area arts community after another long, hot, quiet summer. “Within: New Work by Kipley A. Meyer,” a collection of abstract works created out of wood, hardware, milk paint and wax, opened at the space Friday night. Box fans strained to cool off guests, generally losing against the thick Georgia humidity. But that didn't deter people from coming out and celebrating with Meyer.
The gallery is located in an old train station, and the walls of its primary viewing space still feature the wood cladding original to the building. Defying all logic, this backdrop continues to work and not detract from the art displayed there. Meyer’s work is no exception; the space seems as if it was made to show his heavily textured wooden compositions.
Meyer is represented by four galleries in the Southeast, including the Signature Gallery in Atlanta. He travels to a number of shows each year to exhibit and sell his work, including the esteemed and competitive American Craft shows in Atlanta and Baltimore as well as the Philadelphia Museum Show. But he and his family happily make nearby Madison their home.
The artist originally exhibited studio furniture, but has now transitioned to the wooden compositions. “I am creating a wooden canvas is all I’m doing,” he says of his work. “They are like my wooden paintings.” Meyer works primarily with kiln-dried poplar purchased from a lumber yard. He relies on a chainsaw and router to create the initial background textures. Hand chisels and other tools come into play as the finer details and textures are added.
Texture is fundamental to each work and it is obvious that the artist has fun with it. “A lot of people think the works are ceramic,” he said, “ but I’m not trying to emulate it.” Once the wood is grooved and worked over, it is subtly colored with milk paint in mostly neutral hues and then rubbed with wax. The resulting rich surfaces beg the viewer to touch the works. Indeed, on this night, I saw three people surreptitiously sneaking a touch.
Meyer’s works are refreshingly abstract; but the modernity of them is warmed by the materials. He considers his subject to be the human experience. “We’re all born shiny and wet as babies, but as time goes on and we experience life, we start to wear. These paintings recreate what is happening to us.”
The artist has a calming and thoughtful presence, and his works have a spiritual feel to them, like a Mark Rothko painting. Circles are a recurring theme and, mandala-like, evoke a feeling of oneness and peace within many of the paintings. "18 Phases" is an especially striking large-scale work that features a simple bisected circle framed in a vertical, rectangular format. The work relies almost exclusively on texture for detail and is monochromatic. Its sandy hue is buffed out in some places more than others, but it is essentially the texture that tells the story and provides visual detail. The work is evocative of weaving.
“Within: New Work by Kipley A. Meyer” will be on view at the Farmington Depot Gallery through August 28, 2016. The gallery has limited viewing hours. For more information, visit farmingtondepotgallery.com.