Megan Headley is an Ashland artist on a mission. After some years in Colorado, the Oregon native has returned to her roots in the Rogue Valley. In 2016, she moved her studio practice into her home and transformed her studio in downtown Talent into Project Space, an educational art space. Project Space promotes innovative partnerships between artists, educators, community groups and local residents through art classes, exhibitions and events, while also hosting workshops, exhibitions and performances. Headley is also out with a new body of work which represents two years of artistic evolution. I caught up with her to talk more about her work and vision for the future.
JG: Megan, give us an idea of your art background, academically and otherwise.
MH: I was drawn to the artistic process at a young age and was encouraged to pursue this interest by my family. My father is a musician and had a serious relationship with an artist during my formative years. She had such a unique outlook on the world that I found her magnetic, even at the age of 8. My formal education in art really was achieved in three locations: Boulder, Colorado; Bend, Oregon; and Rome, Italy. I was somewhat of a gypsy during my college years and likely have enough credits for a Master's degree in Fine Arts but ended up with a Bachelor's. My diploma is from OSU where I attended the Bend Cascades Campus. It was during my two years in Bend that I was exposed to the allure of abstraction. Sandy Brooks and Henry Sayre, my painting professor and art history professor (whom happened to be married) were very influential during this time. Shortly after graduating from OSU I became the exhibition manager at Museo de las Americas in Denver, Colorado. Assuming this position exposed me to art in the “real world,” I owe a large portion of my practical skills to the Museo.
JG: Can you speak a little bit about your creative life and influences?
MH: For me, my artistic life is inseparable from my life. Everything that I see, hear, feel and experience shows up in my work somehow. I am a relatively new mother and have been going through some health challenges so that is in my work as well as abstractions from the natural world. I paint the abstraction around me. My technical process is a mix of intuition and education. While I have a formal training in art I don’t overtly rely on this. Color, repetition and the juxtaposition of order versus chaos is what interests me. I have had many artistic influences, of course. Ones that I consider to be relevant to my current work are Helen Frankenthaler, William De Kooning and Roberto Matta. I approach my paintings with a large format in mind. This allows me more freedom and encourages the viewer to see the work in human scale. Oil on canvas and mixed media watercolor on paper are the materials that suit me best.
JG: Tell us a little about how you came to this particular body of work.
MH: I paint that which is better expressed with a brush than a pen. There is a sensitivity in nature that we should not be separate from ... yet somehow we are. This sensitivity is revealed in natural processes such as the transformation of a larva into a butterfly or the passing of an animal after procreation — overwhelmingly beautiful and intensely powerful, yet somehow overlooked. One of my most recent bodies of work stems from the abstracted form of an octopus egg. Octopuses are one of the few animals that die after procreation. As a relatively new mother I identify with this process of transformation and self sacrifice. In addition to the regular “wear and tear” one's physical body experiences during pregnancy and shortly after my body’s response to procreation was to attack itself ... literally. Puberty, pregnancy and pre-menopause can all trigger autoimmune disease. I have an autoimmune thyroid disease called Hashimoto’s and potentially some other autoimmune diseases that are difficult to diagnose. Although, thankfully, I have not died by the process of procreation I am physically and mentally altered.
JG: What has been your most creatively satisfying experience when it comes to your art?
MH: The most creative satisfaction I have received from my work has occurred during the last two years. Finally there is something to show for all the years of slapping paint around. Now I want to show it to others.
— Ashland resident Jeffrey Gillespie is a Daily Tidings columnist, arts reviewer and freelance writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.