History and New Futures

The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner
  • James Meyer (I)

chain, steel, resin cast, 48"x18"x18", 2020.

Artist Statement

How do you remember? What do you remember? How accurate is it? Is your memory real? In my works, I make use of questions of culture as the starting point: how the mind works to understand what you know.

Memory of childhood places: While writing an outline of my artistic path, I realized that when I was young I moved every couple of years. This experience made me new to each school and playground. Every time I moved, not being part of the social structure made me an observer. I was there but invisible. I was not an adult whose presence could alter the behavior of the children. The children behaved as they would unsupervised: the courage, betrayal, and compassion were all there. This experience of childhood, the wonder of learning to interact, to be brave, and stand up for a friend or cower from a bully, forges who we become as adults — how we perceive rights, race, and history.

Use of materials: I have worked in foundries and for other artists developing a language of materials: steel, bronze, etching, woodcut, encaustic, watercolor… The choice of materials has become intuitive to my process. When thinking about implicit bias self-portraits, I thought about the beauty of watercolor and how it is mostly used to make something traditionally beautiful — a landscape or flowers. I used it to make the commonly recognized image of Frankenstein’s monster, an image that people have a visceral reaction to. They cannot help their response. I have made three such self-portraits, two in watercolor; in the third version, I used tar paper and encaustic. Tar was used in public shaming to run people out of town, to tar and feather someone. I have used steel in the piece The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, steel as the bones of the person, holding him captive in a fate of his own making.

Non-sequential images and memory: I use a combination of non-sequential images and titles to develop ideas the viewer can respond to.

Artist Bio 

James Meyer is an artist currently in the MECA MFA program, after working in the arts for several years. James was sentenced to prison for two years, he continued to draw and make sculptures there reflecting on what had happened and what his path as an artist would be. While in prison James taught drawing classes and made 500 ballpoint pen drawings. He currently works with an art group Escaping Time showing art from U.S. prisons. More at @jamesmeyerart.