A stunning full-colour art book and the first to explore the career of award-winning visual artist Sandra Meigs
Part philosopher, part filmmaker, performer, writer, tinkerer, prankster, conjurer, naturalist, upholsterer, and teacher, Sandra Meigs has typically been referred to as a painter. But she engages whatever media or form she chooses to probe to the limits of the ideas circulating in her work.
Meigs’s work has been presented across Canada, the U.S., and Europe; it is represented in major public and corporate collections; and, among many accolades, she received the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts in 2015 and the prestigious Gershon Iskowitz Prize in 2015.
The book tracks how Meigs herself understands her art and her career, a story told through 17 major projects that best demonstrate her preoccupations; four essays written by Meigs and accompanied by sketches original to the book; as well as long-term research and investigations. The Way Between Things: The Art of Sandra Meigs samples a prolific and extraordinary artistic oeuvre.
About the authors
Sandra Meigs is a visual artist and arts educator. Born in Baltimore, Maryland; Sandra moved to Canada, where she received a MA in Philosophy from Dalhousie University, Halifax; and a BFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax. Her work has been exhibited widely across Canada at major institutions including the Power Plant, Toronto; the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; and the Walter Phillips Gallery, Banff; as well as internationally, including the Bologna Biennale (2002) and the Fifth Biennale of Sydney (1986). Meigs has also held teaching positions at the University of Victoria, and served as chair of the Visual Arts Department.
Helen Marzolf, a former curator at two Saskatchewan art galleries, now works in Victoria, BC.
Excerpt: The Way Between Things: The Art of Sandra Meigs (by (author) Sandra Meigs & Helen Marzolf)
The Maelstrom was all-out, an experiential tour-de-force. It was a raw and ambitious work for a young artist. Precisely calibrated in scale and use of media, it launched Meigs’ characteristic artistic moves: sensory overload, the candid exploration of what lies behind polite social exteriors, her intimate and seemingly unedited drawings. Stirring emotions, reimagining aesthetic mores, disclosing the autobiographical, ignoring formal and social conventions, The Maelstrom simultaneously repels and appeals, speaking to our most concealed fears and furtive desires.
The Maelstrom confronted visitors with rapidly changing film sequences combined with poetic inter-titles, a roaring sound track, and an animated table that leaned into the viewer’s personal space. Meigs saw the table as a prop inspired by philosophers’ habit of using a table as a stand-in for the entire class of objects. She configured a compressed sensory theatre by erecting a temporary wall to confine the area of the film and the table, effectively constricting viewers’ movements to create an uneasy-making or “unheimlich” space. The Maelstrom was a daunting and astonishing presence for artist Robert Fones: “A table as protagonist! A table as malevolent force. Wow! That struck me as highly unconventional. The idea of an inanimate object as an active agent was reinforced by the table in the exhibition that, with the aid of a mechanized pulley system, tipped over, then righted itself every minute or so.” Fones’ attention, however, zeroed in on Meigs’ suite of twenty-two drawings. Installed as a storyboard, the drawings seemed to be the seed of Meigs’ expressionist theatre in Fones’ opinion, and he was especially drawn to the dream image of a table pinning and slicing a girl.
Another visitor, the critic John Bentley Mays, writing for The Globe and Mail, was shaken by his encounter with The Maelstrom. He found rational analyses were ineffectual in making sense of the installation. In his review of The Maelstrom in The Globe and Mail, he wrote of the “unspeakability” of Meigs’ art. His comment is exactly accurate, documenting the mute cognitive and emotional turbulence that attends an encounter with something entirely powerful, unexpected, and resistant to précis. The text, the sound, the film, and the action overwhelmed him. Mays peppered his review with quotations from Meigs’ poetics as if their shared interest in words was the only solid brace he could grab. Meigs remembers Mays turning to her after they had viewed the work together and asking, “You look like a secretary for a greeting card company — how can YOU have made this work?” It could be that Mays was as much shaken by confronting a perceptive feminine intelligence; in turn, The Maelstrom seeped into Mays, taking up residence in his memory and psyche.
“Energy, fearlessness, and commitment to the prompting of the imagination are the qualities I attribute to the art of Sandra Meigs. I don’t know if Sol LeWitt would have recognized her as a conceptual artist, but she definitely fulfills his dictum that ‘irrational thoughts should be followed absolutely and logically.’ The rigor with which she realizes her dark projects is in itself a joy. I envy Helen Marzolf for having been able to immerse herself so deeply in this oeuvre which is, as she concludes, ‘disarming, mysterious but unfailingly familiar, and ultimately transformative.’” — Barry Schwabsky, art critic, poet, and author of The Perpetual Guest: Art in the Unfinished Present (2016) and The Observer Effect: On Contemporary Painting (2020)
“Both an artist’s book and an art book, this stunning publication brings together Sandra Meigs’s extraordinarily varied and original oeuvre in a long overdue overview. The combination of Helen Marzolf’s clearly written analyses, Meigs’s varied forms of commentary, and the profusion of coloured images provides great insight and pleasure. A must-read for anyone interested in painting, contemporary art practices in Canada, and the work of this always surprising artist.” — Reesa Greenberg, Adjunct Research Professor, Art and Architectural History, Carleton University
“Anyone who has been at all in touch with Canadian artmaking over the last three decades has been aware of the fierce, eccentric imagination and intelligence of Sandra Meigs and her work. But with The Way Between Things, the first substantial monograph on Meigs, even her biggest fans are likely to be amazed at the sheer range of her work and at a quality that never lets up. Those of us who have thought of her mostly as a painter will wake up to the importance of her work in film and installation. If we’ve been impressed all along by how Meigs’s art has struck an unlikely balance between the tough and the cute, this new book forces us to refocus on the deep cultural insights and vision that drive it.” — Blake Gopnik, regular contributor to the New York Times and author of Warhol, a comprehensive biography of the Pop artist
“The Way Between Things leads readers, like guests, into the artist’s space, an experiential ecosystem filled with emotion and wonder, and articulates and synthesizes Meigs’ astonishing imagination.” — Galleries West
“For more than four decades, Canadian artist Sandra Meigs has engaged her volcanic creativity to produce paintings, installations, kinetic sculptures, and sound works that express her distinctive subjectivity. Exploring personal narratives, interior spaces warped by memory, gendered experiences of the natural world, Gothic themes and slapstick comedy, and mystical states, Meigs leads us down rabbit holes of consciousness to destinations that never fail to intrigue.” — Sarah Milroy, Chief Curator, McMichael Canadian Art Collection