By Meredith Cutler
Boston, MA- Boston-area artist Karen Meninno opens her third solo show at the Kingston Gallery this week — but, in many aspects, the show represents a “first” for this New Delhi born, London-bred sculptor. In a marked departure from the physically ornate, anthropomorphic sculptures we’ve seen previously from Meninno, “Sculpture Remix” cleanly transports a dolled-up, cast-plaster model influenced by cities, both real and imagined, into the 2-D realm as coolly kaleidoscopic digital C-prints and glossy scrolls of custom-printed wallpaper.
I caught up with Meninno via email just after the show’s installation. Here’s what she has to say about her shift between worlds.
WHAT LED YOU TO PURSUE A TWO-DIMENSIONAL INTERPRETATION OF YOUR SCULPTURE?
The real impetus behind presenting my sculptures as 2-D manipulated images was to engage viewers in 3-D art. I want to seduce viewers into falling in love with sculpture before they even realize it. I feel that unique sculpture is not given its dues in galleries and museums, as it is [still] seen as a poor cousin to painting or photography. I want people to engage with sculpture, to be surprised and not bored by it. Historically, sculptors photographed their work, as they would have had to melt it down to re-use materials. That (document) is then all that is left. My plaster city sculptures are temporary, but their essence will be preserved through the images in my show.
IN TERMS OF PLACE, YOU MENTION FRITZ LANG’S (1927) FILM ”METROPOLIS” AND IMPRESSIONS OF YOUR VACATION TO MODERN ROME AS JUMPING OFF POINTS FOR THE WORK. DO YOU IMAGINE THE DENIZENS OF YOUR CITY? DESCRIBE THEM…
KM: Yes, I have imagined my citizens many times! Not exactly human… more like abstracted human forms, they are gloriously attired in sumptuous fabrics and the weirdest headwear that you can imagine. They don’t speak a particular language, although their clothing and skin comes from a variety of cultures. Their limbs may be non-existent or extraneous, just enough to shuffle around in this gaudy environment. Perhaps, what I am feeling is that we will evolve as a species to where we don’t actually do anything except float around in an exquisitely designed baroque set, telepathically communicating with cyborg parts! Their environment, represented by my fictional city, reflects their own form.
TELL ME ABOUT THE CAST-PLASTER CITY YOU CONSTRUCTED AS YOUR MODEL AND MUSE…
The forms were made by casting plaster into plastic trays for Christmas ornaments, food storage boxes, etc. I tried to collect molds that hinted at architecture, either real or imagined. After the pieces cured, I carved into them with vintage dental tools, then painted and embellished them as I would with some of my jewelry designs. Then, I would stack pieces on top of each other until a building would emerge. I am a proponent of stacking, and am inspired by the sculptures of [Constantin] Brancusi. This part of the process took a very long time. I would ask myself “How much of this city should I construct?” The answer came in the end when I started to think of not presenting the actual sculptures, but images of them instead.
SPEAKING OF CITIES, ARE YOU A “CITY MOUSE,” “COUNTRY MOUSE,” OR SOMETHING ELSE ENTIRELY?
KM: I am a city girl, born (New Delhi) and raised (London), but now live out in the suburbs of Boston. I love my countrified life, but yearn for the city lights. Perhaps, living in relative artistic isolation can help me appreciate the City, extol it, point out its obscene consumption and so on. The City is our greatest achievement as a species…we keep re-creating it and it drives our evolution to higher and greater invention. Check out all those crazy skyscrapers in Dubai! That’s human ingenuity and sculpture at work… it will reach to the stars and beyond.
(Karen Meninno: “Sculpture Remix” is on view April 3 through 28 at the Kingston Gallery at 450 Harrison Ave. #43, in Boston’s SoWa District. Her opening reception is this Friday, April 5 from 5-7:30 p.m. For more info call: (617) 423-4113.)