by Cecilia LaFrance
A lime green painted trail snakes through streets, alleys, and parking lots, serving as a beacon to lead visitors to a growing number of 40 West Arts venues in Lakewood. Outside Pirate Art Gallery, Megan Bray carries an armload of supplies from her Toyota Corolla. After a few more trips to the car, Megan turns her attention to the empty shell of the cooperative art space. The stark white walls await an arrangement to best showcase the artwork of the young artist’s first official show.
Dressed in fitness gear, hair pulled up, today Megan plays the role of installer. The 24-year-old lights around the room in a feline-like dance, holding items at different heights and staging supplies on the floor. The show is three days away. She’s known about it for a year, but most of the preparation occurred in the last three months. Now, the four pieces she’ll show in a shared exhibit Friday night will hopefully result in the connections Megan seeks.
“It’s really scary,” Megan says of her debut. “It’s like kind of putting yourself out there, you know. It just makes me nervous.” A year out of art school, none of her current works resulted from an assignment; no prompt externally inspired the form or finished product. Yet, Megan relies on faith that her instructors well-prepared her for independent work.
“Not enough light,” Megan’s air soft voice concludes. She removes the metal casing from a light fixture and tapes the pink bulb behind a fiber creation. “Yeah,” punctuates her decision as she stands back to assess the effect. In front of her is a triangular weave of color, pink drowning out other minor hues, skirted with yarn work and interrupted with plastic windows. Do you call that a tapestry? “I don’t know what it is because it has so many things combined. There’s even trash bag in there.” Happy with the new lighting result, Megan applies an accessory, a pink bunny purse acrylic coated to forever pull from its handle like a leash. “Oh, that’s so cute.”
A round painting boasts a cell phone in neon glory. Red and pink phallic concoctions demand attention from triangle compartments. Even a paint cloth, which she arranges at an angle against the floor to capitalize on shadows, is a chance to use color. No specific message is intended. “I’m more than welcome for others to interpret it.” The connotations of color–passion, anger, and femininity—are the psychology in which Megan has found herself recently intrigued.
“It’s a coming of age thing,” Megan says of the color and toy motifs. “I’m an adult coming through my artist’s childhood.” The bunny purse, hers from younger days, supports the statement.
“It was always in me, for sure,” Megan says of the artist creativity. She remembers characteristic finger painting and sidewalk chalk, but also swirling weird concoctions in the sink to get colors, anything she could find—medicines, chemicals. “Mom would get mad at me.”
Every child is creative, Megan says, and her inner artist, as with many people, went dormant in adolescence. A high school art teacher sparked the Rapid City, SD teenager’s interest again. “It took the right place and time to come out,” Megan says. To keep momentum after high school, Megan sought another right place. “I would definitely raise a family up there, but there’s no art scene,” Megan says, excusing herself from the Native American art due to lack of expertise and heritage.
She chose art school, originally intending to find work in the art business after achieving her degree rather than pursue her own art. However, inspired by the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design instructors, who themselves are working artists, Megan wants to let her own art have its life. Paying bills with server earnings and a weekly gig teaching art at a retirement home, Megan says she can afford to give herself a chance. “Maybe I can keep going.”
For Friday’s show, a sale of one of her works doesn’t come across as her greatest motivation, but is welcome. “If someone would like to keep it, I think that would be the ultimate honor.” Instead, the greatest outcome of her first show is the people. “I hope to connect with other people who do or like similar art, meet more people in the community and hear how they keep going, make money, stay happy.”
“I’m looking for a community rather than a career.” Megan values the introduction to friends who are “killing it out there,” people she can learn from.
“Hopefully, when you get the ball rolling with one show, ya know, you can kind of go on from there.”
Picking up her circular painting, debating on what color of chain to use for suspension, Megan notices its unintended shimmer reflection on the concrete floor. “Yeah.”