When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth: Q&A with Megan Marden, painter and creator of CT ArtList

Created by painter Megan Marden, CT ArtList is a promising new website that includes gallery listings, open call information, reviews and other information for Connecticut artists. Two Coats contributor Joe Bun Keo had a few questions for Marden both about her online project and her painting practice.

Megan Marden, Butterscotch/Ginger Ale, 2012, oil on hardboard, 22.5 x 25.5 inches. All images courtesy of the artist.

JOE BUN KEO: You are the mastermind and genius behind CT ArtList! I want to firstly thank you for letting me be a part of this amazing project. What inspired you to start CTArtList? What is the background story of how CT ArtList came to be?

MEGAN MARDEN: CT ArtList is something that I�ve been thinking about for a few years. I used to think that something like this should exist – an organized database for artists to find jobs, shows, grants, residencies, etc. I didn�t intend to be the one who made it. I just thought that someone should.

This summer I started working at a gallery. I�ve been searching for artists for our program online, and I use online resources to promote shows and events. I use ArtSlant, Facebook, Twitter, and some others on a regular basis. While each has it�s finer points, none have everything I need. I realized that a website like CT ArtList could be just as useful to galleries as it could be to artists.

One day I just bought the domain, and started putting up content in no particular order. I immediately started getting emails from people all over the state, submitting galleries, and portfolios, or suggesting new features. Some people would write to me just to say that they thought it was a cool, and much needed thing. It was so exciting, and I knew that I wasn�t alone in sensing the importance of this.

Megan Marden, Fluorescent Lamp Self Portrait, 2012, oil on canvas, 6 x 6 inches

JBK: Your stilllifes incorporate toy dinosaurs that evoke memories of childhood entertainment, joy and imagination and the thoughts of an extinct species that once ruled the earth. What goes through your mind while painting that brings the two together to create a cohesive composition conceptually and visually?

MM: I think about so much when I paint. That�s probably not very good. I should try to be a little more focused. Obviously I think about what I�m doing, how I want the marks to look – if I want to interpret something accurately or more personally. But my mind wanders onto other things. I make up stories in my mind about what the dinosaurs are doing. I always imagine the set-ups as being a lot more violent and tragic than they actually are. I think of the dinosaurs as clawing at each other and impeding one and others’ progress. I sometimes imagine the set ups as very last moment of livable chaos before everything just goes to hell.

I�ve thought about how the dinosaurs are extinct, and how they�re not even real dinosaurs, but just toys. At one point I had to decide once and for all what I was painting. Dinosaurs, or toy dinosaurs? I decided they were toys. Then I felt that the paintings couldn�t be about extinction anymore.

Right at the end of graduate school I realized that the paintings were about something very specific from my childhood that was a painful, but pivotal point in shaping my identity. I started to relive a lot of the emotions I felt at that time and it got really hard for me to face the paintings. It was tough, but I was glad I had finally figured out the real, personal significance of the objects. It�s a secret. For now.

Megan Marden, Light Seeking Light, 2012, oil on hardboard, 22.5 x 22.5 inches.

JBK: Various techniques, textures, paint mediums and number of applications build up your paintings like sculptures. As a painter working on a 2D surface, how do the attributes of 3D work come into play?

MM: I like to use a lot of thick paint in some areas and thin washes in other areas. Surface is so important, and it strangely seems to be one of the last things a student-painter thinks about. Creating different surfaces is like adding a new, unnameable color to your palette. It can open up the space or make things close and compressed. To me it�s one of the most fun things about painting. I love building up the surface and discovering all of the different ways I can get paint to look.

In graduate school I went through a period of being just obsessed with a painter named Susanna Heller who has very fantastic paint surfaces, and also the sculptor John Chamberlain. I was thinking about the work of these two artists every day as I painted for an entire semester. Just thinking about their work constantly challenged me to push my surface more and more.

Megan Marden, Not So Fast! , 2012, oil on hardboard, 25.5 x 22.5 inches

JBK: The work teeters between an effort to render carefully what is in front of you and that of letting it be to its own devices. It�s a dialogue between realism and abstraction. How would you describe this dichotomy?
MM: I think that all of the best paintings exist somewhere in the middle between realism and abstraction. I appreciate the level of technical skill required for absolute realism, but I just don�t think it�s very interesting beyond that. I feel a real, serious, contemplative, awareness in minimalist painting – like every great minimalist painting has the presence of a great philosopher. My paintings might feel a little like eating too much candy when compared to Brice Marden or Rothko or somebody, but I�m alright with that.

Megan Marden, String and Skull Study, 2012, oil on hardboard, 10 x 10 inches

JBK: Tell us about what�s next for Megan Marden? Are there any upcoming exhibitions or other creative opportunities?

MM: I have some shows in 2013 in Connecticut that I�m in the process of lining up right now. I want to keep painting, but I also want 2013 to be a year of great things for CT ArtList. When I started it I told myself that if I got a decent response that I would start getting serious about it around the New Year, so you know, onward and upward!

Megan Marden, The Last Shall Be First (Last Call), 2012, oil on hardboard, 22.5 x 25.5 inches.


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  1. Great article and great artwork!

  2. Great article. Refreshingly well-written. "… a dialogue between realism and abstraction…" Nice.

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