Laura Meilman – MBTA Can Be Artwork

laura-meilman

Meet Laura Meilman, an artist who comes from NY, falls in love with Boston and gets inspired by MBTA in her artwork. Check out her story below.

Can you tell me about your background?

I am originally from Ithaca, New York but I graduated with an art degree from Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana. I moved to Boston in 2011 because living in a city appealed to me and I had an opportunity to sublet a room here. I was also interested in living in a city because of access to public transit. Since moving here, I have earned an Illustration Certificate from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts.

When and why did you start making art? Any story behind it?

I have been making art my whole life, really since I could hold a crayon. It is something I have always loved. I spent high school reading comic books and copying those art styles. When I first got to college, I didn’t know what I wanted to major in but it became clear by the end of my first semester that I was incredibly excited about all of the coursework in the art department. I have really continued down that path ever since.

Who/what inspired you to become the person you are today?

During my time at Earlham I spent a semester in Morelos, Mexico. While in Mexico I studied with an incredible artist named Rolando Guillermo-Prieto. We collaborated on a mural depicting the conquest of Mexico by the Spanish and I learned so much from him about visual storytelling and what it looks like to live as a working artist. My parents of course have influenced me quite a bit also, both of whom are very caring and hardworking.

Where are you finding ideas for your artwork these days?

I tend to work from observation so I tend to create images of whatever is around me at any time. Traveling always yields interesting new work. I was fortunate enough to participate in a drawing and painting workshop this summer at Haystack Mountain School of Craft in Deer Isle, Maine. Most mornings I went out to draw the beach while it was still at low tide but I also ended up making paintings of the big industrial dishwasher in the kitchen. I don’t always choose the most traditionally beautiful subjects because often they are more interesting.

Why you choose Boston subway system as one of the themes of your artwork?

I started my project to draw all of the subways stops in Boston at a point in my life when I really wanted to travel and make artwork but I didn’t have the means to go very far so I decided to explore my own city. A former co-worker suggested going to all of the commuter rail stations, but I opted for subways instead. The subway stations tend not to be seen as traditionally beautiful so they definitely captured my interest for that reason as well.

 

After this project, which T-station is your favorite? Why?

I don’t know that I can actually pick one favorite. There were so many that were really wonderful to draw. I loved all the stops with public art– murals and sculptures. I loved working in nods to other artists who have contributed to the landscape of the T. Sometimes I went to the stations at night when the lighting was more dramatic. I suppose I do have a fondness for Stony Brook on the orange line since that was my stop when I lived in Jamaica Plain.

Are there any plans for similar projects in the future?

I would love to do an Amtrak trip around the country and make drawings as I go. I also currently live near the Minuteman Bike Path in Cambridge and I am considering making a series of drawings and paintings of the bike path. Some artists depict the same places over and over again throughout their lives– Georgia O’Keefe, David Hockney, to name a couple– that actually appeals to me quite a bit.

What does art mean to you?

Ever since a particularly eye opening course in college on the History of Craft, I have expanded my idea of art to include anything humans make– buildings, textiles, writing, sculpture, pottery, even scientific and technological advancements. Anything that involves observation of the world around you and uses the creative process can be art, or at least falls under the same large category of human creation. I see art in almost everything.

Do you have any story funny, touching, or important to you that you’d like to share with us?

Sure! When I was about halfway done with Project T-scapes, my work was featured in the Boston Globe. It was very exciting and the response to my drawings was overwhelmingly positive. One person who got in touch with me after the article was published was artist Valerie McCaffrey. She teaches art classes in her home studio and invited me to come and co-teach a class with her. The whole class and I went to their nearby commuter rail station and depicted the view in markers, exactly my process for the T stop drawings. I am honored to have met Valerie, who is an incredible artist and mentor as well.

What does Boston mean to you?

Boston is the first place I have lived completely on my own, not with my parents, and not at college. I have had quite a bit of support along the way, but Boston has been the place I have lived with the most independence. Over my four years of living here so far, I have met a lot of really interesting people, faced challenges I’ve never had to face before, and have become a part of a really wonderful community.

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