There is a refreshing new art exhibit up at the Steaming Bean. No grand, sweeping landscapes or animal portraits here. Rather, painter Meredith Rose’s “Humans” take to the walls gazing down at the café patrons, daring them, begging them to bring on their judgments. Several of the pieces are self-portraits of Rose, who has taken on some big messages in her work.
What got you interested in painting “Humans”?
My mother was a landscape painter and my grandmother was, too, and it just wasn’t enough. I wanted to incorporate something else, something new. I was a landscape painter up until I started going to figure drawing here in Durango, and then I was just hooked. So I started incorporating figures into my landscapes.
I paint people because I believe in the strength of our diversity as a species. I like to explore the themes of ethnicity and identity. I’ve got models from every cultural background and a lot of what I touch on is equality among human beings, not just women, but also feminist equality.
Is there anything you have learned or gained from incorporating human figures in your landscapes?
It’s really challenging. It’s also definitely therapeutic for me. In this society all we see are these sexist images everywhere: Women being oppressed, women with lesser jobs. I really try to portray women not in sexualized positions … When I paint nudes, it’s to try to knock down that sexual oppression.
How do you decide you are going to paint a particular person?
Usually in the past I have always gotten people through the figure drawing sessions at the (Durango) Arts Center because they are willing and they know how to pose for multiple hours. Honestly, if you get a friend or someone off the street they aren’t as good a model because they can’t stand still for hours or they don’t want to. And then it’s really hard to get men to pose naked … People think it’s a sexual thing. That’s one of my biggest problems.
So tell me a little about your background
I grew up in a family of artists. I always knew I wanted to be an artist. I went to Rhode Island school of Design for painting. My senior year I went to their European Honors Program in Rome. I got to study art history, painting and Italian, which was just an incredible experience.
Wow, Rome! Have you lived or painted in any other cool places?
I moved to Mexico for a year and got back in March. I just painted like crazy without distractions or a part-time job and lived right on the beach. It was paradise.
I needed inspiration. My husband and I had been in Durango for 12 years and we just never really vacationed anywhere, so finally we just exploded. We took the kids out of school and they learned Spanish and went to a Waldorf school.
I have a few paintings that I painted down there. The self-portrait on the beach with Jupiter. It’s called “I Made the Break.” And I painted the one with the jellyfish with a Mexican model. It’s called “Deep Colors Electric.”
I’m seeing a space theme in a lot of your work. Can you tell me a little about that?
That’s definitely the direction I’m going in right now. It’s more about outer space … It’s about a more futuristic outlook but really maybe the future is already here … I really like people to see the spiritual side of my paintings but to interpret it for themselves. Does this look dreamlike, or does it look psychedelic, or does it look futuristic, or does it look trippy? I want people to interpret it like they want to. But I think in the future I will be going more psychedelic or more interplanetary, whatever that means.
I just really want to offer messages of love and happiness. I know it sounds really hippie, but I’m a total hippie. I want to offer a bigger message in my work.