out of the swing of the sea
Meg Alexander out of the swing of the sea Color pencil on paper
Maine Window (Single)
2022
Color pencil on paper
30 x 22.5 inches

out of the swing of the sea

Ishibashi Gallery
Middlesex School
Concord, MA

November 14, 2022 - January 13, 2023

Artist Statement

October 2022

A disturbance on the surface of the ocean creates waves.
Waves are particles of water which move in a circular orbit.

These are the first lines in my 1984 degree project from the Rhode Island School of Design, a book comprised of text and hand-drawn diagrams illustrating how a simple wind wave begins as a churning, chaotic mass out at sea and eventually becomes a singular wave crashing on the shore. I turned to the physics of waves to better understand why the experience of looking at ocean waves is so universally mesmerizing. Ideas about change and constancy, order and variation, movement and stillness continue to fuel my imagination and underlie my work. The ocean, with its shifting dichotomies, is my base beat, my sporadic rhythm, even as I’ve explored many other subjects over the years.

I remain drawn to subjects that embody a natural visible duration: a wave, a beaver dam decaying, a blossoming flower, a reflected sliver of sky, a tornado, flames. I’m interested in the way in which we perceive singular moments of beauty or clarity within the flux and flow of daily life. Each drawing project, whether using graphite, India ink, or color pencil, begins with a personal point of connection—a discovery, an interaction, a question. When starting a drawing I turn to photography as a tool to pull an object/event from the stream and thus capture and isolate it. While a photograph provides the initial capture, the thousands of decisions required to translate and distill the photographic image into a drawing give the resulting work a focus and singularity that transcend the original photograph to create a separate reality.

In my windowless studio, working alone, door closed, I’m able to situate myself away from the chaos of daily life. I work on a drawing project over months or years, using drafts, sketches, studies, and variations to figure out what compels me, not unlike the particle of water moving in a circular orbit, staying in place and moving forward at the same time. This focused, labor- and time-intensive process is a way for me to spend extensive time with a subject, giving the resulting drawings a distilled visual clarity and an emotional quality.

At the Ishibashi Gallery I’m presenting selected works representing thirty years in the studio. I invite the viewer to enter my world and join me somewhere ‘out of the swing of the sea’—where, as the poet Hopkins suggests in his 1864 poem ‘Heaven-Haven,’ isolation is experienced as joy rather than loneliness, not as frightening oblivion but as a sense of quiet and momentary perfection—the ultimate spiritual freedom.

Meg Alexander graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1984 and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University in 1991. That year, she embarked on her life as a studio artist, and she and her husband John Hirsch moved into Hallowell House at Middlesex School, joining the school community where they continue to live and work.