Artist Joan Elizabeth Meyer draws on a theme of man versus nature in her Nature’s Revenge series. See more of her portfolio by visiting her website.
As a child, I was raised mostly in a rural area. My parents, however, were originally city people. We went back and forth to New York City for culture and “Life,” as my mother would call it.
“Life” for me was exploring the woods, playing in ponds, making fairy houses and venturing around all day with a local farm dog who acted as my bodyguard. When not outside, I spent considerable amounts of time by myself inside the house. I drew and filled up sketchbooks. I would also pour through National Geographic, Smithsonian and many other kinds of nature and science magazines. These I found to be the most fascinating sources of entertainment.
I had a natural ability in art, so I went to college and studied commercial illustration. That seemed the practical thing to do. After earning a degree in commercial illustration, I switched my major to fine art and went to Tyler School of Art. A fellowship to North Carolina School of the Arts for set design and painting for the theater followed. All these educational experiences influenced my growth as an artist.
I’ve been painting seriously for over forty years. Somehow, during this time, I managed to teach art to high school students while still pursuing my own art after school and on weekends. Some of the assignments I gave my students led to new ideas for my own art, providing new ways to approach things. Of course, I’d change the imagery by manipulating it. One assignment was to combine machine, animal and plant images into hybrid inventions. The incredibly interesting shapes and forms the students put together sparked my own creative play.
After I retired from teaching, I was able to concentrate more fully on my own art.
Most of the inspiration for my paintings come from imaginative and creative stories. Themes, particularly from the 80’s, focused on humans and their incongruence with nature. I also pursued apocalyptic themes and even created a series that stemmed from 9/11. I reside a mile away from the World Trade Center and lived/viewed that day firsthand.
My painting technique involves the use of heavy layers of oil scraped and carved with a palette knife and lots of manipulation of the paint—mostly wet paint into wet paint. These paintings can take weeks, months and even years to finish.
My latest series is called Nature’s Revenge. I draw inspiration from many sources. Simply viewing my curio cabinet can spark a story when I look at the porcelain figurines, antique stuffed animals, hollowed out lobster claws and other curiosities. I’ll animate these things into paintings such as Animal Army and The Simmering Heat.
During Covid in 2020, news seemed to get crazier by the day. At one point, I heard about murder hornets which was the inspiration for The Menagerie at the Bucolic Asylum. A visit to the Coney Island Aquarium and seeing sea turtles put their faces up to the glass led to the painting Floating Above the Earth.
My Nature’s Revenge series is ongoing and it looks like there’s plenty of inspiration out there to keep drawing from.