megan whitmarsh
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Whitmarsh recreates the cover of Flash Art magazine, 2013.

When L.A. artist Megan Whitmarsh recreated her entire studio using wood, paint, fabric and embroidery for the Pulse Contemporary Art Fair in 2010, some visitors weren't sure what to make of the fanciful installation. "These elderly collectors came in and said, 'Oh, look, they have a little room for children,'" recalls Whitmarsh. "That sounded like an insult but I'm actually really interested in children and how they navigate the world. I think children and artists share an energy of freedom and an internal sense of play."

Whitmarsh's whimsical replicas, whether studios or trash piles ("Trash Mountain," 2008-2009) constructed out of wire and fabric or "paintings" of rock bands made from embroidery, are emblematic of this relationship between play and rigorousness. "I think there's a sort of fear in certain [art] circles that things aren't serious if they don't look serious," Whitmarsh says. "But I think you can have a sense of play and flexibility and at the same time be deliberate and serious about your work." Combining a craftsy, DIY sensibility with a more high-brow, intellectual quality (think Michel Gondry's elaborate cardboard or fabric sets in The Science of Sleep), her pieces have been shown at art fairs and in galleries all over the world. "I went to school for painting and sculpture, and I started doing embroidery for my paintings because honestly I thought I wasn't a good enough painter. I wanted to find ways to make art that was fresh to me," Whitmarsh says of how she began shaping her aesthetic. "It wasn't a conscious, political decision but more about being super attracted to the materials."

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"Orange Belt," 2012

Currently, Whitmarsh is working on a project with New York art store-cum-gallery Grey Area to recreate art magazines out of fabric and embroidery with invented covers featuring work by female artists like Niki de Saint Phalle and Lynda Benglis. The faux-art glossies will be on display at Art Basel Miami this December. "I want to point out that women don't get the historical attention and respect in the art world that they deserve," she says of the project. Along those lines, Whitmarsh is curating a collaborative show of female artists that will include work by writer Trinie Dalton, performance artist Jade Gordon, multidimensional artist Jennifer Juniper Stratford, herself and others, opening at Human Resources L.A. next fall. She's also gearing up for a solo show at Lower East Side gallery Mulherin + Pollard this February.

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"Trash mountain," 2008-09.

With each of these projects, Whitmarsh says the most important thing is that her work makes people feel good. "Pleasure is such an important part of viewing art and some people don't appreciate that," Whitmarsh says. "When I was in Sweden last month for my opening at Krets Gallery, an old woman came up and said, 'I feel like your work is hugging me.'"

Megan Whitmarsh / grey area will exhibit fabric art magazines at Art Basel Miami Beach, 2013.

All works courtesy of the artist and Mulherin + Pollard NYC; flash art magazine Photo by Aaron Farley courtesy of the artist and Grey Area.
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