Sorcha Meek, speaking softly with a poetic flow in
her words tells me the Philosopher Kant said, “Art is about revealing
what is already there. The role of the artist is to make sense of it”.
Flashing eyes soften and change as memories of the
sudden, unexpected loss of her father in law, John, are shared. He was
the pillar of a strong family in Ireland and his untimely death caused
a deep reaction in Sorcha compelling her to translate her feelings into
abstract art at the Columbia Art Center show with Hospice of the Gorge.
The large canvas is painted white with bold slashes
of black letters. The entire canvas is wrapped in wide gauze at odd
angles as if bandaging the canvas would help heal her father in law
or at least the family who mourns. The gauze was waxed causing a transparent
glaze to cover the loose threads to protect the whole.
I found the piece difficult to look at for it caused
a wave of my own memories to surface of when I worked as a trauma nurse
in a burn unit in Texas. My patient had 98% of his body burned with
only the tip of his nose clean, smooth flesh. The gauze reminded me
of the hours spent applying pigskin to raw skin in hopes of building
new layers of flesh. Seeking understanding I asked Sorcha about the
“The painting is titled ‘Freedom from
the Known’ and was inspired by a book by Krishnamurti. In this
book he talks about death as the shedding of old ideas and beliefs that
limit us and bind us. And that death need not be seen as a negative
ending but rather the beginning of true freedom, freedom from everything
we have ever known before. I have used gauze as a symbol of healing,
wax as a symbol of energy and white as a symbol of purity,” Sorcha
quietly explains in a soft voice with an Irish accent. “My father
in law was a beekeeper. The wax represented the energy he brought to
his family.” I reluctantly shared my difficulty looking at her
art with my story as a nurse. Sorcha soothed my concerns by sharing
“ Abstract art challenges viewers to react because each individual
brings his or her personal history to whatever the piece of art may
be. And as individuals with different pasts and life struggles, joys
etc. we will all read into a piece of abstract art differently. People
don’t always trust themselves to see the message and to reflect
on their reaction” shares Sorcha. Her art and thoughtful conversation
will forever impact my view of abstract art.
Raised in Ireland Sorcha has always been surrounded
by art and music. Her mother, a musician and teacher, was the first
in Ireland to begin a Montessori school for children providing a foundation
of learning. Music and Art was at the heart of the curriculum. Her father
began his career as a folk singer and then became the Traditional Irish
music critic for the Irish times, as well as a writer and broadcaster.
Among her siblings are musicians, a choreographer and a photographer.
At times she wondered if the path she had chosen to be an artist was
the correct one but now after 15 years of pursuing her art she is content
it is the right choice for her.
“Being an artist is really an attitude towards
life and how you view the world. Being a ‘serious artist’
takes an enormous amount of self-discipline and focus. One series of
work titled “Being Human” shows we may come in different
shapes, sizes, religions, and races but fundamentally we are more similar
than not. Therefore we should be able to have meaningful connections
with any other human regardless of race, religion or nationality simply
because we are ‘human!’ ” shares Sorcha with the wisdom
of one who has seen first hand the hatred in families growing up in
Ireland who did not know anything about the other person except they
were either Protestant or Catholic.
“My work is derived from personal experiences
and issues that matter to me. My latest body of work ‘Transtions’
stemmed from my father in laws death. It was my way of making sense
and coming to terms with such a huge loss. As I continued to work in
my studio the concept of Transitions evolved. It led into the concept
of Transitions happening within our bodies on a molecular level, in
our town, in our environment, on our earth. I became more aware of the
‘Transitions’ taking place on both a Micro and Macro level,
all around us,” Sorcha explains with eyes, hands and voice communicating
a depth of meaning in her work.
When Sorcha and her husband Barry visited the Gorge
while living for a short time in Seattle, they saw Maryhill Museum.
At the time she day dreamed that when she was at last a successful artist
at perhaps 67 or 77 years old and the museum might select her work to
be shown. She was sure if the daydream came true she would die happy.
Sometimes the stuff of daydreams becomes reality. Sorcha is one of 12
artists chosen to create work for a show titled “Sustaining change
on the American farm”. Her paintings will feature a farm in Ontario,
eastern Oregon, in the spring opening at Maryhill Museum of Art in March
Now Sorcha and her family live in Hood River. Studying
printmaking in Italy, Ireland and Seattle, Sorcha enjoys the variety
of techniques used. She etches copper plates to create limited edition
etchings and works with Plexiglass plates to create one of a kind Monotypes
for her “Being Human” series. Both the copper plates and
the Plexiglass plates are hand rolled through a large press powered
by muscle and skill.
Sorcha Meek’s life as an artist has been one
of transitions from growing up in Ireland to school at The Art Institute
in Florence, Italy to teaching children art in Seattle to living in
Hood River as an artist, teacher, wife and mother. Transitions in life
have inspired Sorcha Meek to open her own studio, Solo, in downtown
Hood River this November.
Sorcha recently completed a solo show titled
“Transitions” at Washington State University. Her work is
shown in galleries in Portland, Oregon; Dublin, Ireland and Hood River,
Oregon in the Columbia Art Gallery and Yum; Redfish in Stevenson. Solo
is located at 512 Cascade St., Hood River, OR.