By Margarita Hirapetian
Artist Meg Wagler’s paintings and illustrations are bold and powerful, drawing you in so deeply that you find yourself completely enraptured. Take, for example, her gorgeous illustration of a woman riding a ferocious tiger, her dark hair fanning out behind her as the two fly through a jungle. The woman and tiger have identical mouths, no doubt a comment on the fact that women are as fierce and tenacious as tigers. It’s supremely empowering. In fact, Meg’s art is “femme-focused” with many illustrations featuring women and the female body, emphasizing strength, beauty, power, and love. Regarding her subject matter, Meg says, “A lot of the women subjects in my work are just as much a self-portrait as they are a representation of someone else.” The painting of the woman and the tiger was shared on Meg’s Instagram (@megwagler_illustration) on the occasion of her 30th birthday, a time that made her undergo some “existential pondering,” but that ultimately had her “get on with it and ride.” That’s some advice we can all take to heart, no matter where we find ourselves in life.
Meg is an illustrator, designer, and muralist living in the Midwest, who received her BFA from Missouri State University in Graphic Design and Illustration. The program was “robust,” and she had to minor in both Art History and Fine Art just to pass. As she worked through the program, Meg found a real love for painting in later classes with oils on canvas. She explains, “I took a liking to the cubism, surrealism, and pop art movements. I painted a TON of Picasso, Matisse, and Lichtenstein, and the more I got into Pop Art, the more I wanted to scale up my projects in size. With larger work, oil paint was just too expensive and took too long to dry, so my style started shifting and became heavily influenced by my design work: bold & graphic. That style shift happened around the same time I was quitting my day job as an in-house designer at a stodgy accounting firm, so my emphasis in content on liberation and self-love became super important to me.” This emphasis on self-love and liberation probably also explains why it’s so easy to find yourself drawn to Meg’s work – it’s seductive. Furthermore, it’s something you want to capture for yourself.
As an artist, Meg finds painting to be highly therapeutic. She describes it as “an active state of meditation” that makes her “so satisfied.” With that said, we’d like her to know that looking at her work is also therapeutic and satisfying for the viewer! We further love the fact that much of Meg’s work is “response art,” often stemming from “political or societal frustrations or concerns.” Not to say that all artists should feel obligated to create political or social art, but the current political climate certainly lends itself well to this type of expression. In the past year, Meg has been creating works to commemorate and bring attention to Black History Month, Women’s History Month, and, most recently, Pride Month. Regarding Pride, she said, “This month is so important to recognize no matter what your sexual orientation is. It’s important to give time and space and recognition to the personal and cultural feats and hardships and setbacks and triumphs the queer community has lived through.” Meg’s emphasis on important societal and cultural moments that need to be recognized and celebrated makes her art that much more relevant, compelling, and dynamic.
When it comes to her work as a muralist, Meg also immediately notes and expounds upon the importance of public art. She explains, “I have a lot to say about public art. Recent studies on quality of life per city cite a huge mark-up in perceived quality just based on public art installments alone. Accessible art on the street or in large public spaces gives people an experience. It creates a space in which people feel connected to a space based on how they perceive the art, and so they can claim the space as part of their own. I think these studies being done recently are giving cities, businesses and property owners the confidence to pay artists for big work because they are seeing the economic impact it can have on a community. Not to mention: it’s just cool.” With that in mind, Meg expresses a desire to expand on her mural work, “I’d like to shift to traveling mural work. I’d love to work with city entities to start to develop more public art installments across developing cities and regions and use art to generate excitement, tourism, and economic impact in areas that need a boost.” Meg’s murals themselves feature bright, radiant colors like jungle green, magenta, and gold – colors that are not only beautiful and will beautify a public space, but that also have a positive impact on mood. Meg used to employ all earth tones and natural hues in her paintings, but her style shifted when she did a writing exercise asking herself about her choice of colors. She says, “After a lot of BS’ing, I realized it’s because I felt like the content I was painting was too serious for bright colors. So I wanted to explore what it would be like to explore heavy concepts with colors that juxtaposed the weight of the message.”
As to the question of what Meg hopes people take away from her art, she candidly says, “I always struggle with this question. I want people to think and feel however feels natural to them. For me, though, my art is always a hybrid of bright and dark. I am always working to find a visual and conceptual balance between some form of contrast. Sometimes it’s with color, sometimes it’s with organic shaping, sometimes it’s with botanicals and animalia, but I’m always working out the reality that life unfolds as a balance of light and dark.”
Meg will be having a RAW Artist Showcase in Kansas City, MO on July 31, 2019, and if you are in the area you should definitely stop by! Alternatively, you can take a look at her website (www.megwagler.com) or become a patron of her work for access to exclusive prints at Patreon.com/MegWagler.