Ass Angeles? We get down with the creative ceramics of Meegan Barnes.
In the late 19th century, Southern California attracted misfits, idealists, and entrepreneurs with few ties to anyone or anything. Swamis, spiritualists, and other self-proclaimed religious authorities quickly made their way out West to forge new faiths. Independent book publishers, motivational speakers, and metaphysical-minded artists and writers then became part of the Los Angeles landscape. From yogis, to psychics, to witches, City of the Seekers examines how creative freedom enables LA-based artists to make spiritual work as part of their practices.
LA-based artist Meegan Barnes makes elegantly sculpted ceramics, many of which are butts. Her understanding and interpretation of the female form comes from her formal arts education, but the hint of exaggeration in her glossy creations is rooted in a deep appreciation of art as a primal force.
Originally from the Bay Area, the freelance artist lived in New York as an illustrator toiling in fashion, beauty, and music before she went to Brazil and sculpted her first derriere. “Butts are sensual, symmetrical, and also represent a duality that’s a big part of my own personality," she tells The Creators Project.
These days, Barnes works mostly in clay, merging an earthy style with a sophisticated understanding of popular culture and the way objects—like body parts—are fetishized. She loves using gold luster, which she describes as "very toxic but totally worth it for the end result." When asked why she feels compelled to create ceramic booties, she responds, "To have fun, make people smile. Maybe empower the ladies and intimidate the dudes a little."
Barnes moved to Southern California about four years ago with her husband, who works in the film industry. She's since found the radically different lifestyle very well suited to her needs as an artist. "The pace is slightly slower here than other big cities, so people have more time to sit back with a kombucha and daydream," she says. "There is an open-mindedness in LA that feels very accepting and cultivating. Personally, I feel really free here to explore, experiment, and push the boundaries. There’s definitely a strong collective unconscious happening right now [that] I feel tapped into—it’s powerful and inspiring."
Like many artists nowadays, Barnes shows her work extensively on Instagram, which has enabled her to make connections with other galleries and artists, and helped facilitate most of the gallery shows she's had in LA. Until she came to Los Angeles, in fact, Barnes hadn't shown in a gallery setting. But since her relocation, she's had work exhibited in numerous group shows at Superchief, New Image Art, LAST Projects, the Lodge, Artspace Warehouse, MAMA Gallery, and San Francisco's Modern Eden, and JOY Gallery. "I was always so intimidated by galleries in general, but the ones I’ve worked with here have all been so encouraging and supportive," she says.
Barnes' pieces are not exactly functional, except for perhaps a butt menorah, and that's only for eight nights a year. Yet they're not exactly purely decorative, either, though Barnes takes pride in crafts-making as part of the way different cultures have their own faiths, rituals, and observances, passed down throughout generations in the community. Instead, Barnes’ work is equal parts arts and crafts, both highbrow and lowbrow, yet somehow none of the above—instead occupying the inexplicable spaces genres. It's not surprising she counts sculptors Jeff Koons, the Haas Brothers, and Niki de Saint Phalle among her influences, along with Nicki Minaj.
In the end, her creative and spiritual philosophy is simple, but one that many of her contemporaries share: "Do [or] make what makes you happy and feel good," she says. "Be nice to others, ask for opinions, but ultimately trust your butt—I mean, gut."
Visit Meegan Barnes' website for more.