Undoing the Knots by Meg Saligman

Though I seek to delight and inspire through my work, on deeper level I strive to create a space for shared experiences and public engagement. At its heart, “Untie the Knots: A Contemporary Grotto”, a new citywide public art project, will engage with those who are most at risk and disregarded in our city. 

I am super psyched to be working with Sister Mary Scullion and her team at Project HOME on a large work for the Papal visit to Philadelphia this September. If anyone can create something meaningful and transformative out of an international event, it’s Sister Mary. She has a clear vision of what matters most. Our project will follow Sister M’s vision, beginning with the stories of those who are often neglected in our city. In 2015, It is imperative that the Homeless and Hungry are given a voice. The publicity of Pope Francis’s visit can bring these issues in Philadelphia to the forefront of the international conversation. It is a time of great potential for our city and it is important that world class art to be a part of the story. The fact that I have been chosen for this project moves me deeply. I feel great responsibility to make this very, very good.

We will create a contemporary grotto that will feature thousands of suspended knots, representing the struggles of those affected by homelessness. Some of the knots will include previously collected handwritten messages from Philadelphians depicting their personal stories and struggles. Those gathered for the Papal Mass will also be encouraged to tie knots of their own. If participants are feeling strong, they may untie a knot, to metaphorically carry someone else’s burden. The untying of knots represents a loosening of tension or pressure – a release. Through this shared action, the public collectively carries the weight of each other’s individual hardships. Burdens lighten as they become part of a communal experience, and I am hoping to facilitate this through a beautiful and meaningful communal work of public art. Those interacting with the installation will experience, through art, that a gesture of liberation for others will contribute to the liberation of themselves.

Stay tuned to see and participate more. Where it will be…what will it look like..why are we doing it… To see our very beginning, we just started @untietheknots and #untietheknots on INSTAGRAM.

We will be holding a knot tying workshop this week, on Wednesday May 20th at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (118-128 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102). All are welcome!

5 Questions by Meg Saligman

My lecture on conservation and preservation of public art was almost 2 months ago, but I was reminded of it today when my answers to “5 Questions for the Artist” were posted in a SI blog called “Eye Level.”  (SI stands for Smithsonian Institute, not “Sports Illustrated.”) And, although my public art is not always at eye level, my thoughts on the subject I think, were level-headed.  See for yourself:  “Five Questions with Meg Saligman, Muralist and Conservation Advocate”


~Meg

Fertile Ground by Meg Saligman

At 350,000 square feet, Fertile Ground was the largest mural in the country when I painted it in Omaha, Nebraska in 2008.  I am honored that an arts-integrated course of study centered on Fertile Ground has been incorporated into the curriculums for third and fourth grade in Omaha public schools. Please view this video: Fertile Ground Education Project.  For me, it strikes right at the heart of one of the most fulfilling aspects of my practice. I truly believe the world would be a much better place if we spent more time gathering together to create something beautiful with our hands.

~ Meg

The Whitney Biennial by Meg Saligman

The Whitney Biennial is a show that comes along once every two years and it sets the baseline for contemporary art discussion.  I went to the show last week.

In this age of artistic “practices” (I am getting tired of this buzz word), I believe this show is an accurate representation of the contemporary art world. I viewed a lot of people practicing talking about art to other artists. There were curators as artists and artists as curators. I saw live people recreating work of dead people. Now, if we could just get some dead people recreating the work of live people – that would be something. I almost barfed on far too wordy signage telling me how the work should make me feel – I hate that. Thank God I am rewarded with some gorgeous work on the fourth floor, and please no one apologize that it is visually seductive and stunning.

Amidst all of what I have come to expect in a contemporary show, I hear a soundtrack on a video of a man talking and I hear quite clearly, “Take the culture where you want it to go.”  This is said on a video by David Robbins. I would have referred to him as “the artist David Robbins” but he would refuse the title. He would far prefer to call himself an independent imagination. When I later looked him up, his writings further clarified what he woke inside of me, “The goal is to foreground freedom of action within history rather than within the record of history which is cultivated…The goal is to give oneself complete access to one’s own imagination.” Thank you Whitney Biennial for bringing me the clear words of David Robbins when I needed to hear them.

I know where my power lies. It is when I am making things with my hands along side other people. It is when I cross boundaries. It is when I create and share visual beauty. It is when I manipulate materials for the 10,000 time. I want to know the full power of my own imagination. My goal is complete access.

Wishing Wall by Meg Saligman

Things are coming together nicely.  The process began over 2 weeks ago in my studio.  First strands of hair are stenciled onto special sticky paper, exacto knifed, placed on glass and then baked to adhere permanently.

The glass is cut and fine-tuned…

Then baked to seal in the color….

Everything is pieced together to become leaded stained glass…

And then, the final product comes to light.   It is about acknowledging brokenness and transforming to a whole. If one of us is broken, all of us are broken.

The “Wishing Wall” will allow visitors to leave their hopes, prayers and intentions within its crevices.  This and other works created by my studio, will be viewed at the April 22nd grand opening of Project HOME’s new multi-use building featuring 55 residences for the formerly homeless and low-income families.  The wonderful work of Project HOME continues at the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Homes, 1415 Fairmount Avenue.  Rock on!

~ Meg

Perspective and Perception... by Meg Saligman

My studio, and the artists who are affiliated with it, have just joined Instagram. Do you join Instagram? I could say I am a user, but in my mind, the word “user” refers to a drug abuser and “hash- anything” is an illegal substance. Well, anyway, you will find us on Instagram by seeking out our username:  megamural.  Follow the squad as we explore and discuss our world through art that is out and about. We aim to inspire and delight.

Also from MLS Studios:  This is the last week to view my work “Perspective and Perception,” integral to the exhibition “Beyond the Paint:  Philadelphia’s Mural Arts” at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Museum. The show will close this Sunday, April 6th at 5pm.

Creating my work inside the museum has been an honor and a unique experience. The work has evolved with the help of those working and learning at PAFA and those visiting the museum. Incorporated into “Perspective and Perception” are“lifelines” from Philadelphians.  Art can create a window into a moment, a mood, or even a life.  Last year I started a studio “lifelines project.” I ask people to visualize their lives as a line. This expression of the non-visual as art resulted in many mazes, full of the twisting turns and sharp edges of complication and struggle. Below you will find two samples of lifelines within “Perspective and Perception,” from artists who chose to represent their lives as in one continuous line.

Eric Bazilian, the successful lead singer and founder of The Hooters, showed his life as a continuous, winding loop.

Another artist, Thomas Schlick, also used a continuous line; however, his was jagged and far less free. Schlick is in prison, serving a life sentence.

These lines and hundreds of others that might not otherwise connect, are brought together. Lifelines are painted on walls and the floor.

Visitors to the museum add their lifelines to a glass tabletop.  Lifelines are blasted into glass and hung as individual pieces, casting shadows on the wall behind. Individual voices turn into a collective voice, a practice so very often at the heart of my public work.

Come see the evolution…come see the lifelines…before they ascend into the art-mosphere.  Or, join me for a trolley tour on closing day, Sunday, April 6th.  We will begin and end at PAFA, 118 N. Broad St., Philadelphia.  While I gab, we will wind our way past my murals and other artists’ work, stop at my studio – lots to show and tell there – and end at PAFA where you can see my work and take in the rest of the show.  A link to tickets for the tour can be found by clicking here: Trolley Tour with Meg.

~ Meg

Divine Lorraine by Meg Saligman

This is a view from our scissor lift at the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Homes job site – an eerily beautiful photograph taken yesterday of Philadelphia’s “Divine Lorraine.” It is one of my favorite buildings ANYWHERE. This artful photo taken by Joel Erland of HumanKind Design during the installation of our illuminated light sculpture – see blog post from 1/14.  The fact that we have this vantage point highlights one of the best aspects of my practice. On many days I find myself in a new and different location. I physically cross a border into a neighborhood, city, state or country. Herein lies the power. Crossing boundaries is a powerful thing, this is where I find beauty, exchange and ultimately transformation.

~Meg