Megan Cotts in VoyageLA 4.1.19

Meet Megan Cotts


Today we’d like to introduce you to Megan Cotts.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
My mother is an animator and my father a cinematographer. I grew up making things for every occasion. My mother would require everything to look beautiful, to be decorated, to have an aesthetic touch. Every cake top was a project; every doll needed a hand-made dress. I loved all of it and dove in enthusiastically. I learned to sew at five and knit at six. I was always busy with new projects, dyeing fabric with collected plants and sewing buttons on everything. I decided not to go to art school, a decision that still haunts me, and instead, get a more well-rounded liberal arts degree that would keep my options open. I ended up floating around New York City, waiting tables, painting in my apartment and not sure where to go next. I moved back to LA in my mid-twenties and began working in the film industry, as a decorator and then a production designer for films. But the intensely collaborative nature of film meant that the work I was doing did not feel like my own. So I went back to school at California Institute of the Arts and got an MFA. The work I had been doing in film informed my art practice at that point. I was intrigued by the prop houses in Los Angeles and the secret wealth of visual history that was stored and used, reused and forgotten.

When I left school, I decided to go to Germany. I began interviewing my father’s family about my German heritage. I spent a year in Berlin at artist residencies and made work about my research. It was an incredibly productive time for me. I returned to Los Angeles and was surprised at how linked it felt to the Berlin art world. The work I made in Germany still informs my art practice and may always.
Currently, I teach art, am mom to two girls aged three-and-a-half and 6 weeks and make art.

Please tell us about your art.
My sculpture and paintings are informed by the research I do. For example, in Berlin, I discovered my family had a paper factory and developed the first mechanized honeycomb paper-maker. Their factory was seized by the Nazi’s and their patents nullified. The work I’ve made that has been influenced by this story include the colors, forms and materials that have resonated with me. Some work contains more narrative; others rely on form. I struggle with how much to abstract the stories that inform my work. It’s important to me to make work that is authentically me but also gives the viewer access to a history I’ve found interesting and worth keeping alive.

Currently, I’ve been making monochromatic sculptural paintings. They emerged from a conversation I had in Berlin with a woman who saw my work and designed an architectural tour of the city to take me on. I have been sitting on this project for a long time, not sure how it would take form. Sometimes work is like that; it has to percolate somewhere in the back of your brain until it is ready for action! To make the pieces, I build a wooden infrastructure on top of stretcher bars, and I stretch wet linen tightly over the form. Once it’s dry, I paint the painting/sculpture with a medium I’ve developed over the years. It contains ground glass, raw pigments, and acrylic binders. The result is an intensely matte finish that looks simultaneously solid and fragile, somewhere between skin and concrete.

As an artist, how do you define success and what quality or characteristic do you feel is essential to success as an artist?
I think one can get really stuck in what it means to be a successful artist. We have so many ingrained, cultural notions of what success is and these are no longer really relevant. Success is personal, and it’s also always in flux. At this point in my life, it’s important that my art and my livelihood be separate. I teach art to highshool students which is in itself rewarding, and I make my work in the studio. This allows my artwork to be independent. Recently, as my practice is becoming more personal, I require myself to be more honest in my studio, and the work has to be authentic. I have a wonderful gallery here in Los Angeles owned by a woman named Deb Klowden. Her support has been integral to my success. Maintaining long-term relationships with other artists, collectors, and gallerists has also been extremely rewarding.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
I show at a gallery here in Los Angeles called Klowden Mann in Culver City. You can see my work on the gallery website I’m also frequently in group shows here in LA and in art fairs. You can also email me through the gallery. I love getting feedback and having discussions about ideas that come up about my work.

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