Inside/Outside Windowphilia
June 9 - July 30, 2017

Figureworks Gallery
168 North 6th Street
Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY

Meridith McNeal, Inside/Outside: Miss Fortune (American Pie), 2016, ink and watercolor on paper, 44x33"

Inside/Outside Windowphilia: In Reflection, paintings by Meridith McNeal 

Three things want a frame to give them structure: a painting, a story, and a window. All take different kinds of framing, of course, but the concept is similar: physical or abstract, a frame implies a viewpoint. It is where you start from.

Where you end up, on the other hand, is another matter entirely, because frames—for paintings, for stories, or for windows—are not so simple. They are points of entry that at the same time throw up barriers and define boundaries: the viewer is on one side or the other. A frame simultaneously organizes, invites, points the way, and separates.

Windows, in particular, invite a multiplicity of meanings. Add a reflective surface, so light can work its magic, and you bring a sort of graceful confusion: what is on one side can coexist with what is on the other, the space behind and before the viewer overlaid. Where you have been shows itself side by side with where you are, or where you may yet be going.

Meridith McNeal’s work brings that particular magic into play elegantly. Her precisely composed paintings offer a series of images, set in Italy and Brooklyn, that explore what it is to be on one side or another—or one side and another. It can be done, and McNeal’s paintings show us how.

These reflections can be opulent, such as the cool, arched interiors of Tapestry (Rome) or Chandelier (Rome), or a little melancholy—the window displays of First Aid or Music Lessons—or homely, with Brooklyn streets glimpsed in passing through the stirred curtain of the Tarot Specialist (Coney). The imagery is rich, evocative.

But what tantalizes within each are the glances: what lies just outside the frame, around the corner or over the viewer’s shoulder. Every shop window contains not only its goods but the ghost of an observer. Every window that looks out onto a courtyard or cityscape also holds, suspended, something of the viewer and the room from which they watch. Every glass fronting a painting reveals the artist, or her hand, or another’s. The post-industrial, confrontational Eye (Red Hook) shares its reality with the faintest traces of a mild house with white siding. These are not simply tricks of the light, but presences.

Most of all, these paintings—these windows, these stories—remind us to make no assumptions about on which side of the frame we stand. McNeal’s windows illuminate in all senses of the word; they are conduits of light, vision—and knowledge. Even during the airy camaraderie of coffee with a friend, the reflection on a table serves as an admonition that there is a world outside; even a charming wall of buzzers hints at what it is like to be outside, and to want to come in.

Essay by Lisa Peet, associate news editor at Library Journal, writer, reviewer, and artist living in the Bronx, NY.