SAM, 2017 and CRM, 2019
This work demonstrates Meaghan Reed’s creation of complexity out of both natural and synthetic materials, which have been combined and processed in ways that enhance their interest. Her studies in weaving and fiber led the artist to experiment with ordinary objects found in natural and domestic environments — branches, sewing machine parts, wiring — and to combine them with wood, blown and cast glass, paint, and other more traditional art materials -- to create mini-environments or assemblages, a genre of artwork that began with Picasso and continued with DuBuffet and Americans Robert Rauschenberg and Louise Nevelson. On a large scale, assemblages can occupy entire rooms, at which point they are known as installations.
Materials: acrylic plexiglass, acrylic paint, wood, resin, 35”x 35”
Location at Summa: Ground floor, opposite main entrance, Summa Health Stow-Kent Medical Center
What do we as beholders respond to most strongly here in this fascinating yet simple work? Perhaps the luminosity and transparency of the fiberglass forms of fern fronds? The way in which the foremost fronds escape both the painted ground of the panel and its outer boundaries? The nuanced gradations and interweaving of sculpted fronds with painted ones as the work recedes in depth?
Meaghan Reed captures the subtle movement and growth of this widespread species by varying its color, which also suggests its habitat in the dappled light at the edge of wetlands.
This refreshing representation of what are probably Sensitive ferns (onoclea sensibilis L.) is a recent product of the artist’s exploration of local flora, which she represents in unusual materials. She has long created mini-environments or assemblages using less referential and more abstract forms, as seen in her first works selected for the Summa Collection, the paired glass-and-wood roundels SAM and CRM. In some ways, all these pieces grow out of the dioramas we made from shoeboxes in elementary school. But now Reed has chosen to surprise us by having the ferns burst beyond the edges of the framing device. She shapes them to assert their liveliness, an expression of life itself. This reminds us that ferns are among the oldest group of extant plants, living fossils that have persisted since the Carboniferous period, 350-some million years ago. We can take solace in sharing space with such a persistent species.
Meaghan Reed grew up in Northeastern Ohio and earned both Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) degrees at Kent State University. She lives and works in Stow, Ohio.
Title and date: Rebirth 2022
Materials: acrylic plexiglass, acrylic paint, medium density fiberboard, resin - 3 panels, sizes: 40" x 24/24 1/2"
Location at Summa: Juve Family Behavioral Health Pavilion, ground floor waiting room.
This work was commissioned by Summa Health especially for this space.
About this work
Five glorious monarch butterflies feed on a stand of common milkweed (Asclepias) that stretches across a wall of the Juve Behavioral Health Pavilion's ground floor waiting room. While in Ohio the many varieties of milkweed may be common, they are essential to the monarch butterfly and now are urgently cultivated in domesticated settings in an effort to restore decreasing monarch populations. The work's title refers to the lifecycle of this ecologically important species, which also led the artist to paint multiple monarch caterpillars among the leaves, stems, and blossoms of the milkweed - can you spot all of them?
Meaghan Reed found inspiration and hope, during the period of uncertainty that has been the Corona-virus pandemic, in familiar Ohio wildflowers and ferns as they went through their annual cycles. She has always had a garden and in addition made outings to the Metropark system to extend the range of plants that she could study. Variations in form and color over time excited her imagination, and she determined that she would try to capture some of that in her work, which makes use of cut and shaped colored acrylic sheets as well as paint and MDF base.
In the same period, while her children were schooling from home, Meaghan Reed and her family embarked on a project of raising monarch butterflies found on a neighbor's property. The more dramatic lifecycle of egg to caterpillar to pupa to butterfly played out in their backyard and culminated in the release, in the summer of 2021, of more than 50 of these gorgeous creatures, for which milkweed supplies the only habitat, food, and shelter.
From these experiences, the artist decided to create images that are multi-layered with messages of growth, renewal, and development, hoping that, for all of us, this celebration becomes a reminder that we all change. A first panel of butterflies and milkweed was included in the exhibition of Reed's work in the Summa Gallery in the winter of 2021-22, and on that basis, Summa commissioned this more expansive set of panels to create what the artist calls a "floralscape". Both painting and relief, the flora and fauna of these three panels move into our space to suggest a meadow's edge in this urban health care setting.
SAM, 2017 and CRM, 2019
Materials: Sand-blasted glass and wood assemblage: paint, paper, vellum, resin, bound wood 25 x 25 x 4”.
Location at Summa Health: Dr. Gary B. and Pamela S. Williams Tower on the Akron Campus (141 N. Forge St.), blue neighborhood, first floor, surgery waiting area.
This work is made up of an early piece, SAM, and a more recent companion piece, CRM, commissioned for the Summa Collection to create a more emphatic statement in its current location. As we allow ourselves to dive into and contemplate these works, we experience pleasure in recognizing familiar items combined for surprising purposes, with the effect of delight in the artist’s creativity and originality in recognizing them. In her work, the artist draws inspiration from nature and from the idea and tradition of the Cabinet of Curiosities, a room in which 19th century collectors displayed assemblages of what we today would think of as weirdly assorted objects: geological, medical, archaeological, natural historical, and others antique. Reed is also inspired by the serendipity of found objects, by the randomness of what she notices.
Reed grew up in Northeast Ohio and earned both Bachelor of Arts and Master of Fine Arts degrees at Kent State University. She continues to live and work in Stow.
Where to see more about the artist and her work:
Reed exhibits in Cleveland, Kent, Columbus, and Akron; multiple private collectors throughout Northeast Ohio own her pieces, along with the Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx. Her work is represented by galleries in Cleveland and Akron.