1/3/2013 12:50:00 PM Jacksonville gallery features 'Pothead' people folkart of Steve Meadows
JACKSONVILLE, Ill. — The Art Association of Jacksonville is pleased to present Folk Artist Steve Meadows January 12-27 to the David Strawn Art Gallery, 331 W. College Ave., Jacksonville, IL 62650. An opening reception will be held on Saturday, January 12 from 6 - 8 p.m., with "Gallery Talk" at 6:30 p.m.
Steve Meadows is from the small town of Palestine, "The Pioneer City," in southeastern Illinois, 4 1/2 hours south of Chicago. He was the first artist to locate here, and for a very long time, the only one. His S.D. Meadows Folk Art Gallery showcasing his brightly colored and fantastic woodcarvings made it the most colorful store-front in town, difficult to miss by visitors. The walls, floors and tables in the gallery are crammed and jammed with his rustic carved wood folk art: Plain and fancy birdhouses; old-fashioned locomotives; pheasants; penguins on skis; penguins with scarves, holding American flags, holding watermelons; dentist penguins; Santa penguins; angels holding star wands; snowmen; hands and red hearts.
Meadows will be bringing some of this folk art, as well as work in a new direction, that of his "Potheads," men and women made from old coffee pots, teapots and other found objects. Meadows is well-known as a folk artist in places where it counts. "I have a patriotic cane in the Smithsonian Institution," he says. One 4th of July, Bloomingdale's Manhattan department store put on a display of Meadows' patriotic penguins. "They were 18 inches tall, with blue coats that had red and white stripes. One penguin was out front carrying a flag," Meadows says. A million-dollar house in North Carolina that appeared on HGTV showed one of his fish in the family room. "I still do some patriotic stuff, but I'm pretty busy with Outsider stuff," adds Meadows.
Now after years of recognition primarily as a carver, Meadows' creativity has taken a new path. His long-time passion for creating fanciful and humorous sculptures from found objects has come to the forefront. The new aliens: Beginning a couple of years back, odd creatures looking like a cross between the Tin Man out of "The Wizard of Oz," and R2D2 from "Star Wars," began appearing here and there among the carved wood folk art in his shop. Their heads are made of old pots and pans, their bodies carved of old newel posts, with bottle caps for eyes and scrub brushes for hair. These creatures mingle with large, colorful turtles that have shells made of old garbage can lids, and giant fish with “Angelina Jolie lips” and bottle caps for scales.
"I'm 56 now and it is the time in my life to be happy, for me to do what makes me happy, creating from found objects or junk," Meadows says. "Potheads. I call them Potheads," he says of the new work. "Faces in metal made out of old coffee pots and tea kettles. I add parts of old garden rakes and paint brushes for hair, pot covers for hats and caps, keys for earrings." Often Meadows puts five or six of the Potheads one atop the other as kind of totem poles. The result is amazingly arresting and guaranteed to make you smile. Less becomes more: Meadows grew up on a small farm in Crawford County, dreaming of becoming an artist. While self-employed as a building designer and contractor, he began creating works of art from scraps of construction lumber. "When I got out of the military, I worked for a carpenter,' he says. "Then I went out on my own. I started taking scrap 2-by-4s out of the houses we worked on and carving on them." Soon he had a new career, that of a folk artist. His gallery today is located in what turns out to he the oldest town in the state, dating from 1812.
Steve Meadows is one of those gifted artists who don't always go after expensive primal matter to create masterpieces. Relying on his creativity, he transforms trash and other found objects into fanciful and humorous sculptures, delivering them in his unique style. "I find things left behind my building. I do a lot of things with shovels or rakes. The rakes can be the gills of fish. I take a torch and blowtorch leaf rakes like [they are] crazy hair."