Briefly describe the work you do.
I use flagging tape, a plastic ribbon largely used for demarcation on construction sites to create large-scale, mathematically-based, linear installations. I pre-plan my work by using an architectural drawing program that allows me to create an accurate representation of the artwork, allowing me to essentially “sketch” digitally before I begin the actual installation process. This allows me to come up with the most efficient installation method, as my works frequently take weeks to complete, even with the help of an installation team, scissor lifts, and the support staff of the venue. Once on site, we create all of my works by hand, strand by strand. I take thousands of photographs of the creation of my works that are (quite often) compiled into a time-lapse video. This video is then set to the music that the artwork’s title are taken from – you can see these time-lapse videos at https://vimeo.com/megangeckler
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
I grew up thinking that I wanted to be a doctor. I took a lot of math and science classes, and I think that shows through in my work. When I switched my focus to art, I had to learn everything all at once. I had never taken a drawing class before attending Tyler School of Art as an undergraduate. Therefore, those years were spent taking a wide variety of classes from photography to painting, screen printing to photography, site-specific installation to glass blowing. When I got to graduate school, I had all of the skills I needed to find my unique voice. Finding flagging tape in a hardware store in January of 2000 was a turning point for me and I have been making large-scale, site-specific installations with it ever since.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
A lot of my work is done on the computer, and a lot of my time is spent daydreaming about spaces and their potential. I have excellent recall of spaces, their architectural facets and quirks, and a healthy imagination. Once I determine the type of conversation that I want to have with the architecture, I then spend the majority of my time figuring out the best way to engage with the viewer and making sure that the work is dynamic from any and every possible approach. When I am not working digitally, I am hands on in the studio making stand alone works that investigate the relationship between painting, design and craft. They are different than my larger works as they are more traditional in nature. For example, lately I have been working the flagging tape wrapped and woven around gessoed canvas panels and pedestals, as well as creating photographic and letterpress prints.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I took a survey course in the business of making art when I was a sophomore, it covered several different topics – grant writing, photographing your artwork, how to create a budget and estimate of costs, preparing applications for RFQs and proposals for RFPs, etc. I had no idea back then how many of these skills I would be using on a daily basis. That was my one class on the subject and the rest has been learned along the way. I am very fortunate to have a fantastic support system of friends and colleagues who provide information and guidance through even the most complicated of projects. After all, it really does take a village to make artworks that are this large, complex, and logistically complicated.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
I am always working, or thinking about working. To be honest, I am a bit of a workaholic. There hasn’t been a day in recent memory when I haven’t done at least a little bit of work, even on vacation. I am not much of a morning person; my most productive hours are between eleven AM and eleven PM.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
I feel that it has gotten a lot more focused in terms of palette. I look at works before 2010 and notice that I they either contained almost every color, or were more monochromatic in nature. Post 2010, I have chosen to use a more limited palette, probably because I have been working with the same material for over 15 years now.
Recently I began hand-dyeing rope so that I can create installations that adhere to the most strict of fire codes. That’s been quite a switch for me. While flagging tape comes in about 14 colors, the array of dye formulas that I can create is almost infinite, so that has been a very exciting development.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
I was raised as a feminist, to believe that women and men should be treated equally. I think that deciding to use a material from the male-dominated field of construction to make mathematically-based works that require a lot of reverse engineering had a lot to do with the way that I was raised by my parents, to never be afraid of defying gender roles or making a big impact.
In terms of other artists, I am very drawn to Minimalism. The ingenuity of using mass-produced and off the shelf materials in new and unexpected ways appealed to me. I like the idea that something can be anonymous and overlooked, then elevated to have a second life in the fine art world.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
All the time! I often wonder what kind of doctor I would have been, would I be working in a lab, or interacting with patients? I also love to cook and bake – no recipe is too complex or complicated to try. I love a good challenge. My friends not so secretly wish that I would open a restaurant or a bakery.
Megan Geckler was born in 1975, she earned her BFA from the Tyler School of Art in 1998 and her MFA from Claremont Graduate University in 2001. She is a recent recipient of the 2015-2016 City of Los Angeles (C.O.L.A.) Individual Master Artist Fellowship. Upcoming exhibitions include a five-story installation in conjunction with the East Wing Biennial at the Courtauld Institute in London (January 2016-August 2017), an installation in Terminal 3 at the Los Angeles International Airport (March 2016-2018), and the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery in May 2016. Geckler’s work has been written about worldwide in print and online. Geckler lives and works in the downtown Los Angeles Arts District.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.