The Canadian artist creates an immersive mural at Meow Wolf melding our characters and hers
amid a network of catwalks on the second story of the Meow Wolf music venue rises a muraled water tank by artist Katie Green and Daniel J. Kirk, her frequent collaborator. Meow Wolf brought Green, a Canadian painter, to reimagine the tank into an immersive art space in a sprint lasting only two-and-a-half weeks. Green has held professional art residencies in Tapei and Berlin, and has created street art Kathmandu. She took to the tight timeline and strange space as a creative challenge.
Visitors are now greeted by a 360-degree mural–extending into three dimensions, at times–of birds, plants, and creatures resembling ancient forest spirits. One creature in particular stands out; her expression is melancholic, all-knowing. “This woman is casting the scene,” Green tells her story, “and she’s right where the heartbeat is. She’s more of an elder, wiser feel.” The woman’s many hands reach out to the more playful creatures across the space, creating a sense of interconnectedness and harmony.
Cobblestones rest underfoot, textured rocks jutt down from above, and rich, natural hues of green and purple combine with a deep ambient soundscape to subdue the senses. “We want it be a transition from a lot of stimulus, to come in and have a moment of pause, and sit for 10 minutes or something,” explains Green.
If you do choose to sit for a while, you are pulled deeper into the hypnotic calm. The bench pulses with a peaceful heartbeat. The cylindrical space reflects sounds from all sides: a deep natural drone punctuated by accents including a frittata frying, the artists’ own whispers, and sharp clacking reminiscent of woodpeckers. Kirk describes the space as “a bit of a cave. . . an inviting, magical, whimsical resting space where there’s little notions of bodies or breath.”
Green is based in Calgary, Canada. She worked with Meow Wolf’s narrative team to incorporate the story of Eng, a new character that emerged in the House of Eternal Return this year. “The water tank is supposed to be her sanctuary, pulling from her descriptive qualities, the way she shapeshifts. . . her octopus qualities,” explains Green, “and then it flows into my different characters.”
Green draws the characters’ expressions from the nearly 250 watercolor portraits she’s created in her recent body work. “They’re this really nice ritualistic practice for me to sit down with a blank piece of paper and just let a character emerge. I wanted to see how they might exist together, or how the viewer might relate to the emotive quality of them in here.”
A large part of realizing this project was melding painting and sculpture. “How can we take a character and use low relief to make it come off the wall? How can we change the architecture of a space?” asked Green. In keeping with the hands-on immersion of the rest of the House, Kirk aimed to make the water tank space “a tactile thing for people instead of just coming in and looking at a flat wall. They can actually come in and explore with their hands.”
This also presented challenges that the two artists hadn’t often encountered before. How could they create something that felt natural, but would stand up to the wear and tear of daily visitors? “It’s an interesting conflict with the artistic flow of something when you’re thinking about all the things that might spill, how it can be cleaned, how many people might grab something” mused Green. They took it as an opportunity to experiment with materials and process, combining natural elements like stone with durable synthetics like polystyrene and polygem, an epoxy often used in zoo exhibits.
Both artists emphasized the importance of collaboration, among themselves and in the larger community of artists working on the artist upgrades. “It’s such an amazing team of people who all seem so proud to be part of this community. You can really feel that, and everyone is constantly contributing,” says Green. Daniel agrees: “It pulls our abilities out more, it allows for something deeper to come out because there’s a space provided for it.”
On the final work day before the House reopened to the public, the artists offered a few words of wisdom on the creative process. “There’s a false sense of control [in creation],” explains Green, “but it’s all made up! There are so many things you have to change and be trusting with.”
What’s next for Katie Green? She’s expanding her portrait series through mask making and puppet fabrication, a medium she will debut as the next artist for the East Village RiverWalk Public Art Installation in her hometown of Calgary, Canada. Until then, be sure to spend a few quiet moments in the water tank.
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