Shortly after we opened House of Eternal Return, we asked Meow Wolfers around our then-tiny production studio about who inspires them in their work. We collected six inspirational artists and talked about how they shaped our creative lives. Give it a read. It’s a fun snapshot of where we were as a studio half a decade ago.
Two major exhibitions and a half-dozen new departments later, we wanted to revisit the topic and ask Meow Wolf artists who inspire them today. Here are More Artists Who Inspire Meow Wolf.
Meow Wolf artist and props production manager Aubrey Schwartzis a multipath talent around Meow studios. She’s worked on everything from installation art to film production, costume design, and puppeteering. Two artists who inspire her are filmmaker Julie Taymore and Muppets creator Jim Henson. In particular, Aubrey admires their talents in animism and worldbuilding. She had this to say about them:
“In general, I am a big fan of practical effects and the whimsy and magick they evoke when done right. I love masks, puppets, creatures, and objects made animate. As a child I was absolutely obsessed with anything by Jim Henson, especially the otherworldly creatures of The Dark Crystal, The Labyrinth, and Fraggle Rock. They created whole worlds, where everything was alive and animate. As an artist, I am very interested in animism and the fae.
“Julie Taymor's costume, mask, and puppet designs transform the human form in ways that dissolve it and create something otherworldly. I like that they are often large, exaggerated gestures that feel dreamy and surreal.
“Both artists are full-on in their world building in a way that transports you from this ordinary mundane world to a fully-imagined reality.”
Gabriella Leger-Lovatois a lead concept artist at Meow Wolf. They are an illustrator and 3D modeler, and you may recognize their illustrations from Convergence Station’s “Book of Whales” and Omega Mart’s Burial Chamber texts. The artist who inspires them is Jamie Hewlett, the artist behind the “Tank Girl” comics and co-creator of the virtual band Gorillaz.
“(Hewlett) is the reason I started to pursue art as a career. I think it’s because his work is unique and gritty. All his characters are unapologetically themselves and don’t resemble a lot of mainstream styles that are plastic, overly-refined, and easily digestible.
“His work is always just hella weird.”
Jerome Morrisonis a design technologist who makes the interactive elements of works like “The Navigators” in Convergence Station and the “Omega Access Experience” in Omega Mart. His work adopts new technology and trends and applies them to immersive experiences.
Creative works that brought his passion for interactive puzzle and experience-making into focus are the Assassin’s Creed series of video games, particularly the puzzles that break up the cloak-n-dagger action of the main game and give players an eerie view of the history-spanning conspiracy at the heart of the story. He had this to say:
“I like the slow drip of content as a reward for solving these increasingly difficult logic puzzles. (The game also includes) these additional ciphers that you don’t need to solve for 100% completion, but tell so much more about historic events like the CIA takeover of Latin America, atrocities like the Banana Massacre, and conspiracy theories like Hitler’s body double (this didn’t fool the assassins, they got him anyway).”
Karen Lembke is a fabric and sewing artist whose work appears in Omega Mart projects such as “The Camping Portal” and “Deli Meats”. Her fabric work appears throughout Convergence Station in projects such as the Bearret creature in “Swamp,” the puppet for the Convergence Station Newsstand, a C Street virus, and alien meat vendor carts.
Karen’s creative inspiration is none other than Nature themselves.
“With fabric as my primary medium, I love to look at textures and patterns in nature for inspiration. I see off-the-bolt material as a jumping off point for how to manipulate it into something more interesting. Various strains of mold, sea slugs, garden snails, insect wings, seashells, and more can be mimicked with different types of fabrics through painting, pleating, shearing, smocking, and so on.”
Max Neutra is an experience designer at Meow Wolf Studios. You’ve seen his work with projects like the “Osmositron” in Omega Mart and the Q-Pass experience in Convergence Station. Chances are you’ve experienced one of his many projects, scripts, or voice acting appearances throughout both Denver and Vegas, or you’ve encountered his voice-activated kaleidoscope in House of Eternal Return.
Max is inspired by the works of gonzo illustrator Ralph Steadman and “Moon Trax” artist Tiger Tateishi. He focuses on the incongruent feelings of beauty and chaos that are present in each artists’ work.
“(Tateishi) makes these paintings that are laid out like a page of a comic. A sequence unfolds in panels arranged on the page (or canvas) and it feels like a story is being told, or science is being explained, but at the same time the imagery is so weird that it is too alien to fully understand. It gives the same feeling that I get when looking through “Codex Seraphinianus.” It’s almost a sickening feeling. Like sea sickness. Like my feet are on the ground of a real place, but I can't quite get my bearings. TBH I can only take it in small doses. But I marvel at it. I marvel at how it works. How effective it is. I marvel at how something can be both beautiful and unnerving at the same time.
“An early influence of mine is Ralph Steadman. He has a book called “America” that I saw when I was a kid. I loved the energy and freedom and emotion depicted in his splashy scratchy technique; grotesque and fun. But specifically there were some drawings in that book depicting Disneyland that changed me. Having grown up in LA, I had gone to Disneyland several times and in my young mind it was indisputably the best place in the world. Then I saw his images of Mickey and friends as looming monsters, and kids and parents looking dirty and ugly and miserable, and it felt like he pulled back the veil. He showed me that the way Disney presents itself is not necessarily the reality of the situation. If Disneyland is not, in fact, the happiest place on earth, what other truths are out there waiting to be uncovered?”
Olivia Brownis a senior artist at Meow Wolf. She is an art director and fabricator for massive projects in Convergence Station, including the Transit Station and Numina. She is the lead artist on several projects within Omega Mart and one of the designers of the Charter Office experience in House of Eternal Return.
She is inspired by artists who use sensation, movement, and tension to take viewers out of the material world.
“I look to Yoko Ono. Her Fluxus works helped develop the idea of sensation as art and to de-emphasize the material. She’s very experimental and isn’t afraid to depict her discomfort.
“I’m also drawn to Terence Nance. Nance makes film that feels both fractured and whole. He uses surrealism to identify and free tension. That’s something I’m attracted to and strive for.
“Finally, musicians Charlotte Adigery and Bolis Pupul’s most recent album “Topical Dancer” is fun and challenging in the best ways possible. I love how they use humor and a really honed craft to move bodies and pivot minds in the right directions.”
Meow Wolf co-founder and senior creative director Caity Kennedyhardly needs an introduction. Her keystone projects include the forest in House of Eternal Return and the wondrous, sylvan “Numina” anchor space in Convergence Station. One of Caity’s major inspirations is the unparalleled Mattress Factory museum in Pittsburgh.
“I visited Mattress Factory a number of times as a kid, even a small kid, and was always very excited to go back. Whether the work in a room is gorgeous, awe inspiring, confusing, intellectually challenging, physically challenging, or simply surprising, it enveloped you in itself, in those qualities, in a way that made it impossible to look away, impossible to dismiss and move on. Dreamlike in that way; inescapable unfamiliarity. And out front, the outdoor pieces that were dug down into the ground were so captivatingly mysterious! That is immersion, but it is especially powerful when all that immersive work is all collected together. The building becomes legendary, the boundaries become questionable. Is the elevator an installation? Oh there is another building around the corner that used to be a house? Is there art along the way? It's so easy to get lost.
“The nearby house has student and emerging artists work. I went back on my way home after college and saw the nearby house full of installations for the first time. It wasn't just a house with art in it — the house was transformed. It was the medium to react to and with. I was already an installation artist and an immersive muralist, loving most to completely cover the interior of a room in murals, creating an illusory secondary space over the architectural details of the first. So this playful, but often also high concept art house was right up my alley. I was charmed and inspired and hungry for more!”
Last but not least, Chaz John is an artist and fabricator who led the factory mural project in Omega Mart and applies his considerable talents to projects like OM’s whale hearts and the vacuformed trash bags and trash can sculptures in Convergence Station.
“I like things that spark joy, you know? Like Ozzy Osbourne, Professor Honeydew (from the Muppets), and miniature trains.”
MW: Honeydew is an interesting choice for joy because he discovers something fantastic, which immediately causes a horrible disaster for Beaker.
“Yeah, that’s life, dude. The dancing wheel of chance, as they say.”
Thanks to all Meow Wolf artists who shared their time for this piece about the grand (and strange) things that inspire us. We collected far more leads than we can use on this single post, so stay tuned for an update with even more Meow Wolfers sharing the people, places and things that drive them as creatives.