After Laughter

After Laughter (Comes Tears), 2020. Terracotta, glaze, synthetic wig & AstroTurf, 18x36x36”.

February 27 – April 3, 2021 at Conduit Gallery, Dallas Texas

Glasstire: One Work, Short Take: Margaret Meehan- Glasstire

Conduit Gallery is pleased to present After Laughter, Margaret Meehan’s fourth solo exhibition with the gallery. Focused on new mixed media ceramic sculptures and collaged drawings this body of work was created during the global Covid-19 pandemic, the United States’ recent democratic unrest and when there was a reawakening of the Black Lives Matter movement, an outcry against anti-black violence and systemic racism.

While these issues are not the dominant subject matter of Meehan’s work, they played an important role in her understanding of why and how to find connection in the face of such social and political trauma on both a personal and global scale. After Laughter reflects on a year of isolation, personal loss, and the absurdity of tears that come suddenly from both sadness and joy. It explores themes surrounding mourning, longing, transition and hope with humorous and melancholy imagery.

With After Laughter, Meehan continues her 20-year investigation into otherness by linking those who identify as women with a parliament of overly emotional owls and stoic songbirds. Owls were chosen for their symbolism of both wisdom and death and as shape shifters who can warn of danger but also usher in change. 

The exhibition’s title After Laughter comes from the 1964 song After Laughter (Comes Tears) by Wendy Rene, as does one of the larger ceramic sculptures which dons a haphazardly placed pink wig.

The influences on this body of work include Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring, as well as current climate justice activists Greta Thunberg, Vanessa Nakate, Isra Hirsi, and Autumn Peltier who lead with both anger and ambitious expectation. Music such as Julie London’s “Cry Me a River”, Alison Kraus’s “I’ll Fly Away”, Elton John’s “Sad Songs Say So Much”, and The Pretenders “Stop Your Sobbing”, among others played on constant rotation in her studio and became some of the sculpture’s titles.

Extreme emotions can fluctuate, and the chaos of 2020, now leaking into 2021, has been a constant reminder of the need to have a healthy release in these turbulent times. But for Meehan this year has also been a rediscovery of the simple pleasure of making art as a form of catharsis as well as remembering the need to share joy.