Megh Knappenberger is a Kansas City local who creates paintings inspired by her return home, both physically to Kansas City and the Midwest, as well as her professional transition to painting full-time after 12 years in graphic design. In this debut show, she explore a traditional symbol of the Midwest, the bison, in varying degrees of abstraction. Painted exclusively with a palette knife, the progressively looser mark-making and colors walk the line of recognizable shapes as they get wilder. Her large-scale paintings will be on display at our studio Friday, September 1st that you will want to see for yourself. We had an opportunity to ask Megh a few questions about her inspiration and how she got started in the arts.
Where are you from and where did you go to school?
I grew up in St. Louis and went to KU where I received a BFA in Visual Communications. (I took one painting class there and hated it…hah, go figure.)
How did you first become interested in painting?
I started painting when I was about 13. I don’t exactly remember why or how painting-specifically stuck with me as I was always into crafty stuff, but I would sit in a corner of our basement and paint. For one of my first paintings, I remember using a Seventeen magazine for reference when painting a face. Hah! My mom and I went to a lot of estate sales, so I was always buying brushes and canvases and anything I could get my hands on.
What three things inspire your work the most?
First: family. Painting is something I love so much, and doing work that lights me up makes me a better wife + mama. Being successful at it just makes all our lives better.
Second:–and i know this sounds cliche–nature. I spend a lot of time outside, whether it’s walking in the woods or around or neighborhood or in my garden. There’s something about how things grow and tangle together so wildly, especially in the woods, that I’m really drawn to. It’s this kind of perfect mess, I’m always trying to recreate that in my work.
Third: music. I listen to really loud music while I work, and it completely runs the spectrum depending on my mood and what I’m working on. I ask commission clients to make me a playlist in the vibe of their piece and listen to it while I paint.
How did this most recent collection of work, “Coming Home”, come about?
I’ve had a lot of transition in the past few years, moving to KC from Chicago, having my son, buying a house, recovering from a bad back injury, and closing my branding business last summer to pursue painting full-time. I’ve felt a sense of coming home in all parts of my life lately: in our geographic location, in my body, in my career. This collection of work is my first real collection. Stylistically, I think it represents me exploring and getting in to the process of doing a personal collection of work, particularly the repetitive nature of it. The mark-making is progressively looser as I let myself explore the edge of realism and abstraction. The subject matter I focused on, bison, as a symbol of Kansas.
What do you most want others to take away from your work and current projects?
Having worked in a commercial art job for so long, I still have a practical bent that makes me want to create work that is challenging and a little weird, but still something you’d want on the walls of your home. I want others to feel the wildness of the animals in the zesty colors and movement of the marks, an emotional connection to a piece depicting a living thing, and - frankly - just some very surface interest and delight in what it looks like.
What is your favorite place to grab a taco?
Love the barbacoa from San Antonio’s.
To see more about Megh's work you can visit her website here.