Out of the Swing of the Sea

A ten-foot-tall drooping peony, a postcard-sized tornado, a full-scale, rumpled bed – these were among the intriguing drawings on view by artist Meg Alexander, whose solo exhibition in the Ishibashi Gallery featured selections of her work from the past 30 years. Whether depicting an element from the natural world or an everyday household item, each of her pieces is rendered in such remarkable detail that the ordinary becomes extraordinary, meticulously transformed into an object worthy of attention and consideration.

“I’m interested in the way in which we perceive singular moments of beauty or clarity within the flux and flow of daily life,” as Meg explained in her statement for the exhibition. “Each drawing project, whether using graphite, India ink, or color pencil, begins with a personal point of connection – a discovery, an interaction, a question.”

Ocean waves have been a long-standing interest for Meg; in fact, her degree project at the Rhode Island School of Design was a book of text and hand-drawn diagrams that illustrated the formation and cessation of waves. She has returned to the subject periodically, choosing a wave pattern to adorn the inside lid of a harpsichord given to Middlesex several years ago for the Rachel Carson Music and Campus Center. Influenced by Carson’s second book, The Sea Around Us, Meg found waves to be an appropriate decoration for a musical instrument that would be housed in a facility named for the renowned writer and scientist. As part of an evening reception on  December 8, the harpsichord – which was among the works in the gallery – was played by Music Department Head Pierson Wetzel.

While her artwork has been exhibited throughout the Boston area and is held in several public and private collections, this exhibition was a particularly special one for Middlesex because Meg is a longtime member of the school community. She has stepped into the classroom several times to teach studio art and art history as needed and has lived on campus with her family – English teacher John Hirsch and their daughters, Lucy ’18 and Eliza ’21 – for 30 years.

Meg’s invitation “to join me somewhere ‘out of the swing of the sea’” – a reference to her favorite poem, “Heaven-Haven,” by Gerard Manley Hopkins – was therefore a welcome chance for her colleagues and recent students to learn more about her creative process and the explorations she has undertaken in the solitude of her studio over the last three decades. In sharing her work from this space, Meg also conveyed her understanding that isolation can be “experienced as joy rather than loneliness, not as frightening oblivion but as a sense of quiet and momentary perfection – the ultimate spiritual freedom.”