Linn Meyers Draws Thousands of Lines and Museum Visitors at the Hirshhorn

By Brendan L. Smith

While most artists toil in quiet solitude in their studios, Linn Meyers had hundreds of museum visitors milling behind her while she drew thousands of intricate lines stretching across the entire inner-circle gallery of the Hirshhorn Museum.

“It definitely changed the experience of making the piece,” Meyers told BmoreArt. “It took me a handful of days to get over that shift and to figure out that sensation of being watched. Then I was able to tune it out.”

Working up to 12 hours a day for 70 days, Meyers finished the massive installation five days before schedule, with visitors watching the entire process at the museum or on Instagram. Our View From Here, which opened May 12, will be on display for a year before it is painted over, returning the walls to their typical flat-white shade. Meyers will talk about her work in a free public event at 6:30 pm on May 25 at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C.

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Using refillable Molotow ink markers that are a favorite of graffiti artists, Meyers drew a swirling body of finely spaced lines across more than 400 linear feet of curving walls that stretched 12 feet high. That added up to 80 marker tips and 30 jars of grey acrylic ink. There is often some mystery attached to the creation of art where the veil is only pulled back to reveal the finished work. However, this installation was on view from start to finish and stripped down to its barest forms, revealing just one woman with a ladder and a marker facing a wall that kept vanishing around the bend.

Our View From Here triggers associations unique to the viewer. The rippling eddies of a whirlpool, the slow wash of the tide, a topographical map of mountain ranges, or the wings of a bird taking flight. There is something contemplative both in the viewing of the work and in its creation, but it definitely wasn’t some spontaneous gesture or giant doodle.

Meyers, a 48-year-old local D.C. resident and former artist-in-residence at the Hirshhorn, prepared for six months before her marker first touched the museum wall. She visited the Hirshhorn many times to study the architecture of the space before creating eight zones based on natural divisions from doorways and recesses. She then made small scale drawings in her studio and worked with an architect on a computer-aided design program to map out the placement of each element on the museum walls before she started drawing.

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“I didn’t want to start from scratch or wing it when I went into that space,” she said. “There was no interference or suggestion from the Hirshhorn as far as my artistic process was concerned. They just opened the door and let me in to do what I wanted to do. I’m so honored that they made that leap of faith with me.”

Our View From Here is Meyers’ largest installation, but she has completed site-specific installations at other museums and galleries, including the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and the Phillips Collection in D.C. Each work featured swirling lines in different hues that responded to the surroundings, and Meyers embraces their temporal nature. It’s an unexpected link between an artist whose work appears in museums and street artists who paint giant murals on buildings. Eventually, the work is destroyed by the vagaries of wind and rain, the unrepentant passage of time, the wrecking ball of a gentrifying city, or a museum employee carrying a can of flat-white paint.

“It’s very different when you are experiencing something temporary that you can’t keep going back to over and over in your life,” Meyers said. “It’s also an impulse to take note in my head or in my heart of an experience that is fleeting. If you’re outside and the sun is beating down on you, that’s different than looking at something through the filter of your intellect.”

The title of Our View From Here references the unusual nature of the Hirshhorn’s inner-circle gallery where the wall keeps curving in a complete circle so the viewer can never see the entire installation at any one time or place. The work unwinds like a Victorian zoetrope where the animation is created by moving feet rather than a spinning wheel.

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“The drawing demands that the viewer move through the space. Drawing is so elemental, but that’s not one of its typical qualities,” Meyers said. “It has to do with looking forward and looking back and how your perspective shifts as you move through space and time.”

Even though many people watched her drawing in the museum, Meyers said her work isn’t performance art. “The thing about performance art is that it doesn’t exist without the audience,” she said. “The fact that people could see me making the work was not the work. Part of that was just logistical, and I had to get the project done.”

After graduating from high school, Meyers moved to Paris where she studied painting and drawing before bouncing across the United States, earning a BFA from Cooper Union and an MFA from California College of the Arts. After living in New York and Pittsburgh, she came back home to D.C.

“I can’t imagine not having art in my life,” she said. “If I was sitting in a cubicle somewhere, that would be hard for my survival. It might be easier to pay my bills, but I would die inside.”

 

More info: Artist talk by Linn Meyers at 6:30 pm on May 25 at the Hirshhorn Museum

Brendan L. Smith is a freelance journalist, mixed-media artist, and father of two rambunctious boys in Washington, D.C.

Photos courtesy of the Hirshhorn Museum