Meagan Alwood-Karčić embraces sadness and joy in ‘Duet’

The artist’s new exhibit, rooted in friendship, loss and nature, will be on display at St. James Tavern in Italian Village through the end of December.
Detail of "The Opening Room" by Meagan Alwood-Karčić
Detail of "The Opening Room" by Meagan Alwood-KarčićCourtesy the artist

While a number of the paintings in “Duet,” the new exhibit from Meagan Alwood-Karčić, feature pairs of women, the title actually has a deeper meaning, extending from the contrasting themes embedded in the work (life and death, sadness and joy) to the materials the artist used in bringing the pieces to life. 

For these works, Alwood-Karčić utilized paints both easier to control (acrylic) and those less easily tamed (watercolors), embracing that gulf between command and chaos. “I keep meaning to go to a different medium, because I’m honestly not totally using watercolor correctly,” Alwood-Karčić said during an interview at St. James Tavern in Italian Village, where “Duet” will remain on display through December. “But it’s so pretty, and there are a lot of happy mistakes that happen, which I kind of like messing with.”

This collection emerged during time when a handful of the relationships Alwood-Karčić held dear began to change. One friend moved away; another valued coworker landed a new job. “So, there were these shifts, and I felt this tremendous sense of loss,” the artist said. “I spent my time focusing on the grief that follows, and the acceptance, the closeness, the long chats.”

As she has from childhood, Alwood-Karčić, who grew up a stone’s throw from the bike trail in Worthington, continued to find solace in nature, surrounding the painted figures with colorful flowers, and more specifically those types aligned with the concept of friendship, such as mums. (The flowers also evolved to signify the way that some relationships can grow and blossom, providing beauty for a spell before inevitably dying out.)

“There’s this [saying] my husband kept reminding me of from Rumi,” said Alwood-Karčić, making reference to the 13th century Persian poet. “He said to enjoy your friends walking out of your life as much as you enjoy them walking into it. So, it’s about honoring those moments, both of them, even if you’re a little sad. It’s honoring that that time happened.”

Natural elements have featured in Alwood-Karčić’s work since she moved back to Columbus from New York City in 2010, linked with the sense of renewal she felt trading in that city’s concrete expanse for a wide, green yard with an abundant garden. “My husband (Milan Karčić) is a produce farmer, so we had all of this stuff growing in the yard, and I had this spiritual experience just being surrounded by nature again,” she said. "And I started to have this reverence for life and nature, and it all started to show in my work.”

The pandemic further intensified this deep connection with the natural world, with the artist taking her 11-year-old Jack Russell terrier on regular walks in the Metro Parks as a means of staving off coronavirus-driven malaise.

"Tide Shift" by Meagan Alwood-Karčić
"Tide Shift" by Meagan Alwood-Karčić Courtesy the artist

Alwood-Karčić said she generally started each painting in this collection by searching for source photographs on Google Images, often culling one or two figures from larger group shots, drawn to interesting poses that suggest deep, personal intimacy. She then sketched the illustration on tracing paper with a heavy 6B pencil, flipping the paper over onto a canvas and then tracing over the original drawing, which transferred a graphite outline onto the canvas. From there, Alwood-Karčić switched to paint, filling in the colors and gradually bringing the piece to fully realized life.

As she worked, Alwood-Karčić said she tried to hold onto the emotions that inspired the painting, a process she described as meditative. “It keeps me in the moment, where I’m not thinking about anything except this thing,” she said.

“Duet" also arrives at a time when Alwood-Karčić is most comfortable in her skin as an artist, which follows a long stretch where the self-taught painter struggled with her self-confidence owing to a lack of formal training.

“I was recently at Michaels buying tape and a few other things I needed for this show, and I saw those giant, black portfolio cases, and I remember it was like, ‘Oh, if you’re an artist you have to have one of those!’ And I was maybe 18 at the time and it was like, ‘Those are $100! I can’t afford that!’ But I ended up buying one anyway, and I have never used it, ever,” Alwood-Karčić said, and laughed. “So, that idea that I never went to art school was in the back of my head for years, and now I don’t care. Maybe I’m too old to care anymore. But I think I’m also more accepting of myself. And I do have things to say, and I know it.”

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