Scott McNeill, “Art Achieves New Dimension,” Olympian, 1997





Art Achieves New Dimension

The Olympian

July 24, 1997

On a sunny morning, Scott McNeill has taken one of his recently completed works and sets it on the shady porch. "What do you see in this?" he asks anxiously, pointing to the painted and carved depictions of a fisherman on a boat above a swarming sea of fish. The visitor fumbles for an answer and then asks him what he sees. He contemplates the piece, then says slowly: "Every situation has different sides to the same story. There are different possibilities in the same piece of work."

McNeill is not interested in art that has only one interpretation, no more than he is interested in one-dimensional artwork.

The 27 year-old Olympia artist’s recent artwork comes in two varieties. Some are carvings that have been painted to give detail to the carvings themselves, while others are carvings of one object or design with a painting of another form over it.

In one piece, a painting of the globe is set over a carving of fish; in another sunflowers cover carvings of angels and devils. The work, which is on display at Childhood’s End Gallery, finds its roots in Honduras, where McNeill lived for more than four years before returning to the United States about seven months ago.

When he joined the Peace Corps soon after graduating from college with a degree in Marketing, McNeill says he didn’t know what to do with his life and was hoping to "find himself." By the time he left Valley of the Angels, a small town in Honduras, McNeill called the experience akin to fate. "I was in the right place at the right time," he says.

In Valley of the Angeles, McNeill was assigned to a project that helped artisans sell their works. An artist himself, McNeill continued to paint while he lived there. "The kids (in the town) would come over and ask me to draw their homework projects for them," he says. He also painted murals around town.

After finishing his Peace Corps duty, McNeill said Valley of the Angels felt like home, so he stayed. While working with a company that was exporting furniture, McNeill was struck by what he wanted to do.

"I had a dream of a painting that I had not done, and then it turned into wood," he says. And from that dream alone I said, ‘I’m going to try to do this.’ "

McNeill, who largely learned by doing, says that in four months had become better than many of the native carvers. …Soon after McNeill began selling his artwork in booths to tourists who came to Honduras looking for a token of native culture. He began to see the native carvings as monotonous. …"I don’t have any intention of doing the same thing over and over again," he says.

These days, McNeill lives in a trailer behind a childhood friend’s house. He grew up in New Jersey but says he would like to stay in Olympia at least for a while. He doesn’t think much about the future, besides that he wants to do his artwork. "As long as I keep my hands working, it seems like everything takes care of itself," he says. "The artwork is all I am right now. Wherever I go, I’m going to continue to do this artwork.”

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