Scott McNeill, “Artist Carves Within a Carving,” AZ Republic 2002





Artist carves within a carving

The Arizona Republic

Dec 22, 2002

By Connie Cone Sexton

     The Packages have been wrapped.  The last ornament has been placed on the tree and you’ve opened all those cards that came in the mail.

     Want to get out of the house but looking for something with a non-holiday theme?  Consider heading to the West Valley Art Museum to take a gander at the wood relief sculpture exhibit by Scott McNeill.

     Don’t plan on this being a quick-look-and-go.  There’s something transfixing about McNeill’s work.  You don’t see everything in one glance.  You don’t see everything up close, you don’t see everything far away.  But take the time and you’ll discover that the artist has created a bit of magic via his carving tools on the linden and basswood.

     McNeill gives his viewers a picture within a picture.  From a distance, you see his bold shapes of fish or cars, maybe a funky living room scene.  But get up close – yes, invade the picture’s space and get in close – and you’ll see the deeper carvings he has made of smaller fish, smaller cars, smaller living rooms.

     What’s it all about?  Talent, a little whimsy and a few dashes of philosophy and quantum physics.

     Some describe his work as close to cubism or abstract expressionism.  What McNeill has done is carved images at one level and then painted pictures to superimpose on the carving.  Hence, the picture within a picture.

     His talent earned him the 2001 Dexter Jones Award for his bas-relief work from the National Sculpture Society.

     His work is on display through March 2 at the art museum, 17420 N. Avenue of the Arts in Surprise.  It’s a repeat showing for the Litchfield Park artist, whose 1999 exhibit earned him many fans.

     McNeill knows those viewing his artwork might be taken aback, which to him is great.  He hopes they will linger before the image, opening themselves to philosophical thought.  And, yes, that leads him to the whole time and space question.  So it’s no wonder that he named one of his pieces Road Quark, small images of cars on a stacked highway that he says represent “hypothetical subatomic building blocks of matter.”

     To understand this definition, stand a few feet away from the sculpture.  Suddenly, bigger cars can be seen making their own journey across the picture.

     The 33-year-old artist, who has a degree in marketing, began carving during a mid-1990s stint in the Peace Corps.  He worked alongside some of the greatest carvers in Honduras and returned to the United States to create his own “multidimensional style.”

     Today, McNeill is working on making even more intricate carvings.

     This summer he began on an 80-pound piece of wood but didn’t complete it in time for this exhibit.  McNeill can spend hundreds of hours on a piece this size: 5 feet high, 3 feet wide and several inches deep.

     “It’s up at the museum, one-half done.  It’s jungle animals.  Toucans, sloths, tree frogs, parrots, a howler monkey, squirrel monkeys,” he said.

     “One half is carved, the other is just wood.  It can give people an idea of how I do what I do.”

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