Scott McNeill, “Artist ‘whittling’ away at woodcarving success, 1999




Artist ‘Whittling’ Away at Woodcarving Success

The Glendale Star

May 13, 1999

by Carrie Miner

Artist Scott McNeill collected a crowd of admirers during his artist-and-residence at the West Valley Art Museum earlier this year. Museum patrons watched him whittle a menagerie of sea life into a large piece of American Bass.

The panel of light wood quickly became an underwater seascape teeming with life under the skilled manipulation of McNeill’s carving tools. McNeill completed the finishing touches on the wood before converting it to a canvas. The complete composite, a unique multi-media piece, now graces the walls of the museum for a limited showing through May 18.

A collector purchased the piece during McNeill’s stay at the museum and loaned it to the museum for display, much to the delight of visitors eager to view the finished masterpiece. McNeill’s new art form is making waves in the artistic field. McNeill a painter first, conceptualized the multi-layered imagery in the early 1990’s and began training with Honduran woodcarvers from 1994 to 1996. He originally traveled to Honduras for his two-year stay with the Peace Corps. He began the journey of training himself to work with wood and commissioned his first set of carving tools from a hermit living in the country. "It took me a whole day to walk to his house," McNeill reminisced with a quiet laugh. "It took him a month to make my first set."

Shortly after McNeill picked up his finished tools, they were stolen from his residence. This turn of fortune sent McNeill an offer of an apprenticeship to David Sanchez, a local artisan. After McNeill learned the craft of woodworking, he began to paint his carving with brilliant, colorful visions.

McNeill easily quotes the dynamics of quantum physics and the theories of multidimensional spaces. He claims that renowned author and mythologist Joseph Campbell has greatly influenced his work.

"Joseph Campbell gave me direction," said McNeill. "He exposed the mystery to me."

McNeill’s new art form allows him to create two pictures in the same piece. Even though they are essentially the same piece, they also stand independent of each other. "I’m trying to show different things at the same time," said McNeill. "I’m really excited that people are ready to contemplate layers of things."

Sort-spoken, McNeill’s work dramatically challenges conceptions of a one-dimensional universe. The piece on display at the West Valley Art Museum depicts colorful fish swimming in a sea of blue and lying underneath the depths swim an array of fish and other sea-faring life such as a turtle, an eel, a crab and an octopus.

"What I’ve developed explores the truth of our existence expressed in multidimensional ways," McNeill concluded. "That’s why I’m so excited."

The West Valley Art Museum is at 114th Avenue and Bell Road. For more information, call 972-0635.

• Artwork • Videos • Info • Contact • join mailing list  •