Scott McNeill Art, Art Review, 2003




Scott McNeill is a unique artist.  On three-foot by five-foot panels of wood-some larger, some smaller--he combines the wood-carving skills developed in Honduras with a high intelligence that has allowed him to express profound ideas in carved wood relief sculptures that he then paints in intense acrylic colors.  He paints the individual carved forms themselves, whether interiors with people and furnishings, or animals, fish and other creatures of the sea, in order to heighten their character, identity and intensity.  But, he also paints other, larger, related images on top of the painted carvings to create another level of reality, an overlay that reinforces or amplifies the visual and emotional meaning and expressiveness of the underlying carving.

Scott McNeill is very talented in his handling of these layers of images, carefully placing the paint so that it both reveals the carved structure of objects, and allows the painted overlay of secondary images to shift and develop across the irregular carved surface.  Thus, there is both the carving and the painting on the carving, and then a larger pictorial and expressive image painted on top of both.  The result is the creation of the multiple layers of meaning and symbolic expressiveness that reside in reality and in Scott McNeill's mature philosophy, incorporating the relativity of space and time. From his point of view, and that of most thoughtful people, reality is not just one thing, but composed of a series of levels of meaning and interpretation.

I can't think of another contemporary or historic artwork that does this the way that Scott McNeill does it. His style is unique in the history of art.  I realize this is a large statement, but I can't think of another artist or art form that contradicts it.

It is true that Cubism has been interpreted as the creation of multi-faceted views of objects to suggest the passage of time.  Cubism, though entirely different in style from Scott McNeill's achievement, is the closest art movement or style that I can think of that in any way suggests what he is achieving in terms of a multiplicity of overlapping images and ideas.  But Scott McNeill's work is different, more complex in its way than Cubism, because he is combining more recognizable images with a challenging abstract framework.

It can be said that Scott McNeill's work is Baroque in character in terms of the movement of design, color and emotion associated with that past period of art.  The dramatic movement and energy in his work ties directly to this tradition of art, while being stylistically unique and contemporary.

I suppose I should say that in addition to being an artist and writer on art for forty or more years, I also taught art and art history at the college and university level for more than twenty years, so I have had to study and think about these ideas in order to present them to students.

Scott McNeill's work is mature and truly unique.

Scott McNeill has been working at a mature level of artistry, in terms of intellectual, technical, and creative aspects, for as long as I've known him…the last ten years.  He has a maturity of mind and philosophy of art and life far beyond the usual.  He is, and has been for years, well aware of what he is achieving and wants to achieve in his art.  He expresses profound, even difficult concepts, very clearly both in his art and verbally and in writing In doing so, he is able to achieve something quite unusual in art…a vibrant, vital, emotionally expressive art based on profound intellectual, symbolic theory.  Usually, an artist achieves one or the other positions—emotional expressiveness or theoretical intellectuality--rarely both with equal artistic impact and validity.  Scott McNeill has done this for the extended period of the ten years' time I have known him and his work, and continues to do so today.

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Review by professor and critic Don Gray

September 2003

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