Scott McNeill, Artist in Residence, West Valley Art Museum, 1999







Surprize, AZ, March 4, 1999 - Artist Scott McNeill will carve a large wood relief sculpture through March 15, from 10 am - 4 pm in the sculpture garden of the West Valley Art Museum.  McNeill is one of 27 wood artists exhibiting at the Museum’s current show.

“I dreamed about a new painting I was about to start, and it transformed into relief sculpture.  In retrospect, this was foreshadowing,” says talented wood artist, Scott McNeill.  Fresh out of college with a degree in Marketing, McNeill, also a painter, was sent to the Valley of the Angels in Honduras as a business consultant to a large artisans’ cooperative.  Not only did McNeill help artisans with promotion, pricing, and international sales, he painted over seventeen murals and signs throughout the village.  For the local hardware store he created a 12 foot wooden saw with a 10 foot wooden hammer hanging below it.  He also became an accomplished wood sculptor.

It seems like a journey of destiny that took McNeill from Honduras to exhibiting at the current exhibition, Rings of Time, at the West Valley Art Museum.  At the Museum, he will also be carving a sculpture of a coral reef with schools of fish and myriad of sea creatures from start to finish during February through March.

Valley of the Angeles happened to be the center of a centuries-old tradition of Honduran wood carving.  “I made friends with many artists, including some master wood carvers of the country,” says McNeill.  “I went to fairs with one and slept in his booth in a hammock.  After my stint with the Peace Corps ended, I stayed in the town to learn carving.  All the carving tools were made by a little man who lived in the cloud forest.  He melted car springs for the steel and took four months to make them.  I had just gotten my tools and built a nice table, and when I came back home I was completely robbed, everything, all my tools.  My friend, the master carver, came by and said, “Why dont you come to our workshop.  You can use our tools.”

“I knew I would stay there as long as it took to learn,” says McNeill, who was the first foreigner to apprentice.  :We worked 50 hours/ week learning wood characteristics, joint preparation, multiple carving techniques.  I learned fast, and I took carving beyond their traditional forms; I began painting my carvings.  In four months, I was selling my work to tourists.  From there, I went to another shop.  Other carvers stopped by and shared ideas.  Months passed, and soon, it was 2 1/2 years later.

In the Museum’s current exhibition, McNeill’s prodigious talent literally explodes from his relief sculptures.  The remarkably complicated and intense works combine multiple dimensions.  Large wood panels are filled with deeply carved series of images, then brightly painted.  In “Space Travel.” relief carvings of microscopes repeated in a panel shaped like a rocket ship are over painted with a woman half immersed in water, a symbol of the unconscious, with a bird flying into the clouds behind her.  “Space is a paradox,” says McNeill.  “So-called solid objects are 99% empty space. We perceive outer space, but what about inner space?”

In “Road Quark,” (4’ 1/2 x 2’ 1/2 feet), fifty four hand carved autos on five different levels of highways and overpasses zoom in different directions.  Enlarged portions of other cars is painted over the entire area.  “I tried to create a visible world of particles operating on different levels, underneath the larger perception of matter,”  says McNeill, who studies everything from Quantum Physics to Philosophy.

“Carving has to be planned, with a detailed preliminary design,” he states.  “All the images are carved from a single block of wood.  The painting has more leeway.  By carving different scenes within one piece of wood, then superimposing another scene over it in paint, I can allude to relationships between singular and multiple events.  Each moment has the past and future in it.”  In “Was, Could, Should, Might, Will Be, Is,” McNeill has masterfully carved life stories framed inside cellular shapes - a man confronting the grim reaper, a couple with a baby, rebirth, a man flying through the air, among dozens of other images.

As a young, emerging artist, McNeill feels he has developed a new art form.  He wants to create visually the multi-dimensionality of time and higher realities, using contemporary images.  “I feel very capable,” says McNeill, who sculpts at least eight hours every day.  “As long as I keep my hands working, everything proceeds and my art evolves.”

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