Scott McNeill, “Artist needn’t fish for complements,” AZ Republic, 1999





Artist Needn’t Fish for Compliments

The Arizona Republic

May 8, 1999

For a few months this spring, Scott McNeill was far from being a lonely artist. Day after day as he dipped his carving tools into a massive piece of wood, McNeill had an audience. One by one, people would slip behind McNeill and ponder the art as it took shape. It was a new experience for the young artist. McNeill had set up a table in the courtyard of the West Valley Art Museum to work on the piece, coinciding with an exhibit at the museum.

During the weeks between February and April, McNeill fashioned an aquatic scene, taking viewers to the depths of the ocean. The viewing gave visitors a chance to see how the artist created layers in his wood carvings. Initially, you could see the underwater creatures floating across the wood, the objects made more tangible as the dimension of the carving deepened. You could see a coral reef emerge, containing schools of fish and other sea creatures.

Along the way, as thousands of people passed by, one person in particular was captured by the creation. "A Sun City West resident bought the piece while I was still working on it," McNeill said. "But he had a few suggestions, he made a few requests." The buyer was a scuba diver and had been down into the waters of the Palau Islands in the south pacific. He asked that McNeill make some of the fish resemble fish he had seen there.

McNeill made a few variations in line with the owner’s vision, something he isn’t sure he’d do again. But he enjoyed people watch his work. "It was an interesting experience," he said. "It was very nice to talk to people as they came through." While McNeill enjoys sharing his interpretation, he wants the visitors to develop their own take on his painted carvings. When you lookup close at one of his works, you can see color changes and small objects. But step back, and a pattern emerges. The piece that he did in the public’s eye is called Super-Fish. You see small schools of fish, a moray eel, an octopus, crabs and other creatures. But step back, and another view jumps out – three large fish. The colors are brilliant and bold. The fish are made so large that they seem to outgrow the container despite its size – nearly 5 feet high by 30 inches wide. Super-Fish will hang until May 18 at the museum, 17420 N. Avenue of the Arts – about 114th Avenue north of Bell Road.

Sun City West resident and museum goer Gene Williams marvels at McNeill’s skill. "His colors are gorgeous. He is a very talented man," she said. Williams brought her daughter Kim Kittle, to the exhibit. Kittle, who lives in Dallas, bought one of McNeill’s works. "She was very impressed by his work," Williams said. "She bought the piece from just seeing a slide he had."

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