Gnats, rain, paint and pattern: An interview with artist Meggan Fisher

Painting for the third iteration of BenchMarkss wrapped up in early June. — photo by Tonya Kehoe

Tis the season to see the latest iterations of artist “BenchMarks” benches in downtown Iowa City. Now in its third year, the public art program is sponsored by the University of Iowa Community Credit Union and championed as part of the Iowa City Downtown District’s Community Gallery Program.

I recently caught up with the artist behind the eye-dazzling bench located newer the children’s playground in the Ped Mall (her aqua and coral combinations really drew me in!).

Meggan Fisher is a local artist who signed up to do two benches this Spring. While I watched her work, she cheerfully answered questions from passers-by (many whom stopped by to chat) without skipping a beat in either painting or gnat-swatting.

Little Village: I see you are painting an intricate pattern on a bench. This is relevant to my interests. Tell me a little about yourself and your design.

Meggan Fisher: The theme for the Benchmarks project this year is “Tones of Home.” My mind went straight to the colors, patterns, and significance of the quilt. It was also a natural fit with themes that have been running through the other artwork I’m making.

This bench is pretty intricate and precise. I am not that meticulous in all the work I do, but I do take a great deal of satisfaction in very delicate and detailed work at times. I think that probably goes back to the needlework tradition I was brought up in. It takes me to a very quiet, patient place because I have to slow way down.

I like thinking about how even though this bench will go through natural and unnatural wear and tear, and fade with age it is befitting to its design. In my mind’s eye aging will not detract from it, but will transform into a weathered quilt.

[Writer’s note: Her idea of it weathering like a well-loved quilt warms my heart and makes me excited to see people using it and seeing the patina develop!]

If you could, what would else would you paint downtown and where?

Well, if I am turned loose to daydream, I would love to have a brightly colored downtown. I’m thinking of the rich colors of India, the Mediterranean, Morocco. Wouldn’t it be cool to look down the street and see pink, yellow, blue, orange buildings? Or even just painting the light posts a really nice, vibrant color would add to our downtown district identity. On a more attainable level, I would love to see more murals.

Have you tallied up the total hours you have invested in this bench?

I haven’t kept a log, but if you include all the work from design to finished product it would have to be around 40 hours.

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How did you keep the pesky gnats at bay while you were painting?

Ha! Product endorsement time: I use the one-and-only Bug Soother. Works like a charm and smells great.

Photo by Tonya Kehoe
Photo by Tonya Kehoe

Thank you Meggan for your time and here’s to another wonderful summer on the Ped Mall. See you downtown!