Megan Foldenauer is an incredible, multi-faceted, and deeply expressive artist who is proud to call Ypsilanti home. With a resume spanning fine art, biomedical illustration, four degrees (including a PhD in anatomy), roller derby, and parenting, she has no shortage of areas to draw inspiration from. Her current favorite mediums are pencil, carbon dust, and watercolor. She is making some noise locally having just completed her first solo show at the Michigan Institute for Contemporary Art (MICA) and is now preparing for showings at this year’s Ann Arbor Art Fair and Grand Rapid’s Art Prize.
Meghan was generous enough to take some time speaking with me about her craft, her relationship with Ypsilanti, and the beautiful intricacy of the human eye. Check out her work!
Can you tell me a little bit about your beginnings as an artist?
I’m one of those “all of the sudden I could draw” types. A gift, a calling, a life’s purpose, whatever you wanna call it – I didn’t have to work-work-work to be able to draw… it’s just something I can always remember doing.
My parents always had paper and drawing/painting tools available to me. I know that helped nurture my very earliest interests – I always tell parents about this who want advice about helping their kids in the arts.
What about current projects?
Currently, I’m drawing nasty brain tumors at my day job as a media specialist at the University of Michigan in the Department of Neurosurgery. In my “fine art” life, I’m drawing a LOT of eyes for my Art Prize entry, “How to Draw the Human Eye” and watercolor painting a lot of small “everyday” things for Art Fair later this month – coffee beans, donuts, origami cats, bow ties, bras… you know.
How did you get involved with biomedical illustration?
I had a teacher in my high school anatomy class look at my lab reports (which I was illustrating) and say, “Hey, you know that’s a job right? Drawing science stuff for textbooks and the like?” I was stunned… and well, I never looked back.
Do you feel living in Ypsilanti has influenced you as an artist/person? Any favorite places?
Well, I moved here in Aug 2005 to be with my now husband, Eric (who makes amazing pretzels, by the way!) and to start my PhD at Wayne State in Detroit. Until I started derby, I was very much on the periphery of the town. Derby gave me an instant belonging in the community and a community of awesome friends/peers. And those friends were connected to a lot of other Ypsi locals, so my web kept growing and growing.
So, knowing all of those local people inspired my derby series and I’ve always felt like I could put myself out there as an artist here. So far, I’ve been right. I’ve had tons of great experiences. The size of the town… its progressive nature… its inclusiveness and its spirit of “you can totally do that if you want!” has been VERY nurturing. So much so that I’m renting a unit in the Centennial Plaza building (Pearl/Adams – where Ypsi Alehouse is) for my art studio. I guarantee I’m the only artist in there, but I’m hoping I can add a little “flavor” in the old downtown by being there.
You seem to have a gift for capturing the expressiveness of human faces/eyes, is that something you gravitate towards?
Yes, yes, and yes. It’s been the eyes for me since I was young. (My PhD was in the biology of the cornea, in fact.) The eye has an insane amount of detail and is composed of a huge variety of textures… I love the challenge. My portraiture work grew out of my love of the human eye, I suppose. Once I started drawing the whole face, I fell in love with drawing hair, the creases of the lips, people’s blemishes/scars, their adornments… all of it.
What is your favorite part about your own experience of creating art?
I love “falling into” a piece. That feeling where the rest of the world disappears and I’m totally zenned out. The intense focus of the pencil on paper. That’s the best.
I’ve been told this isn’t wise, but, I find my identity is entirely intertwined with my art. It is ME. I can’t say, “Oh, I was feeling THIS and that’s why I create THAT.” I just love the minutia that makes up people and the mundane objects that we are surrounded by. I think there’s a lot to appreciate and a lot of it is missed. It’d be great if people would see my work and have it change how they see the people/things in their lives. “Extolling the everyday” is how I’ve been putting it lately.
Can you talk a little bit about your upcoming art prize/A2 art fair showings?
I will be in booth A135 at Ann Arbor Art Fair, that’s located on Washington, across from Rackham Auditorium. As for ArtPrize, this year I’m at the Women’s City Club in Grand Rapids. You can see my page on the Art Prize website here.