When I pass a fire hydrant on the street, the last things I consider are the plumbing underneath or the bolts holding it together. I just sort of walk by. When I glance down at my old-school watch, my mind is on where the two hands are placed and how late I might be, not the feats of engineering it took to manufacture springs or cogs or whatever makes it tick.
I imagine that a lot of us don’t contemplate the inner workings of everyday items. We just think of the things when we need them, or maybe not at all.
But most of us are not Meg Regelous.
“I think objects are just incredible,” Regelous said. “I’m wowed by the development and the design and the science and the engineering that went into things. I love the idea that you can take something and kind of glorify it and bring attention to it by elevating it to the status of art.”
Growing up in Novato, California, Regelous was a distracted kid who thought her propensity for being influenced by all the things, all at once, made her incurably unfocused. Teachers said she was not bright. Her parents saw bursts of determination from her, but the influence of those teachers left her feeling lost, and she never finished high school.
As a young adult, Regelous moved with her sister to Chicago. Her sister got a membership to the Art Institute of Chicago, and Regelous began borrowing it. She visited and revisited the museum whenever possible. There, she found solace and fell in love with art.
“Before I found art, I felt adrift, lacking and unsettled,” Regelous said. “I could get by, but I lacked purpose.”
After discovering art, she also discovered a life as an avid learner. She moved back to California, enrolled at the College of Marin and loaded her schedule with art classes. The classes showed her an artistic way to look at the everyday objects she’d always loved.
One such object, the fire extinguisher, inspired Fighting Flames Unseen, her most recent project, currently on display at Hub Coffee Roasters on Riverside Drive.
One of her favorite paintings in the show is called, “Extinguisher Two.” The technique she used in painting the piece is an homage to an artist she admires, Wayne Thiebaud, and his paintings of cakes and pies. Her painting is not of a baked good, but it looked buttery and delicious to me. Regelous emulated Thiebaud’s style, wanting the piece to be textured and simple. Although the composition of “Extinguisher Two” is straightforward, the painting also has complexity. In the middle of the canvas where the extinguisher sits in its box, there is a shadow. That is where Regelous chose to imply depth. She said that was the “trickiest part of the painting.”
“I love playing with this idea of a utilitarian object, like a fire extinguisher, and making it non-utilitarian,” she said.
Regelous said she’ll ponder an idea for months, letting it incubate before she makes a painting. Once the work is finished, the creative and intellectual parts of her mind have room again, and new ideas have space to grow. For a once-distracted kid, that has been very therapeutic.