Jonah Meyer (b. 1969) is an inter-disciplinary artist and craftsman living and working in the mid-Hudson Valley. Born to Rhode Island School of Design graduates who turned to homesteading, Meyer witnessed his parents create a rural Pennsylvania life out of their respective crafts and was granted all hours’ access to his father’s woodshop. Encouraged to make whatever, whenever, he continued his studies of the arts at RISD and in Europe, where he began painting under the influences of Donald Bachelor, Phillip Guston, and Francisco Goya. Meyer became fascinated by the symbols and decorations that adorned ancient buildings he saw as a student in Rome, and he brought both Bachelor’s obsession with the motifs of daily life and the Romans’ tendency to signpost into the paintings and sculpture of his post-grad years. To this day Meyer continues to use symbols and adornments as a means of self-inquiry and portraiture, many of which harken back to the complexity of his Pennsylvania upbringing: hearts, skulls, rainbows, water droplets, sunbursts, and guns (Meyer received a gun for his thirteenth birthday). His work rides the edge of abstraction and narrative, and seeks to create a world in which both can be true.
His most recent body of work, How the West was Won, investigates U.S. transgressions against Native Americans and the tools of genocide white men wielded—particularly in the late 19th century throughout the Western frontier. Underlying the project is Meyer’s desire to reconcile his rejection of a culture that continues to define masculinity in terms of dominance and violence, while also acknowledging that this history of racism and land theft is a lineage to which Meyer belongs. Still, these questions are nearly cartoonish in the pieces themselves – paintings, wall sculptures, furniture pieces, and prints, all of which are grounded in Meyer’s background as a woodworker. There’s the sense that the work is ultimately a world that invites children to enter despite the trauma implicit in its imagery. “It’s all about the kids,” he emphasizes, referencing the practice he inherited from his parents of welcoming his children into the studio to make work alongside him.
Meyer has self-produced shows of his own work for over two decades. His work has been mentioned in the New York Times and featured at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art highlighting emerging artists from the Hudson Valley. Among the champions of his work is Martin Puryear, along with the countless artisans and craftspeople with whom Meyer collaborates through his furniture and fine goods company, Sawkille Co.