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Artist and gallery owner Megan Aline uncovers her roots, mixing figurative painting and landscapes

Artist and gallery owner Megan Aline uncovers her roots, mixing figurative painting and landscapes
January 2023

See her work alongisde sculptures from Kevin Chambers at the “Wander Within” exhibit at Robert Lange Studios this month

Artist Megan Aline has been working on a series called “Inner Landscapes” depicting feminine silhouettes filled with wooded scenes, such as Constantly Growing (acrylic on panel, 20 x 30 inches, 2021).

When Megan Aline and her husband, Robert Lange, moved to Charleston and opened Robert Lange Studios about 20 years ago, Aline focused on the administrative side of art. Eventually, the gallerist, who has a bachelor’s of fine art from the University of New Hampshire and has studied art and literature in Venezuela and London, made space and time to develop her own style. 

Aline’s work echoes her childhood in Maine immersed in nature, but with a grown-up depth of character. Her realistic paintings capture the movement of light, water, and trees in such a magical way one can almost hear the wind and water and feel the dappled sun. Most recently, she’s been painting feminine silhouettes reminiscent of 19th-century cameos, but instead of black voids, the profiles are filled with serene wooded scenes that convey an otherworldly sense of strength and beauty. 

Aline starts the year with an exhibit called “Wander Within,” opening January 6 at Robert Lange Studios alongside sculptor Kevin Chambers. Here, she shares what inspired her to merge figurative painting and landscapes.

Finding Inspiration: I was installing a painting in a collector’s house, and they had two black-and-white cutout silhouettes of their kids. I lingered on them for a while and kept thinking about how interesting it would be if there was something inside them. That was it; an idea was born. From there, the evolution of how to actually create them took longer, and it wasn’t until I had a handful of finished paintings that I started working with masking and eventually vinyl.

Creative Process: I start with a background and then mask off a silhouetted shape using vinyl, essentially creating a stencil to paint within. I then create landscapes, mostly forests, inside the figures. After the paint dries, I peel the vinyl to reveal the shape of the figure.

Feminine Silhouettes: I’m attracted to clean jawlines and women that hold themselves with an unspoken strength. As I imbue the paintings with the feeling of nature, I’ve discovered that the person, even though they aren’t clearly defined, emanates a feeling in their posturing.  

(Left to right) Deeply Rooted (acrylic on panel, 30 x 36 inches, 2022); An Underlying Message (arcylic on panel, 24 x 24 inches, 2022); Stand Still (acrylic on panel, 24 x 48 inches, 2022).

Establishing a Connection: The background layer typically pulls or contrasts colors from within the landscape I plan on painting inside the figure. There needs to be a marriage between all three planes of the piece—the background, silhouette, and the forest. I paint until it all feels right.

Exploring the Feminine & the Divine: I started calling this series “Inner Landscapes.” I like the idea that we have an inner landscape—a map created from emotions, ideas, and sensations collected throughout our lives. This map of our journey is always pulling us back to our center, to our quiet place, and for me, that place is my connection to the natural world. Many of the woods I paint are from Maine, where I grew up, and that’s where I created these unseen roots that ground me today. I’ll often paint the trees taller than they are and with reaching branches that feel like a dancer’s arms. They become women leaning on and embracing each other in an interconnected web.

Going for a Masterpiece: After listening to artist Bo Bartlett talk at the Gibbes Museum of Art [in October 2022], I walked away with two points of inspiration for my upcoming show. He said, “Why make small paintings when any painting might be your last; why not make masterpieces?” So, for my show, I’m making a bunch of life-size and larger works. Also, Bo said, “Let your root feed your crown.” This is from a Robertson Davies book. It perfectly encapsulates the story of these silhouettes, whose strong roots, created with layers of paint and memory, form an inner landscape.