Q+A with Meg Kalinowski



When we think of art on display in a hotel we automatically think of standardized prints on a wall, maybe a selection of curated paintings, photographs…

But not at the Roger Smith!

For Architectural Designer, Artist and Vermont Studio Center fellowship awardee, Meg Kalinowski, she reconsiders the traditional presentation of art in a hotel lobby. Her work incorporates the ceiling for a site-specific sculpture installation in the lobby of the Roger Smith Hotel.

We were delighted to sit down with Meg and hear about her background, her experience at Vermont Studio Center and making work for the Roger Smith.

The Roger Smith fellowship provides an opportunity for an artist to create a site-specific show at an iconic New York arts hotel, the Roger Smith in Midtown Manhattan. It includes 1 month of working time at Vermont Studio Center and culminates with a Fall show in the Lobby of the hotel. 

Tell us how you came to learn about the fellowship, and how you approached the application.

I actually came across The Roger Smith Fellowship during the application process on the Vermont Studio Center’s website. It was incredibly good fortune to find this fellowship as it was the only one that applied to an artist living in New York City! The application process was pretty interesting because you still have to fill out the general application requirements for VSC (CV, contacts, portfolio) and then there was a portion specific to Roger Smith in the form of a proposal for how one would use their reception area as a location for an installation. I took that spatial reality as a looser constraint in my proposal and decided that it would be far more interesting to utilize the ceiling and therefore extend the scope to have not just an installation but really an intervention in the space. I think my proposal was a bit of a shock to a system that has usually supported more traditional art and modes of display, but it got me in the door to have a broader conversation with the folks at Roger Smith and really explain what I was trying to do. The approach the Roger Smith Hotel took during the application process was incredibly refreshing- the whole thing was incredibly humanizing which led to an install that everyone was happy about.

What did you find to be most valuable about your experience at the Vermont Studio Center?

Time and People- 100%. I think it’s rare in life to take a “break” from your normal day to day and spend a solid month working on work that is 100% me. I am an architect during the day and artist at night- it was a luxury to have the time to switch up that dynamic so I could more pointedly look at my art. It was also an interesting place to be that was mostly composed of full time artists- many of whom are teachers and writers and great great thinkers. I felt really fortunate to have critiques not only from the visiting artists but also from my peers- the environment was incredibly sophisticated and had emotional depth that just feeds you and made me want to be even more engaged in my work. We joked throughout our time at VSC that it felt like art summer camp for adults, and who doesn’t want to go back to summer camp for a month in beautiful Vermont?

How did your initial concept transform into this floating geometric composition suspended from the ceiling?

My architectural background affords me some insight into how people appreciate well-sculpted and thought-out spaces. I saw the space at Roger Smith Hotel as a real opportunity to push away from the notion and presumption that a wall is the only natural place to display art. The piece installed at Roger Smith is really a massive expansion on smaller studies that were both painting in the traditional 2D sense and sculpture work- each were mediums I was using to explore female bodies and how they could be manipulated, abstracted and contorted in space. I needed more visual continuity that the traditional walls in the space didn’t necessarily have for this exploration, yet the ceiling offered the perfect amount of linear space to achieve the intervention I was hoping for. The bodies contort with expanding and contracting limbs which unapologetically fill the space with an abstracted femaleness that I feel is important to own and celebrate, especially in a public space.

Can you tell us about your process of making the piece?

This piece was first started in Vermont where I had more than enough space, and then I needed to rethink my process when I got back to my Williamsburg apartment (which was significantly smaller than my studio in Vermont). So I had a bit of a take over in my own apartment- my kitchen became part painting studio, part assembly space; my living room was production; and my bedroom and bathroom at times were storage spaces, respectively. And I have to say, my apartment was the cleanest and most tidy it has ever been!

The process of making the actual piece was incredibly cathartic when I was in my living room, aka production space. There was a complete freedom in creating body parts- full of black and white gestures that abstractly indicated muscle tone and direction towards the phantom limbs, yet to be created. Assembling in my kitchen all of the body parts I became part doctor, part artist- taking creative liberties in the composition while still understanding the form I wanted to ultimately evoke was yet another dynamic of the process. Installing each body (7 in total) in the Roger Smith Hotel was the final part of the piece- adjusting limbs, overlapping body parts to create moments of density versus reprieve became the resting place for the next few months and a rather bold insertion in the space.

You experiment with various mediums such as clay, pen on paper and sculptures – which format is your first love and why?

Pen and paper will always be my go-to. I carry my moleskin notebook and too many pens with me at all times so I can easily sketch out ideas and workshop through potential larger scaled pieces. Illustrating still holds a lot of improvisation which is exciting and provocative to me.
Sculpture work is deinfitely an extension of how I processed ideas from when I was a child and was re-energized/ re-imagined while I was in architecture school to articulate architectural designs. I’ve since reclaimed that in my art practice as a way to push sketches past a 2D surface which can sometimes feel limiting to a piece’s potential. I’m really interested in the abstraction of female form and for me sculpture is becoming a bigger and bigger tool in that exploration.

How do you approach the Art Vs. Architecture juxtaposition in your work?

I feel like my brain is turned completely ON while I’m working as both an architect and artist, which can sometimes be a bit much. I find it most enjoyable when there is a flow of thought and creation that pulls from both an analytical side and expressive side, but without the rigidness of my architectural practice. Being in Vermont for a month was great to see my brain actually adjust to a calmer state that then was capable of developing work outside of my usual working pace. Inevitably though, the general aesthetic of my art borrows heavily from years of drafting and thinking about buildings- I am a big proponent of the power and simplicity of the line; and my palette, mainly black and white, is an effective tool for my compositions whether they are complicated or simple. In the end, I’m both architect and artist- there is a richness there even if that comes with the occasional migraine.

In what ways has this experience at the Roger Smith inspired you?

Installing such a non-traditional and massive piece in the heart of New York City has been such an honor- of which I could not have done without the support and talented people from the Roger Smith Hotel. From my initial proposal, to the refinement of what the piece would ultimately be, to the install and opening reception, I have been constantly shown such enthusiasm towards supporting artists and art forms of all types. There is a thirst to imbue the hotel with a culture that makes the space feel more gallery-like, then add the hospitality aspect, and you find yourself in a very sophisticated home-like atmosphere. My experience at The Roger Smith Hotel has set the bar high on places willing to take a risk and challenge how people interact with art and how art interacts with space- something I will now hold close to me as I move forward with my artistic practice.


Meg’s work will be on show in the Lobby at the Roger Smith through February 2018.

Find out about the 2018 Roger Smith Fellowship

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