by Joe Nolan
Renowned artist Brother Mel Meyer died on Saturday, Oct. 12.
Brother Mel was practically synonymous with The Arts Company, the pioneering Fifth Avenue gallery that hosts annual birthday parties for him that are always a special occasion. This past summer's celebration gave Nashvillians a chance to catch up on the artist's latest work and to celebrate the life and art of one of our favorite adopted sons.
Brother Mel Meyer was a Marianist monk based out of Missouri who created an estimated 10,000 pieces of art during his career. His work includes metal sculptures, watercolors, stained glass, frescoes and acrylic on canvas paintings. He also worked in handmade paper and textiles. Although most Marianists are teachers, some of the priests and brothers in the order use their God-given talents in a variety of ways to express their faith, and the order includes a number of full-time artists.
It's nearly impossible to sum up the work of such a long-lived, prolific artist — The Arts Company's owner Anne Brown filled a whole coffee table book when she published her monograph Brother Mel: A Lifetime of Making Art in 2009. While Mel made a lot of work in a wide range of media, a current of joy runs through it all. In his abstract work, Mel's shapes and colors evoke a sense of whimsy and delight, and even his figurative pieces have an unreal, magical quality.
“Art is an outgrowth of what the person is," said Meyer. "I’m a happy person. The feeling of being happy finds its way into the art.”
In recent years, Brother Mel was awarded an honorary Ph.D. from St. Louis University, and the university's art museum held a retrospective of the artist's work this past spring. A sculpture garden devoted exclusively to his work was erected in they city's downtown, and Mel even had one of his large sculptures stolen in a daring art heist. Hearing about the theft, Mel said he felt he'd finally "arrived as an artist."
Brother Mel Meyer died at the Marianist community residence on the campus of St. John Vianney High School in Kirkwood, Mo., of complications of heart disease. He was 85.