Collective Memory: Autumn, River Road - CODAworx

Collective Memory: Autumn, River Road


Client: Private Donor.

Location: Topsfield, MA, United States

Completion date: 2019

Artwork budget: $20,500

Project Team


Gregor Smith

Smith St. John Architects


Gary Tardiff


Meg Black

Meg Black Studios


This highly textured pulp painting, made with overbeaten abaca and pure pigment, was commissioned to celebrate the completion of a newly expended town hall in a small New England village. Each panel measures 54 x 24 inches and is mounted on 1 inch Gator Board. The subject of the painting, a much beloved road in the town, has the essence of a nature cathedral as described the Romantic philosophers: tall trees that create vaulted arches that sweep across the road, filtered sunlight that acts as stained glass, and ancient stones left behind by melting glaciers which form the walls of this naturally beautiful space.


Collective Memory was the emotional response I was aiming for with this commission for a newly renovated town hall in a small New England village. As a student of art history, I utilized my knowledge of Roman wall painting and created a composition that pushed beyond the confines of the wall and into a three-dimensional space.

The composition and placement at the top of the landing in the newly expanded building allows the viewing audience, largely members of this small community, to metaphorically step into the painting of a much beloved road in the town and examine it from within. Walk down the road, rest at one of the fences, or sit on the rock wall for a spell and enjoy the view. For the people of this village, this place acts as their collective memory, a road they have walked down to swap stories with a friend, sooth their souls, and find solace is the beauty of this protected place.


I was commissioned by the descendants of a woman who had lived in the town for most of her life. A patron of the arts, she had secured a commission years earlier to create a painting for the town library during its expansion. Her family wanted a painting commissioned in her memory to be installed in the town hall. I worked with the Board of Selectman who needed to authorize the commission and the Gregor Smith, Principal architect at Smith and St. John architects to determine the location for the painting.