“A new world had presented itself where the possibilities were (and still are) endless.” - the artist
Q: What led you to become a realism artist?
A: Although I have always enjoyed figurative work and realism, it has had been a journey finding what works best for me. Growing up with a mother as an oil painter, I had always enjoyed art-making, but only began to take myself seriously towards the end of high school- but I really struggled with technique. I could imagine exactly what I wanted to draw, but my hands couldn’t make it quite yet. After lots of practice and failed attempts, one day it just clicked. I was hooked when I discovered I had the capability to make anything practically out of thin air. When I got to college at Texas State University, I started my first year as a minor in Studio Art, as I was not entirely convinced of this path. But during that year, I started making acrylic commissions and I loved it. I decided to change my major to Studio Art and kind of blindly picked painting as my concentration. I had never used oils before in my life, and let me tell ya, my first paintings were nothing spectacular. But I had this feeling that once I could figure out the medium, I would be in love. A few paintings and critiques later, it happened. I became obsessed. I knew painting was what I was meant to do and saw a whole future ahead of me. A new world had presented itself where the possibilities were (and still are) endless. I played around with a bunch of different subject matter, some strictly still life and some figure-only. Finally, I figured out my style and made a series of paintings for my senior thesis that were both figurative and atmospheric, playing along the lines of realism and expressionism. I find it difficult to define my style, because I don’t strive for an exact realism and I like to exaggerate the local colors to leave the narrative up for more interpretation.
Q: What inspires your subject matter?
A: My subject matter is inspired by the human experience, nostalgia, and the interactions with our environments. I love depicting glimpses of time that are now in the past. I don’t think we can fully analyze our experiences when we’re in the moment. It takes years to reflect and to fully understand their meaning, which is why I like to paint older photographs. I like to leave my paintings up for interpretation though- because meanings are ever changing depending on who we are at certain phases of our life. My most recent series is a reflection of my own past, which I think was necessary as a start to this subject matter, but I am looking forward to memorializing other people’s experiences; every human has a unique story that I believe is worth sharing.
Q: Can you describe your creative process?
A: I always start my process by looking back at photographs. When I first started making paintings I was doing this subconsciously when I was struggling for a subject matter. But then I started taking note of my behavior and trusted my own instincts and accepted that I am a very nostalgic person that reflects and analyzes a lot on the past. I think this kind of reflection can become negative very easily, and I want my paintings to bring joy to myself and others, so I am very deliberative in my selection process. I am a bit of a hoarder of images, anything I find compositionally interesting I save in an album on my phone, and then when I’m ready for a new painting I go through those and narrow them down slowly. Usually the photograph I end up with is one that triggers something emotional out of me, whether it’s a memory or the relationship to the person in the photograph. My most favorite part of the process is when I’m actually painting and staring at this photograph for countless hours, I start to understand the meaning to my subject matter even deeper than I originally conceived, and I learn so many things about myself. I begin to create a relationship with the painting, and soon it becomes a part of myself.
Q: We were impressed with your Best in Show piece, titled Everyone Wears the Pants in this Family, as well as the rest of the collection you submitted obviously. Tell us more about this piece/series.
A: Everyone Wears the Pants in this Family, Skittles for Bird, and En Route are a part of a 12-piece series recently completed for my senior thesis show at Texas State University. All 12 paintings are from old photographs found at my childhood home. Everyone Wears the Pants in this Family depicts my parents, siblings, and myself (circa 2001) and was the most challenging and rewarding painting to complete; taking 3 months to finish for my thesis show “Year of the Pig” in May 2019. Each painting in the series gives a fraction of a narrative by depicting little glimpses of time.
En Route is one that particularly tugs on my heartstrings; the painting is based on a photograph my mother took while her and my dad were living in Crete, Greece in the 80’s, as my dad was stationed there for 2 years with the Air Force. They already had my oldest brother, and my sister was born while they were abroad. The painting depicts my brother playing on his tricycle just before they moved back to the States. My mom told me they had to ship everything back home- and the tricycle was the only toy they kept for him that week- and that he would have to leave it in Crete when they moved back. When my mother told me this story I just knew I had to paint it. The tricycle spoke a thousand words. There was joy, and there was also a lot of pain. It was a temporary moment that was beautiful in its time and could never be given back.
Q: What do you hope for viewers to take away from your art?
A: I hope my viewers look at my paintings and feel something from their past. I am no stranger to the fact that people have really difficult upbringings, and I in no way had the “perfect” one. We all have baggage, but I also believe we all have beautiful moments in one way or another. I hope my paintings bring a feeling of peace where one can escape present reality and just take a few moments to reflect on their journey that made them the person they are today. As an artist, I want to offer more than just beauty to this world, but an experience, and a time to reflect.
Q: How do you view your art career in five years?
A: I view my art career in five years to be an evolution of who I am today. I want to constantly take pictures of my life and to record every moment possible. I think I will continue making reflective paintings of my life, but I also see myself depicting stories from those I meet along the way. I hope in the next 5 years to have several shows under my belt and to continue navigating this ever-changing art world. The biggest lesson I have learned so far is that a career as an artist is a marathon, not a sprint.
About the artist:
Maggie Lyon was born (1997) in Fort Worth, TX and moved to San Marcos, TX in 2015 to earn a BFA from Texas State University. With a concentration in painting, and a minor in Fashion Merchandising, she graduated in May 2019. Maggie has exhibited her work multiple times in the Texas State Galleries and most recently exhibited her work in Year of the Pig in May 2019.
My oil paintings capture an abstracted reality of my childhood and adolescence while evoking the sense of nostalgia through the viewer’s individual perspective. Balancing between obscurity and detailed reality, this visualization is created by selecting old pictures from my childhood home and then mixing a palette that is an exaggerated saturation of the photograph’s local color. I fade some objects in and out of the background and keep other specific areas of the painting very realistic to depict the emotional discourse of memories; feeling clear, yet blurry at the same time, achieving an art that is both emotional and triggering to one’s nostalgia of youth.
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