At the very moment I’m writing this, I’m sitting in my parents’ kitchen and my mom is outside on the sidewalk on this cool, early October day, and she’s dunking various fabrics and at least one faded pair of shorts into a small, homemade indigo vat. It’s amazing what patterns and gradations are possible with this modest dye process. I think that’s one reason I was immediately drawn to the work of Maureen Meyer, whose background in fashion and textile design led her to a series of paintings inspired by indigo.
Indigo dye has been commonly used for centuries, but the organic material’s dying characteristics have been used for thousands of years in all different parts of the world. We perhaps associate the color most commonly with the color of blue jeans, and while much of the dye is synthetically produced these days, it once was considered a luxury, as blue dyes were rare. Meyer’s canvases range in composition from more straightforward homages in the form of tie-dye style to unusual, geometric, almost kaleidoscopic manifestations — but all in that rich, unmistakable hue. I was curious to know how she became interested in painting after a career in fashion, and I asked the artist a few questions about her practice:
Your paintings immediately made me think of a cross between indigo-dyed textile and a cyanotype. So I was really interested in your background in fashion design. Can you tell me how you initially got started in fashion and textile?
My first job out of college was with Calvin Klein designing graphics and patterns for clothing. I then worked at the fashion publication Visionaire/V magazine. Eventually I went on to cofound the women’s clothing line Flowers of Romance which focused on hand stitching and block printing fabrics. During my transition from fashion to painting I began working with indigo at the Women’s Studio Workshop in Rosendale, NY. Inspired by the seductive qualities of the indigo dyed fabrics I had created, I wanted to explore and translate those designs in a series of paintings.
What is your process like? How do you get started on a new piece?
My process begins with fabric experimentations using cotton, linen and indigo dye. I combine resist dye techniques including stitching, clamping and folding the fabric to create patterns on the materials. I use these dyed fabrics as references for my work, they are often much smaller than my paintings. The dyeing process is very unpredictable, and when I enter the studio to paint I become focused on accurately depicting my experiments. I enjoy the process of combining an abstract reference with a representational painting style. It allows me to be spontaneous and regimented at the same time. The dyeing process is very important to my compositions. I achieve the dark indigo color by painting multiple thin layers of indigo pigment mixed with an acrylic polymer.
How you were led to painting?
I feel my career in fashion guided and influenced my current work immensely. I am grateful for my time in fashion because it has lead me to the work I am creating now. I developed a love and appreciation of textiles and the art of combining pattern and textures. My positions in fashion gave me a work structure and insight into the business aspect of creative work.
What do you consider to be the most exciting thing about pursuing painting? What is the most challenging aspect?
The process of painting excites me most when I can see my technique improve and gain confidence from one work to the next. It is also very satisfying when I am able to intently focus and tune everything else out. The business and self promotion aspects are always a challenge.
Who or what are some of your major influences?
I love artists who reference and work with textiles in their work including Louise Bourgeois, Sergej Jensen, Sarah Crowner and Hayv Kahraman. The paintings of Juan Usle are continuously inspiring to me, his recent show at Cheim and Read was beautiful! I am always inspired by fashion designers some of my favorites include Dries Van Noten, Rachel Comey and Junya Watanabe, they all mix texture and patterns so beautifully. One of my biggest influences is my partner Timothy Nazzaro. He is a photographer who I met while working in the fashion industry. It is a gift to be able to discuss your ideas and work with someone you trust and respect creatively. Frida Kahlo always!
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