DTAP: Maggie Sather

DTAP: Maggie Sather

Guys (that means boys and girls and everyone else!) today, Tuesday April 1st, is not going to be a joke. This is going to be a day. Why? It’s DTAP, and that means artist Maggie Sather is going to light up the Smith Gallery with her drawings. Her work is literally awe-inspiring. I once watched her scribbling away at the counter of Blue Heron thinking she was doodling. When she showed me what she was working on, I felt like I had just reached a higher state of existence.

I can’t speak highly enough about her work: it is crisp, clean, and bold. Featuring female shapes obscured in veils, there is an enigmatic mystery that makes me think of ancient sphinxes or unsolvable runes. Her work is strong and simple, but complex in design and brimming with a riddling charm.

So, what should you do this Tuesday night? Play stupid pranks on your friends and then come down between 5pm and 7pm to the Smith Gallery 119 E Third to meet the art and the artist! It going to be incredible, no joke.

//Twigz: Who are you? (Tell us a little about your life story, where you come from, and why are you in Winona.) And aren’t you like a genius…literally, a McArthur Genius Award winner?

\\Maggie: Ha! I’m definitely not a genius. I don’t expect to find myself on McArthur’s radar anytime soon though phonetically you’re on the right track! I am currently running on an emerging artist grant provided by the McKnight Foundation through SEMAC (The Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council).

I’m pretty lucky to have landed in Winona when I did. I was born in a little town in Minnesota called Hutchinson, but moved to Columbus, Ohio when I was young. My dad’s side of the family calls Winona home, and after a stint working in the Czech Republic after college, I came here to help out a family member. I never meant to stay as long as I have, but you Winonans are just so charming! Two and a half years later, I’m proud to call it home too.

//Twigz: How did you get so good?!

\\Maggie: I worked hard in high school once I realized that I had some talent, and was surrounded by the sorts of friends who saw the sky to have no limit. We pushed each other through competitions and awards shows, and eventually researched art schools together. I chose to move out east to attend the Maryland Institute College of Art, and majored in painting.

//Twigz: Tell me about your style? Do you only do pencil? Why do you choose this as your medium?

\\Maggie: This series of graphite drawings is a little new for me. I typically gravitate towards oil paintings but I struggled for a little while living in a very small apartment and a pretty tight budget. I really needed to create, so pencil and paper became the alternative to a messy, stinky apartment.

//Twigz: There are a lot of women in you pictures, and most of them are partially nude, partially veiled. Why? What attracts you to this kind of subject? Is there any message woven into your images? Why so sparse? Why so little color?

\\Maggie: I had to get creative once I left the structured curriculum of college. All of a sudden, I had a diploma but no longer had a community of peers and mentors to call upon for critique or direction. To put myself to work, I created an assignment for myself: approach all of the subjects or obstacles in my work that I have previously been afraid of or avoided. During my education, I had never created a traditional self-portrait; I had this irrational fear of looking at myself. This series of drawings, along with the series of oil paintings I am working on, approach the self-portrait on a physical and personal level. Adding the fabrics and veils was obviously more physically challenging for me, but also adds to a narrative. I loved the simplicity of graphite — it lends itself really well to these pieces. It’s a no-nonsense medium. With total grey scale, the subject matter becomes literally stripped down. The work is in fact deeply personal, but I’ll leave that to the viewer to interpret.

//Twigz: How do you begin a project? What is your process? And what inspires you?

\\Maggie: I look at everything with a keen eye. Anything from an old ticket stub to a huge life event could inspire a body of work. Emotions were certainly a driving force behind these drawings; I let myself open up to someone, and in turn saw myself in a whole new light. I am such a wanderer, every six months I get that travel bug and have to uproot and see a new culture. Last winter, my boyfriend and I motorcycled Vietnam for a whole month. That’s what this show was originally meant to be about, but it took a huge detour. I’ll revisit those works-in-progress a little later.

//Twigz: When is your next show? What is it about?

\\Maggie: My next show will be at the Winona Art Center in June – it’ll combine these drawings with the oil paintings I’ve been creating for my grant project. I’m pretty excited about this one; it’s a huge milestone in my life. I’ve always identified myself as an artist first and foremost, but I think most people in Winona know me as a friendly face serving drinks on Friday nights. I think there will be a lot of people surprised to find out what I’ve really dedicated my life to. I’m happy I can share it now.

//Twigz: What is next for you? What are you looking ahead to?

\\Maggie: Woah, that’s a heavy question for me at the moment. I think in the short term, I’m really excited to depart from looking at my ugly mug and painting some portraits of other people. I have two enormous canvases rolled up in my kitchen from years ago that I’d love to finish, and a couple of rather involved landscape paintings inspired by Vietnam that are begging for my attention. They’re so outside of my comfort zone, they’re SO colorful and intricate…I’ll be happy to leave the spacey, minimalist self-portraits for those for a while.

Long term? I want to start my career in the arts. I want more art on the walls, more people getting interested, more discussion about what they’re seeing. I can’t believe how many people tell me they love the arts, but don’t know that here in Winona they could go see Renoir, Monet, and the whole greatest-hit list of master painters.

//Twigz: Just for fun, what do you love about Winona?

\\Maggie: Everything. Really, if you have a full-time job doing the thing you love in Winona, I’d say you’ve hit the lottery. I travel back to major metro cities and find myself really wishing I could come home. The concrete jungle just doesn’t do it for me anymore…I feel like we’ve got this little slice of heaven between the bluffs with the Mississippi River flowing in our back yard. I see more bald eagles than pigeons, and if you take a motorcycle off the beaten path, you’ll find yourself in complete euphoria.

–Wasn’t that good? I don’t feel fooled! You? If not, COME TO THE SHOW!–

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