PATTY MAHER'S WORLD
"I’m completely fascinated by how different mediums in art arise and take shape in such different ways. For me, conceptual photography is very much a mind art. The best photos I take also involve a certain amount of feeling or heart – but the concepts begin in the mind."
- Patty Maher
Direct and still, the Toronto born artist Patty Maher finds inspiration for her art from an exploration of the feminine in the context of both natural and urban settings. Working primarily through staged portraiture and self-portraiture Maher is widely known for hiding or obscuring the faces of her subjects often only using only posture, gesture, symbol and colour to convey emotion and story.
Maher explores the inner worlds of her subjects while at the same time considering notions of personal space, identity and the relationship of the individual to the larger world. Her goal with each photo and series is to create pieces that disrupt the boundaries between real life and the otherworldly; and the surreal and the commonplace. In the telling of visual stories she invites the viewer to become a co-creator in meaning, leaving the stories open ended but touching on basic and universal emotions.
Take a look at the work from this amazing multifaceted artist that makes us stop for a moment and just think. Well isn't that just what we need to do more of these days.
You work in a few different disciplines. How do you find the approach different for photography, painting, collage work?
This is a great question! I’m completely fascinated by how different mediums in art arise and take shape in such different ways. For me, conceptual photography is very much a mind art. The best photos I take also involve a certain amount of feeling or heart – but the concepts begin in the mind. Abstract painting is almost 100% heart. I find my paintings come from a very deep place that can’t be described with words; they seem to be non-verbal or pre-verbal. Collage work is pure whimsy and experimentation. I think it pushes back the ‘box’ of art for me and allows me to try new things. This makes me curious to try more different mediums like sculpture or drawing to see what lives they would give expression to.
What was the last thing you saw that really inspired you to create?
I see things all the time that inspire me to create, so it’s difficult to put it down to one thing. I recently took a trip to Barcelona and so much of what I saw there was inspiring: the architecture, the street art, the beach, all the laundry hanging over balconies into the streets and of course all the amazing artwork they have housed in galleries and museums. I definitely came away from that trip with renewed creative energy – I guess we’ll see where it goes.
Picasso once said that you have to work to find creativity. Do you think you have to search for creativity or it comes at its time?
Yes. I think you have to search for creativity AND it comes at its own time. I find this to be an amazing research and one that continues to fascinate me. There is a legend of the fisherman in Borneo who would do a dance like fish jumping into their net before they went out fishing in the belief that this would cause the fish to react in kind. I think creativity is like that. I try to create, even if I don’t feel particularly creative, because I believe that doing so will eventually cause creativity to join me. It never works in a linear way – but eventually doing the ‘dance’ of creativity will yield something. It’s just never quite when or how you think it will.
Who are some of the artists that influenced your own work?
I always find this a difficult question because, to be honest, almost every artist that moves me influences my work in some way or other. My favourite artists tend to shift and move around depending on my current interests, but I almost always go back to the work of Magritte, Edward Hopper and Tim Walker for inspiration.
If you could collaborate with any artist dead or alive, who would it be and why?
I’m not much of a collaborator, but I’d definitely love to spend the afternoon with Jean-Michel Basquiat because I’m fascinated by him. I’d also love to hang out with Modigliani and of course Magritte. I think if I could work with someone alive it would definitely be people I could photograph like Tilda Swinton or Yolandi Visser.
There is a definite stillness in your work. Why is that and what does it say about what you are trying to portray?
If I were to highlight the main thing I try to put across in my work, it is definitely stillness. I think the world is lacking an overall sense of peace, and most people are in need of more still moments where they can pause, take an in breath and reflect inwardly. I think if everyone had a little more time to do this our world would be a better place. My hope is that my work catches people enough to cause them to pause and take that moment.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
I would like the ability to make everyone happier. I feel like none of the superheroes ever have that power.
In your work, you cover the faces of your subjects. What are you communicating by covering the face?
I think mainly I want my photos to be open ended when it comes to identity. I also think it makes photos a little more mysterious…and who doesn’t love a good mystery?
What is your favorite place to see art?
On the streets.
Images by: Patty Maher
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