Interview with Megan Magill: Venus with Folds
Megan Magill is an artist based in Chicago and Maine. She received her Masters from Northwestern University and her MFA from Maine Media College. Her work has been exhibited in group and joint shows nationally and she was recently a semi-finalist in the Print Center's International Competition. My Business is Circumference was featured at the Detroit Center for Contemporary Photography and The Habit of Winning was featured in F-Stop Magazine’s portfolio issue with an interview by William Cox and in a print publication with LDOC . In the fall of 2017 her was published in American: Authors, Interpreters, and Composers a book series created by Patricio Binaghi of Paripe Books and designed by Matt Wiley of the New York Times Magazine.
Statement: Venus with Folds
I begin each piece with a xerox copy of a woman's painted portrait. Most of the paintings are well known, and others were found through a google search for 'famous portrait paintings' which I then narrowed down to paintings of women. So far all have been painted by men and folded by a woman but this is not a requirement...it's just what predominates when you search for 'famous.' I don't have a preconceived idea of how each piece will look...I just start folding and re-folding until I've made something that feels right to me. The process is in part a visual exercise is seeing something new in something that already exists. A way of keeping my options open and my optimism up. Photographing them after I've folded them extends the process.
How did your artistic career begin?
I started making art in 2009 after taking a class on the history of photography at my local art center. I realized pretty quickly that art was a long lost friend that I had lost touch with years earlier for reasons of ‘practicality.’ Photography was my entry into art and remains an integral part of my practice as the majority of my work springs from found imagery.
In your artist statement, you mention that you begin most of your work with existing imagery, where do you tend to find this imagery? Do you have any criteria that you look for?
For about 2 years I collected imagery somewhat obsessively. I bought crumpled up old photos primarily at antique stores, huge lots of old Kodachrome slides through eBay and also a number of old college yearbooks from the ’40s and ’50s. I am still amazed at some of the images I was able to find. I am drawn to collect images that speak to our shared humanity from a somewhat demented point of view.
What is the first thing you do when you start a new piece?
At the moment my entry into a piece is to draw over an existing image digitally. I start on my iPad and just see where it goes.
What is your favorite part of your creative process?
The excitement I get when something that I have created surprises me and makes me gasp just a little.
In a few statements describing your different bodies of work you reflect on the idea of not having control over every aspect of your work, how does this mindset affect the way you work?
I think this mindset helps me keep an open mind to where a piece might want to go. I spent a good portion of my life (before I started out as an artist) trying to control my life to the nth degree. What I realized is that not only did this suck the joy out of living but often I would end up in places that I no longer wanted to be and would wonder how in the hell I got there. Staying open to the process keeps me in the moment of making and lets a piece evolve like a collaboration. This doesn’t mean that every piece will work out but they do have a better chance of surprising me and taking me to places that my logical brain might not have mapped out ahead of time.
What has been the most challenging part of your artistic career?
Hmmm. I went to a school that was primarily for photographers and filmmakers to get my MFA. It was a great education but I realized pretty quickly that I wasn’t really a photographer and so finding my place in the art world has maybe been more challenging because I’ve had to forge new relationships outside of the ones that I made in school in addition to teaching myself new processes. But this is also part of the fun…so challenge=fun.
What should we be on the lookout for in 2019?
I am SUPER excited about some of the things I am working on. I have a series of sketches I am calling ‘you me and everyone we know.’ I have plans to turn these into hook rugs (I have one already started) and oil paintings. I hope to have the first hook rug completed this month.