Welcome to the first interview in our Artist Story Series. We recently had the opportunity to talk with friend and fine artist, Maggie Hubbard about her new body of work, which speaks to narrative, justice, and color in profound ways. Read more about Maggie’s work below. And check out her website, here.
When did you first realize your call to be an artist as your primary vocation? How did this develop for you?
My trajectory as an artist has largely been formed out of loss. My father died of a heart attack months after I finished undergrad. Prior to my father’s passing I was ambivalent toward becoming a vocational artist but losing my dad flipped a switch inside of me; I immediately knew I wanted to honor my dad using the tools he passed down to me. My dad was the one who taught me to paint. As a kid I was by his side while he taught art lessons at our dining room table, I watched closely as he framed his paintings for exhibitions, I would sit next to him as he flipped through our many books of Andrew Wyeth, Winslow Homer, and John Singer Sargent…painting was and has been such a prominent part of my life. So for about five years now I have been painting and researching within themes of collective and personal loss.
Tell us about how your work has evolved, and how it has led up to your most recent body of work.
Up until quite recently I was making acrylic paintings, speedily documenting the home I was living in or objects that carried nostalgic memories. All these paintings were done from direct observation, so I was sitting on couches, floors, or in the studio, painting whatever was around me. This practice of observing my surroundings mixed with a greater political awareness has landed me in my current work which is an investigation of whiteness.
Tell us about your most recent body of work, and what influenced its creation. What parts of your story are told in the work? How do you hope the work impacts viewers?
I’ve been asking the question, what does it mean to be white? I’m simultaneously fascinated and disturbed by the ways in which whiteness operates and found Indigo ink to be a compelling material in exploring this racial force. Most Americans know Indigo by way of their blue jeans as it was the original natural dye for denim jeans back in the1870s. But today, most do not know that common blue dye was originally produced by enslaved African Americans on Indigenous lands. Indigo was one of South Carolina’s largest commodities, a major component of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and these facts only touch on the United States’ connection to Indigo. This ancient pigment has been at the center of global power, slavery, and colonization for thousands of years. There’s something about painting a row of suburban townhomes or a Life is Good golf t-shirt, solely with indigo ink, that keeps me focused on the history and effects of whiteness. The imagery dives into my ancestry, immediate family, education, childhood, religion, and home; it really is quite personal work. And at the same time it is a broad look at white people. It is a visual mourning and realization of the psychological, moral, and political realities that exist with white people, or as James Baldwin would say, people who “decided they were white.” In each painting I’m attempting to pinpoint the loss I encounter when realizing the emptiness behind American whiteness. I am grieving the supposed moral neutrality I had believed to be around the white middle-class identity. I hope the work invites white people into grief. Also, I hope the work provides some sort of sigh of relief for people of color in that these masked realities are being brought under the spotlight.
Who have been your greatest champions as you have pursued your art career? What is next for you?
The first person that comes to mind is Kerry James Marshall. I was introduced to Marshall’s work in 2016 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and was blown away by his paintings, content, and pointed conversation. His work is clearly about black people, there is no question of that. This influenced me deeply to encounter such a focused and moving body of work. I generally look to artists and writers that are able to take on huge concepts or societal structures and present them in a way that is unique.
For the next two years I will be attending the University of Illinois at Chicago to pursue a Masters of Fine Arts.