“We’re part of a worldwide culture today where everything is about being instant and immediate and you have to remember that it really takes time to develop your voice and to figure out where you’re headed.”
Meichen Waxer is an all around visual artist. Graduated from OCAD in 2007 with a major in photography, she has worked in drawing, painting, sculpture and video. Inspired by ideas of fantasy and mainly influenced by Modernist, Pre-Islamic and Renaissance art, Meichen finds connections in everything she observes and focuses on expressing the juxtaposition of elements and ideas through distinct methods. We had a coffee with her and got her fresh perspective on art, culture and inspiration.
When people ask you what you do what do you say?
I’m an artist. For the past few years I’ve been drawing and painting, and then for a good chunk of time it’s been very sculptural and photo-based. I don’t see them as disjointed from each other. Sometimes you have this vision and ideas that you’re exploring and the medium you’re working in gets exhausted, making you step away for a while. It’s important to see similar concerns from a different material vantage point.
Is there any technique you haven’t experimented with that you’d like to explore?
Right now I’m starting to work with gilding (metal leafing). I’ve incorporating more and more gold elements with oil paint, but I really like the flatness and reflective quality of leafing. I’m more about solving artistic problems creatively and when it comes to experimentation I’m more crafty.
What inspires you?
My main sources of research and inspiration are rooted in the Renaissance, Early Islamic and Pre-Islamic art and Modernism. It’s very interesting because they have so much connection between each other. You can see a lot of islamic elements influencing pieces of the Renaissance in an decorative and innovative way. What I like about these movements, as well, is that they were all looking into ways of deeply understanding the connections between the human body and the mind. I feel this search is very relevant to us nowadays as they were going through our same phase of scientific experimentation to understand who we are. Looking for patterns in our body and seeing how they reflect outside of our body.
When did you realize art was how you wanted to reflect yourself?
I grew up in a creative environment. I was always doing art, dance, vocal lessons, everything! I’m very lucky that my parents indulged that. My grandparents, as well, on my father’s side, were art collectors of modern and contemporary work. They dealt mostly with Toronto artists of the 60s and 70s, so I was exposed to very current work as a child. That really gives you a different perspective, being around beautiful abstracted pieces of work and figurative work at the same time, being able to understanding the intersections between them.
How do you think Toronto’s contemporary art scene has enabled your work?
There’s people you can always bounce ideas off of, see what they’re showing, drawing lines between your work and theirs, make connections by what’s in their work and what isn’t in yours. It’s interesting to see commonalities and reflect on people living in similar situations and exploring different ideas and concepts. I also think that there’s so many fantastic initiatives happening in the city right now to engage the young art community.
Would you change anything about the art community if you had the chance?
I would like to see us have more residency programs, bringing in both international and Toronto artists. I’ve done two residencies, one in Paris and one in Triegnac, France.The first one I took part in at Parson’s Paris had an amazing roster where artists and critics that would do weekly studio visits. Being critiqued on your work in a context that you’re not used to gives you a completely fresh perspective. The opportunity to go to Triegnac came out of this experience though connections made.
How did you reach the style you have today?
It’s been a gradual process. Even if the works themselves don’t visually look the same, I see the threads that connect them together. I’m working now with very flat, monochromatic style, and this aesthetic choice is to unify my subject matter. And when I’m not creating, I’m researching. I’m always collecting images, looking at other peoples collections and gathering sources. I’m an image and information scavenger. I ask myself “Why is this like this?” and try to figure it out.
Do you have any shows going on at the moment? Any future plans?
I just had a solo show this summer in August. Right now, I’m applying to grad school and I’m working on a book project with an author. It’s a book on cross cultural mythology and I’m doing the illustration for it. We’re looking into various myths from around the world, there’s so many that are portrayed differently and we’re focusing on finding the key elements that tie them together. I also have a piece in the upcoming issue of Go Home Print, a Toronto Art publication.
What advice would you give to emerging artists in Toronto?
Think of art as a practice. It’s called that for a reason, it takes time to develop it. We’re part of a worldwide culture today where everything is about being instant and immediate and you have to remember that it really takes time to develop your voice and to figure out where you’re headed. You have to put in your hours, you need to spend time finding yourself. It’s also helpful to invite other people to look at your art and give you honest feedback. You need that constant critique and criticism to grow.