Artists: Abby Rose Maurer
If there's one thing I'm never surprised about anymore: it's that Dayton has a community of artists and professionals who are incredibly proud of their city, and who are always ready to talk about how it has helped them grow as people, as artists, as entrepreneurs, and an endless variety of other things. I started this blog as a sort of filler for the slow wedding season that starts in the winter. I didn't really know where it would go, or if I would even stick at it: but every new artist that I talk to and photograph makes me more excited for the next one. From hard stories like Tiffany Clark's battle with heroine, to exciting stories like Laurana Wong's creation of the Dayton Circus Sideshow: every person I talk to give me another glimpse into the beautiful tapestry of stories that is Dayton. And Every one of those stories is, in some way or another, a story about how the community of Dayton has changed the lives of the people who are a part of it.
Abby Rose Maurer is no different:
I first encountered her work when it was on display at Ghostlight Coffee a few months ago. I fell in love with the line of her drawings and knew, right away, that I wanted to talk to her for this series. As I'm continually surprised by: she was instantly excited for the opportunity.
I visited Abby at her studio in the Oregon District downtown, where she told me a little bit of her story as an artist and as a citizen of Dayton. I hope you'll take a few minutes to hear that story.
-Abby Rose Maurer-
Abby's story starts like a lot of other stories: as a student working and living in Dayton. I asked her about how she got where she is today.
I graduated last year from UD. I Kinda hung around in the area, I was working for an artist at the time. I like Dayton, it seems like a good place to be for people who don't know where they want to be [Laughing]. But really though, I love Dayton! So I worked with him for a while, just making art. I did a lot of shows, probably 15-20 last year! It was insane. Then I started working at Stivers in August. I'm Gallery Director over there: which has let me focus on what I want my career to be.
I started out as a basic adjunct. Stivers is a magnet school with a focus on art. I learned to run the office, payroll, budget, all that stuff that's no fun: but good! About three months after I started I got moved to Gallery Director, and I teach whenever we need a sub. So I teach, I hang all of the art in the gallery, and all of the permanent collection. In the gallery, I'm in charge of the reception and shows and all of the work they have on display. Stivers has over 3000 pieces of art in their permanent collection and we're working on labeling every piece of it: which has been an experience [Laughing]
At UD I studied Fine Art, with a focus in Painting, Drawing, and Printing and an Art History Minor. I didn't start out as an Art Major: I started as english, but I realized that English is not where i should be. I ended up taking a Drawing and an Art History class and eventually switched at the end of the semester.
I think I'm one of the few people that I know, I know there are others, but one of the few that are advocates for Dayton. So Many people look down on it, It really sucks. Early on I worked for an artist named "Mike Elsass" in his gallery. While I was working for him I met a lot of people and I got the beginning taste of Dayton; but I didn't really realize why everyone was so hard on it. I really loved it, and then I started to hate it because I couldn't get people to love it too: but I was really only looking at it from an art aspect.
Then I started dating this guy who is an engineer. He loves Dayton: but he loves it for completely different reasons than me. I was ready to move to Seattle, but It revitalized this energy in me: Like I'm in a place where I can actually change things. There's not many cities where I can actually change things. I can get my name known and do things I actually care about and actually be a part of a community. It's crazy how small of a place it is, but it's big enough that you can make a difference! I notice that about my art. It may not be about injustice and stuff: but I can use it to make things better. It's just, I dunno: Dayton Inspires me.
I've noticed, like with my friends in big cities: it's great if you make it big in a place like New York, and it's even cooler if you can come from somewhere else and make it there, but when you're in big art cities you have to kinda fit in with what's already going on and be on your way. We don't really have a standard here! We can just do whatever the hell we want. I mean: I threw an art show that I thought was one of the craziest things I've done in my life, but I met some really great people there and I got some really great feedback. I had people telling me I should stop making art, but it was so cool! It happened spur of the moment in a pretty decent place! It was great, and it made me feel like "oh! someone in Dayton gets it. They want something new!"
I always had a knack for drawing realistically. I got form and proportion and all that right away: which not a lot of students do. It's not that I'm trying to brag or anything: that's just what I could do. I Understood it. My first extended drawing was this:
I hated it!
But I went uphill from there. It was an exercise we did. My teacher made us do these quick gestures which I always did. She was always telling me that I had so much anxiety in my line. I was like "i know! I'm anxious! I don't know what's going on!" but she told me to use them, and I did. We did these quick gestures, and then she had me go through and just find the contour of the body. These are a primitive form of what I do now: but doing these pieces that really helped me find what made me unique.
So I did these exercises and I actually stopped drawing all together. I had a professor tell me I needed to stop drawing and paint; as abstract as I could. So for about a year I did these abstract paintings that I think are awful! I started painting, just freeform things that aren't based on anything. It was about color. Something about doing these exercises where I wasn't worried about what I was making really affected my palette: before I had really only drawn with charcoal and hadn't worried about color, but working on these abstracts really helped me think about color more.
So I did this for about a year, and I remember that I had a show at the Dayton Art Institute and feeling so inferior. I knew all these other people and what they were doing: but I was just showing these abstract paintings that I didn't feel had any really intent.
I knew, that moment, that that wasn't how I was supposed to make art. I didn't feel happy that my work was up.
So I transitioned.
I started drawing again, I was painting, but I brought the figure back. I liked those, I liked the colors and I liked that they were more simple: but I wanted it to be even more simple. Something about doing those brought me back to the line work, and it was the first time I felt like I was making work that was my own. I had this line that people knew was Abby's. I loved that. I loved that someone could look at it and say "oh! Abby drew that." that. Not "who in the class made this?"
This is the first painting I made where I felt like I found where I'm at. I stopped thinking so much about making a painting and more about making drawings.
So I went through all these weird stages and I think my line just followed me. Or I found it as I did more work. Even when I drew when I was little It didn't look like art. I failed coloring when I was in first grade. Twice! [Laughing].
I really want to do things here in Dayton. I want to change things: I'm not sure how my art degree can do that, but I want to find out how! There's, of course, a part of me that just wants to be selfish and go to grad school and make work! [Laughing]. But for this next year I really want to focus on making a new body of work. I don't want to look back at my old work. I think that's really what this drawing of Andrew is:
There's something going on here that I think is much more content. My color palette and my line follows my emotion. This stuff over here is much more intense: my depressed college years [Laughing] but now I'm much more content, and I think the colors and the lines show that. So I'm working with that. Creating a body of work that's new, and then trying to be less academic with my work.