Who: Maxx Sizeler
What: Maker, visual and mixed media artist
Artist’s chosen location for interview: Satsuma on Maple St.
Q: What’s something you wished inspired you but just doesn’t?
A: When I was a younger artist I was inspired a lot by other artists and the work they did. I think that had to do with me having so much to learn, and I was blown away by the skills and the thought process that older, more experienced artists had. But, I don’t have that anymore.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate art of other artist, I’m very interested in what other artists are doing, but I’m not directly inspired by it. If I had to compare it to something, I would say it’s the difference between being a peer and a student. I feel more like a peer now.
I feel like this transition happened in graduate school because when I applied for school my work wasn’t mature yet. There were so many ideas going into my work, and the ideas were too vague. In the process of going to graduate school I learned how to distill my work down to its essence and be specific about it. Through that, I really grew up — not just as an artist but also as a person.
During that time was also when I was just starting to face that I am transgender. I had always used my art as an outlet for those feelings, but I was terrified to talk about it — even to myself. I knew from my very first memories at three years old that I liked girls and that I felt like a boy. I was very confused by it, and I also knew that it wasn’t okay, and I couldn’t talk about it.
It wasn’t really until I was out of graduate school that I even talked about it, but the work I ended up doing was about gender between the binaries.
I basically went from trying to discover myself to figuring myself out in school.
Q: When do you feel like is the best time to listen to music?
A: I definitely use music to affect my mood on purpose. If I’m in the studio and I’m in a funky mood then I might put on dance or disco music to change my state of mind.
It depends on what I’m working on and what I can listen to because sometimes I need quiet. On the other side, sometimes I’m working with wood-working tools that are so loud that I wouldn’t be able to hear the music anyway.
Last time I was painting I was listening to books on tape and podcasts. They were more in the spiritual realm. I was listening to the show On Being non-stop while I was working on some of the paintings, and I felt like I needed that spiritual connection to the universe when I was working on those pieces. It put me in a different frame of mind.
Q: What’s a small rule that you either love to break or that you have a habit of breaking?
A: You know that unspoken rule that’s enforced by commercial galleries that they want artists to have a recognizable style and do it over and over again? I’m a rebel with that. I don’t do that.
I have an interest in a lot of media — wood sculpture, painting, photography, found objects, clay, writing, audio/video, etc… I can’t choose. I like challenging all the different parts of my brain. That, of course, creates some difficulties with people recognizing my work because I don’t have this specific visual consistency. My work is idea driven, though, so the actual physical objects can look very different since it revolves around the theme or conceptual idea.
I love making things. I’m very much a crafts person, and that’s another rule that I break. It’s always been really important to me to be able to build things really well. When I first got out of college and all I had was paint brushes and paint, I decided that I was going to make some really good stretchers, and I was going to make them myself.
I took the harder road and built them myself.
Now, I no longer want to build my own stretchers. It’s no fun stretching canvas anymore. If I were going to go down the road of being just a painter I would probably hire an assistant to stretch the canvases, but knowing how to build and having the skills to build is very important to me.
I’ll never forget one day when I was walking down Julia Street and I saw this shop that was owned by a furniture maker. I had never seen it before. The furniture maker’s name was Chris Maier, and his work was just incredible. He was self-taught, and he and I hit it off.
We talked about the work, and I told him I would love to be his assistant. Soon after he called, and I worked for him for 3 years. I learned a ton from him. He sadly died of a heart attack some years ago. It’s interesting because I will be working on certain things, and I will be thinking about Chris. I feel that he is with me. He is such a part of me, and it’s so upsetting that he’s not still with us anymore. He was an important teacher and mentor to me and he still has a huge impact on my work.
Last year at this time I started making a very large dining table. Through that process I was talking to Chris the entire time. And some of the more recent sculptures that will be in my upcoming show have the same elements. He taught me how to carve, and when I used those carving tools, I thought about him all the time.
Q: What decision in life led you to your current existence?
A: As I said earlier, being transgender as a child was something that I couldn’t talk about and I was very confused by, so I spent a lot of time alone. Of course, I had my family, but I was alone a lot and felt depressed. I started making art really young and showing interest in it, and a lot of that had to do with my parents.
My dad is an architect, and he had a personal interest in art and made some art himself. There were art books around the house, so that was something my parents showed us and exposed us to. My mom — I don’t know how she found it — found this artist co-op called Alternatives, and it was all art classes for kids. She sent me there when I was young, around six or seven years old. I went there a few summers, and it started out with doing tie-dye and batik because it was the seventies. There was some sculpture and wood-working, and the thing that made a huge impression on me was ceramics.
I loved going there. It was my escape, and those were my most favorite summers as a kid. I even had a piece with a story that referenced it in my last show at UNO Gallery this past May. When I put something up about it on Facebook there were some people who wrote and said, ‘Oh, Alternatives! I remember that place. It was great!’
The other time that was really impactful was when I was in second or third grade, maybe younger. We went on a field trip to artist John Flemming’s studio, and that really cemented the desire to be an artist for me. It was about the idea behind what he was doing as an artist making beautiful and interesting work, and the life he had as an artist, and his interesting studio that interested me….I wanted it for myself.
It’s funny because I still see John all the time. He lives in this neighborhood.
You can see Maxx’s new show, “Spork In The Road (pattern making for a gender hybrid world)”. The opening is on Saturday, August 13 at Barrister’s Gallery. “Spork In The Road (pattern making for a gender hybrid world)” will be on display at Barrister’s from August 13 through September 3. You can also see his work at the Ogden Museum (“Louisiana Contemporary”). His work will also be exhibited at 5 Press Gallery (“THINGS: a still life show”) in the upcoming week. To learn more about Maxx and his work, you can check out his website or Barrister’s website.