friend of arq feature : maggie boyd

We love your statement about loving to teach people about clay. What is your favorite thing about clay itself that you see as overlooked?

I love that to work with clay you yourself have to be malleable. The clay does not respond to our need to get something done quickly, you can’t rush to finish something or work outside its parameters. It’s a very humbling material, and it teaches you to let go of a lot. I always say to my students that working with clay is like Buddhism Lite™ because the control you think you have is always being challenged.

There is such a childlike immediacy and wonder in your art, and at the same time, a true leaning-in to so many past artistic traditions. Were you a creative child? How does the art of child, Maggie Boyd affect the adult you?

From what I’ve been told, I have been drawing and making art since it was possible for my hands to cooperate with me. Apparently, as a kid, when my parents would send me into my room to clean it, they would come back hours later and I would be laying on the floor with a thousand scraps of paper, glue, string, scissors, and in the middle of some wild project. Once when I was left alone to play in our yard, I covered my body in mud and “painted” patterns all over our house. This actually describes the adult version of my practice a little too accurately. Recently, I remembered going through a period when I was around 6 years old of being extremely into collecting rocks and painting portraits and patterns on them. It struck me as very funny because, in some stripped-down sense, that is exactly what I do today for a job.


The female form and the workings of our female bodies are so present in your work. What draws you to the physical and emotional workings of the female body?

In some sweet way, I think my love of the female body started in the bath with my mom. I remember her being almost childlike in her lack of self-consciousness and I would sometimes draw her in the tub, fascinated by her body hair. I started to understand that it was not, in fact, the norm for your mother to never talk about dieting or be embarrassed by her naked body or talk to you while they were on the toilet with the door open. When I was growing up, many women were expected to perform passivity; apologetic about their leg stubble or eating dessert or exploding in anger and it all seemed very foreign to me as I started to understand the implications of having the body that I had in our society. As my world view expanded I started to notice that only a very small margin of people qualified as “real women” and it felt very unacceptable to me on a deep moral level. Most of my figurative work is a response to my inability to find enough imagery that represents my own truthful version of the female body. 

We are so attracted to the irreverence (subjective word choice, but you get what we mean...) in your work. Is that a quality that you, personally, feel lies within you? Where do you believe that beautiful irreverence came from and how would you encourage others to embody the same?

Haha, it’s good that this quality of mine is attractive to you because the seventh grade Maggie who had a desk in the hall and was on a first-name basis with the vice principal got into a bit of hot water for it. I’m pretty sure this irreverence, as it were, comes from growing up with weirdos for parent figures who always encouraged in me the freedom to respect only that which had earned my respect. This obviously caused a bit of trouble for me but it also showed me that there are too many givens in our world that ask us to submit to things and people and ideas because it is easier when we don’t kick up a fuss. 

If I were to encourage people to be more irreverent, I guess I would say - what have you got to lose? You’re going to die one day and it’s not too long from now and it’s really not very fun fretting about what people think of you when you could otherwise be doing a jig in your living room in a g-string made of a slice of pizza (based on a true quarantine story).

Haha, proof and also I remembered I was wearing ARQ that day.

There is such an earthen, magical quality to your work, and so much warmth. It seems that you are able to imbue your work with nature so completely, and yet so subtly. How does nature and the mystical play a role in your life and work?

I began to notice the way that nature has always been important to me since moving to New York. Most of my life I have lived in places where trees aren’t dog poo accumulation units like they are in the neighborhood we live in in Brooklyn and so when I moved here I felt trapped and claustrophobic until I started planting and growing things in my apartment to reconnect with the nature I was so used to being rich in. During this point, more and more nature beyond the human body started showing up as decorative elements in my work. The other element to the natural world showing up in my work happened to me since having a baby. This incredible thing happened where I started tuning into non-verbal ways of speaking and getting a lot of practice at it. In this time I’ve started to loosen my ideas of what conversations are and with who or what they are possible. On top of that, nature has never seemed so barged on by humans as it does right now and that makes me want to depict this force that we are misusing, sort of reminding us all that we are having a conversation here and that the humans have been talking too much.


You are a Canadian transplant to NYC. How has your relationship with "home" changed as a result? Tell us all of the places and non-places that feel like "home" to you. 

I have always had a hard time defining the term home since growing up for me had several different housing and parenting setups. The single consistent space I’ve had in my life is a little cabin with no electricity that my grandfathers built on a lake in Canada that my whole family shares. I can remember myself at any age being there sleeping five kids to one room with my cousins and it is the place I think of most often when I hear the word “home”.  In another sense, I am home when I am making things. I slip into a space in which existential questions abate and daily anxieties have to hover in the corner of the room waiting for their chance to emerge later. I never feel more at ease in my body than when I am making art. And for home in general, I have often gravitated toward the idea that people and relationships are home more than any physical space. The people I love have always made up my sense of home more than any other thing that I know and my relationships are my spaces of peace and joy. I’m happy to report that this current moment is the most settled I have ever felt in my life  - as unsettling as this current moment is - and I have the human-built home I currently live in to thank for that.

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