We had the good fortune of connecting with Maureen Maki and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Maureen, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
The biggest risk I took was packing up my little Toyota station wagon and driving across the country to a new life in Los Angeles. I had no plans, no friends, and no place to stay, only an idea that things could get better – and I needed to escape another Michigan winter. I knew I had to do something big! The drive was the most freeing and exhilarating experience I’ve ever had. There’s something about moving along the freeways watching the scenery fly by without any expectations or commitments weighing you down – just a wide-open belief that anything can happen. When I arrived, all I had was my car and its contents – several crates of paint, a guitar, a few garbage bags filled with clothes and my bicycle. I hit the pavement in sunny LA, ready for anything. Finding an apartment when I had little money and no job, was just the first hurdle. I learned that sometimes you have to risk it all to learn who you are, and the biggest sacrifice nets the biggest reward. The willingness to believe in yourself is the real pay off. You put in the hard work and make great strides towards your goals and you teach yourself that you can do it. Within 6 months, I had a home and a studio, a grant from the City of LA, an upcoming art exhibit and a few friends too. That jump ahead set me up for my future as an artist in Los Angeles – most important I realized I could do whatever I set my mind to. Now when business is slow, when I don’t feel inspired in the studio, I remember that it will all work out and that I can do anything I need to.
Please tell us more about your art. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
I think of my paintings as alchemy – a magical process of transformation. Different elements come together on the canvas and combine to create something new. I make paintings out of collaged paper. Bright colors and textured patterns are my staples. All the work is abstract and inspired by nature. Organic shapes come together and create an energy that inspires joy and freedom. When you look at my paintings, you are looking into another world. It can be playful, meditative, or a striking portrayal of abstracted plant life. I don’t know anyone else painting in this particular style. I have developed it over the years starting with painting, then printmaking, then mixed-media and on to my own technique of painting with paper. My abstractions are the unique product of my history, materials and years of experience. I got to this place by working steadily over the years, always experimenting, trying new techniques and making what I am inspired to create. I want people to look at my work and feel the beauty of nature. I want them to join in the playfulness and remember the good things. The work is a reminder that as dark and difficult as our lives may become, there is goodness on the other side and we can make it through. Art has taught me that life can be amazing when you stick it out and see things through. The energy and the inspiration needed for art and for life itself is always there for you when you need it.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
One of the greatest things about LA is the plant life. You can find luscious succulents, awesome palms and alien flowers on just about any street corner, or you can follow a more curated route by heading to the LA Arboretum or the Huntington Gardens. Enjoy the natural beauty of our special city and hike through Elysian Park, Griffith Park or around the lakes in Echo Park or Silver Lake. Find great food everywhere touching down in many cultures, my favorites being Mexican, Thai or Indian. You must sample some of the vegan restaurants like long time Real Food Daily or My Vegan for Thai vegan or Shojin downtown for Japanese vegan. In a totally different direction, I am awed and inspired by the industrial shores of Terminal Island between Long Beach and San Pedro. Ride across the Vincent Thomas Bridge and look down over a million different containers getting dispersed to and from the United States via the Port of Los Angeles. So much of what we touch each day has made its way through this man-made artery. And finally if you have a little more time – road trips! When you want to escape the crowds around town, get in your car and drive in any direction. In two hours you’ll be at awesome beaches, ski-sloped mountains, or charming towns like Santa Barbara or Palm Springs or Idllywild. LA and its surrounding areas have enough natural beauty to inspire a lifetime of paintings.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’d like to shoutout to my husband Sam Lapides for supporting me every step of the way, from looking at paintings to handling minor freak-outs. Yeah, Sam! Also, I have to thank my parents for being my biggest supporters. The walls of their home were covered with Maureen Maki originals. What makes it all the more sweet is that they had no experience with art before their daughter announced that she would like to be an artist. They felt it probably wasn’t the best career choice, but they had to encourage it because I was their child. That’s just the type of people they were. I’m quite sure they never went to an art gallery until they attended my art openings. They made an appearance at every show that was within driving distance. So when things were tough, and they were many times, having my parents standing by and cheering me on strengthened my resolve to keep at it.