Asheville Art Talk: The lowdown on Maxx Feist’s lowbrow collection

THE COLLECTOR: "I call my stuff, Lowbrow, bright and creepy," says artist Maxx Feist. Here first holds a more recent piece, "The Collector." Photo courtesy of Maxx Feist

The highbrow art world isn’t a concern for the lowbrow movement — one that emerged in the 1970s in Southern California. Hotrods, punk-rock and comix (underground, self-published comic books) all contribute to its aesthetic. Humor is another distinguishing trait; it isn’t afraid to poke fun at convention. Nor does lowbrow shy away from incorporating popular culture into its works. In short, lowbrow creates what it wants, when it wants, where it wants and however the hell it wants to.

That doesn’t mean, however, the art world isn’t taking notice. “There’s a whole lowbrow movement now that’s being recognized as a legitimate art scene,” says lowbrow artist Maxx Feist. “People are coming up and developing their own styles that are really being seen as something that’s important.”

Feist’s career began in the early 2000s. After decades spent working in the bar and restaurant scene, Feist was ready for a change. “I always sketched a little bit and drew things, but I wasn’t really caring about it,” says the artist. “In my mid-30s I started caring more, and then once I reached 40, I started painting and doing this thing that I obviously get a lot out of.”

On Friday, Oct. 7, Feist’s latest collection, Waiting at the Gates: New Works by Maxx Feist will open at The Satellite Gallery.

Feist works primarily in acrylic. Seven of the 20 works featured in the show, however, are collaborations with fellow local artists Jason Krekel, Justin Rabuck, Andy Herod, Amanda Lee Seckington, Noah Prinsen, Nathaniel Roney and Marissa Zarrabzadeh. These works combine acrylic with print, ink and other mediums.  “I gave each person a symbolic element as found within Celtic religions, Chinese philosophy and different astrological practices,” says Feist. “Then I asked each person to apply the symbol to stories that have been passed down about Samhain [a Gaelic festival equivalent to Halloween, and thought to have Celtic pagan origins].”

LOWBROW: Feist’s title piece, “Waiting at the Gates.”

Over time, Feist’s individual paintings broke away from the show’s original Pagan theme. “I felt like I was kind of boxing myself in too much,” says the artist. As the works progressed, a broader subject matter emerged: Feist’s characters — fantastical, otherworldly creatures — are all confronted by the inevitability of change. On each, canvas these characters offer reactions to this unavoidable reality, ranging from fear to acceptance and heartbreak to joy.

“It’s kind of whimsical, but it goes to dark places,” says Feist. “You can get a lot from my paintings, and I can tell you what I painted them for, but whether or not you’ll take that away, I can’t say. People have to see what they want.”

WHAT: Waiting at the Gates: New Works by Maxx Feist

WHERE: The Satellite Gallery, 55 Broadway, maxxfeistart.com

WHEN: Friday, Oct. 7, 7-10 p.m. Free.

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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. He has worked with several publications, including Gulf Coast and the Collagist. For his weekly #tuesdayhistory tidbits on Asheville, follow him on Instagram @tcalder.

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