I needed a little inspiration today and as I was sorting through some stacks of mail I came across a wildly colored, hand painted/collaged card that was sent to my husband sometime in the past few months. Garth (my husband) has been corresponding with artist Maija Peeples-Bright for at least a year now. In the spring we were on a family drive from Tempe, AZ to Portland, OR and decided to stop and visit Maija along the way. I had, of course, noticed the handmade cards that were coming in the mail but because Garth and I are usually falling down completely different creative rabbit holes I hadn't had the time to be fully educated about this incredible woman.
I can be a bit schizophrenic with my work-- jumping from drawing to sewing to painting to paper mache to filming and editing short videos and then suddenly needing to paint a room or the floor and then back to an embroidery or quilting project. To me, all of these things flow together, influence one another and push me forward, which is probably why I was so immediately struck by Maija Peeples-Bright.
When we entered Maija's home I was gobsmacked. Her walls are hung salon style. A floor to ceiling display of the work of her friends and teachers (she studied in the 1960s with Robert Arneson, Wayne Thiebaud, and William T. Wiley) intermingle with her own colorful work, which ranges from drawing and painting to printmaking and ceramics. On her coat rack hung hand-painted garments and shoes she had adorned sat lined up by the door. It was a cacophony of color and repeating patterns filled with animals (beasties as she calls them), and Maija Peeples-Bright herself greeted us dressed in hand painted clothing and shoes. She served us lunch set with napkins she had painted herself and led us through her home where beds were spread with quilts she had painted and stitched herself, crocheted pieces and ceramic tableaus added to the texture of the home--everything glitters and pops--including the 75 year old Maija herself. She spoke to us (including my young kids) in a jovial and formal way. Her language is as playful and imaginative as her work.
As if the tour of her home was not enough, we visited her large studio which houses her printmaking equipment and a full room for painting, all of which was choked full of more and more (and even more than you are possibly imagining) work--painted clothing and shoes and handbags, tiny delicate hand-painted etchings, enormous bold paintings with pulsing patterns and movement--it was astounding. What she has created is beyond a gallery or portfolio, she has created and curated her own distinct visual world.
Touring Maija Peeples-Bright's spaces is inspiring in itself, but I would recommend spending some time delving into her history. Her artistic career started in California around 1963 and she worked with and around artists involved in both the California Funk and Nut Art scene. She once lived in a famous San Francisco home called the Rainbow House, where she painted murals on the ceilings and walls and a large alligator by artist David Gilhooley climbed the front facade of the multi-colored Victorian. It is brilliant to scroll through older images of Maija and her work where you will find that she has been creating vibrant spaces and clothing for herself since she began making art. This intense need to overwhelm her space and herself with her colors, patterns and beasties speaks to my own artistic impulses so deeply. When I feel that something needs to be made (or artistically altered) I am driven to distraction until I have accomplished the task. Maija Peeples-Bright seems to have a similar creative need and is much more prolific.
While I only spent part of an afternoon with Maija, I left with this hopeful sense of wonder, admiration, and drive. I hope to be my own version of this when I grow up.