The more you look at Maxx Feist’s imagery, the more you see.
And the mashup is compelling: an almost Victorian level of line detail combined with Pop Art colors, double-entendre images, and the high-energy influence of street art.
A Mount Pleasant, South Carolina native, Feist has been in Asheville since 2001, except for a several-year stint in Oakland, California. They’ve been producing art in full force for more than a decade. Feist’s work in soft-body acrylics (and occasionally spray paint) is adorned with punny, cryptic titles and conveys both abstract and representational qualities.
Like all art, it’s up for analysis the moment it’s hung. But the artist’s feeling about creating it is unequivocal: “Art didn’t only change my life — it saved it.”
Was your choice to pursue painting influenced by an art-loving family?
Not even almost! (laughs). I kind of blew my parents’ minds when I discovered skateboarding and punk rock as a teen. They’re fans now, though.
Was it intimidating or an advantage to forgo formal art training?
I feel like my work is strengthened by this. I’m freed from following anyone else’s guidelines, because they were never given to me in the first place. I can create outside the confines [of the artistic canon]. …
I always drew and doodled … but I was a bit lost until I figured out that I could create this art.
Every artist needs a “room of one’s own.” Where do you work?
I was able to build a small studio next to my house a little over a year ago, and it’s been great. It’s my little outdoor art shack, and I always have heavy metal and punk-rock music playing while I’m painting.
The quirky characters in your work are wonderful, like the Grim Reaper in “Team Player” and the otherworldly animals like the bird with antlers (“Bird is the Word”).
Lately I tend to make work featuring dark subject matter that’s executed with vibrant colors — kind of like how things can get heavy in your life sometimes, and then they’re balanced when things lighten up again.
How did art save your life?
I got sober and started painting until 5am rather than going to bars and wallowing in booze. I found art as a means of expression without the need to lose my identity or my punk-rock roots. I also worked full time until I met my partner, and together we created a life that allowed me to leave the restaurant world for good.
Your work is on everything from paper prints and wood panels to part of a mural you created with artist Nathanael Roney for Downtown Books & News, and even stickers.
I don’t want to price my work so it’s out of range for most people. I’m intentional about keeping it accessible and offering lots of choices. The “art scene” can feel exclusive sometimes, and I don’t want cost to overtake my work’s relatability.
Any advice for fledgling local artists?
Don’t think you can’t make a living here as an artist, because you can. It has happened for me, and I’m so grateful to be able to do what I love without sacrificing my authenticity or my work’s authenticity.
Maxx Feist, Asheville. The artist’s work is carried at Horse + Hero (14 Patton Ave., downtown Asheville, horse-hero.myshopify.com). Feist will participate in a group show, “Foggy Notion,” at Push Skate Shop and Gallery through mid December (25 Patton Ave., downtown Asheville, on Facebook), and will vend at the Big Crafty on Saturday, Dec. 7 and Sunday, Dec. 8, 12-6pm, at the US Cellular Center. www.thebigcrafty.com. For more information, see maxxfeistart.com.