A Surreal Snapshot of Chaotic-Good Partygoers

Anything goes in the ascendant painter Maggie Ellis’s frenetic, Goya-esque canvases, one of which embraces the euphoric energy exchange of a crowded dance floor.

Here, we ask an artist to frame the essential details behind one of their latest works.

Bio: Maggie Ellis, 31, New York (@maggieellisss)

Title of work: Other People’s House Parties (2022). 

Where to see it: Charles Moffett’s booth at NADA Miami (Ice Palace Studios, 1400 North Miami Ave) until Dec. 3.

Three words to describe it: Light-speckled, wavy, climactic. 

What was on your mind at the time: The feeling of being at a house party hosted by someone you don’t know, watching a group of friends cut loose together, loud, crowded rooms, blurry vision, heat, transparency, overstimulation, confusion, piles of winter coats; that moment when a party takes on a life of its own, where no one is in control any longer, and bodies seem to take on otherworldly forms. 

An interesting feature that’s not immediately noticeable: A chunky vomit pile in the lower left corner. Even the best parties have their casualties.  

How it reflects your practice as a whole: The partygoers are compiled from my sketches of strangers in New York made from memory that informs much of my practice. All these people I’ve seen at different times, the moments may be years apart and encountered at vastly different parts of the city, but through the alchemy of painting I can bring them together to exist on the same, singular plane—a space that has elements of what we think of as “reality” but one that hovers above the earthly. 

In addition to the mystical nature of the collective mass of bodies, I also see each individual figure as a ripe terrain to push the limits of painterly reinvention. Drawing inspiration from historical masters of the Late Northern Renaissance, Mannerism, and the Baroque, I approach oil painting as a place to explore and contort the human figure, with transparency, spotting, fragmentation, and coloration, into forms that could never exist in reality but are only possible in painting. 

One song that captures its essence: “Hold Tight” by Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich.

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