MIXED-MEDIA ARTIST: LYLE REIMER
WORDS: IRVIN RIVERA
The moment I stumbled upon Lyle’s Reimer’s visually arresting instagram feed, I was immediately hooked. It takes you hostage to the worlds of the characters that he created through his solid artistic vision.
Lyle is a mixed-media self-portrait artist that uses “facial adornments and sculptural elements that are made from found objects and recycled garbage.”
Each piece is something that will warrant your full attention. They’re like museum pieces. Some of them may seem loud yet they all possess a subtle aura of finesse and grace within.
In this exclusive interview, we chatted with Lyle about him growing up as an artist, his art, instagram, his new book and his fashion icons.
For Lyle, art has always been at the core of his being. Some of his initial memories of life are associated with some medium of art. Falling asleep with crayons in his hand (with photo documentation from his Mother to substantiate) to creating full productions with props and costume changes; all before embarking on elementary school.
Life and Art have, and always will be one in the same; both exist in a symbiotic relationship with one another.
In 1978, Lyle Daniel Reimer’s life began in Wymark, Saskatchewan a small rural town with less than 200 people. Reimer soon came to the realization that thinking outside the proverbial box was not only necessary but critical to survival. Being raised as the youngest of four, these “survival skills” were handed down primarily from his mother. She nurtured these artistic skills and encouraged Reimer to create something from nothing. She highlighted recycling long before it was fashionable; television was not part of the home environment; books, coloring pencils and fort building in the great outdoors were the assets of childhood.
After Graduating High school in 1996, Lyle began to carve out a path that would include travel. Creating large scale commissioned murals was his first foray into art for monetary value and allowed him to begin to see other parts of the country.
International travel was high on the priority list, and so enrolling in a live/work exchange program in Cuba was added to that list. It was there that he started to see life in the bigger picture and realized that art would be integral to his career path. Through creating artistic projects with little to no supplies at a “Culture House” in rural Cuba, he was able to access the core values that were given early on in life: making something from nothing.
Lyle then continued to pursue and seek out possible careers in artistic fields that would complement his love for art, fashion and design that would take him to different places.
He began working with local photographers, dance companies and hair salons doing makeup and styling to create a portfolio.
Shortly after graduation Lyle began a career in Makeup with M.A.C Cosmetics and has spent nearly seventeen years honing his craft and building loyal clientele.
Lyle continues to live a life surrounded by art in a variety of forms and continues to grow his artistic repertoire. His most recent work is a collection of self-portraits that challenge the idea of masculinity and femininity and embrace a spirit of duality and joie de vive. In October 2013, Instagram highlighted Reimer as an artist to look out for in terms of inspiration in the makeup and mixed media world.
How would you describe your style?
I am a mixed media artist that creates self-portraits which celebrate transformation in a variety of forms.
All the elements used to create the facial adornments and sculptural elements are made from found objects and recycled garbage. I love the concept of marrying the look of something that appears luxurious and high fashion with literal cast off garbage.
It’s this juxtaposition that creates dialogue in the work.
How do you transition or evolve from make-up to doing both make-up and mixed-media portraits?
Makeup is just a vehicle on the journey, but is not the main mode of transportation. The sculptural elements and the application of makeup have a symbiotic relationship… they both support one another.
What is it like to be your own canvas compared to painting the faces of other people?
Your face is the most intimate relationship you can have. I know all the nuances of my personal canvas and part of the joy in creating the work is watching “Lyle” disappear and be reborn as an art object… “Lyle XOX”
I did makeup on other’s for nearly two decades and although I loved being able to help people feel their inner beauty, that experience always felt more like an application of product and less about creating a work of art.
Where do you get inspirations from the characters that you create?
Inspiration is literally all around us. The key is being open to it and recognizing that it is present in the most mundane aspects of life.
Pre-instagram era, do you think you would’ve created such a huge gallery of your works?
Instagram has opened up a whole new world in terms of the audience and the reach that can take place. I would have always created work, but perhaps the visibility would have been in a different format.
The people who I have been able to connect with who I consider leaders in the industry/have celebrity status etc, is directly connected to Instagram and being able to have communication with anyone at the press of a button. It really has become the new “portfolio” for so many artists.
Is there any favorite look among all of your creations?
No. Each one in the moment of creation brings me so much joy… I’m sure though that if you asked me immediately following a look I would want to say it’s the present one… but honestly each one has importance to me and cultivated something new regarding craftsmanship and the artistic journey.
Walk us through your creation process. Where do you usually get your ideas? How do you get into your final output? How long does it take you to create a look? And do you always end up liking the result of each of your creations?
The creative process is different each time- that’s part of the excitement of each one. I never know exactly how things are going to go, but trust my instincts and follow them until completion just feels right.
Almost every day I am in the studio making sculptural pieces/ facial adornments etc (unless travel prohibits). I never know when or how those pieces will be used but then when I decide to shoot a creation, I am surrounded by all these pieces which inspire me and begin the creation process.
The actual makeup and curation of the look takes many hours (anywhere from 2-5 hours) and then I photograph the look for an hour and then after removal sit down and write the character stories to accompany the piece… which can be several hours to write something that I feel embodies the image in a humorous anecdote.
In the hundreds of images I have created I can remember three times that I had to wash it all off without photographing it. Perhaps I was distracted or not fully committed in that moment or whatever. But you realize that trying to force something to happen looks forced and lacks authenticity.
Tell us about your book Lyle XOX: Head of Design from Rizzoli. What is it about?
The book is a carefully curated selection of images accompanied by handwritten character stories. It is a picture book in all senses of the word.
It has been a total labor of love… right down to the handwritten page numbers in pencil. It has always been on my bucketlist, and having been able to work with Rizzoli, Fabien Baron and Viktor & Rolf (who wrote the foreword) has been a dream come true.
What else keeps you busy?
My art keeps me insanely busy; not a lot of time for rest and relaxation. I travel a lot for work, giving presentations about my work, collaborating with designers and always hunting for found objects that spark the desire to create more. (people also from around the world now send me the contents of their “junk drawers” as a way to connect and be part of the work… which is so sweet and truly touching.)
Top 3 music in your playlist right now.
As I’m writing this I am listening to Annie Lennox’s album “Diva”. It will forever be a favorite of mine!!!
Who is / are your fashion icon?
Last book you read:
I was just in Hawaii on a much needed break with my partner and read the book “Stones from the River”. It has been a favorite of my sisters for over a decade and so I decided to take her word and read it. It is such a beautiful story about humanity.
Any advice you can give to any aspiring artist out there?
Find your own voice. Listen to the creative urges that come from that internal place rather than trying to copy or replicate someone else’s work. Never censor the ideas that come from that place. It’s from that place that the magic happens.
If you were a book, what book would you be and why?
I would be a coffee table Art book- full of pictures and behind the scenes images with captions that give insight into the artist’s heart.
With your successful instagram account, a feature in Vogue, and a book coming up, what’s next for you?
A documentary is currently in the making and shooting has been taking place now over the past year. I am currently working on all matters relating to the launch of the book and touring with it. Also have begun conversations with a gallery for a show (in which I am constantly working on new pieces for it).
I have so much I want to do as an artist and know that time goes by so quickly…. To not capitalize on every moment would be a shame. And so on that note… I need to get back to work ( I have an old baseball that needs to be taken apart… :) )