The Butler Museum of Art Presents: Maggie Meiners

By Gabe Garcia

Maggie Meiners, an award winning photographer from Chicago, will be at the Butler Museum Sunday, Jan. 15 from 1-3 p.m. where she will be promoting her new exhibit “Revisiting Rockwell”. Norman Rockwell is an artist that Meiners has always admired, and she recreated some of his iconic paintings with her camera, such as “Freedom from Want” and “Freedom from Fear”. In this Q&A, Meiners was able to share some of what she has learned from her career as a photographer.

Q: Exactly how long have you been in the photography industry?

A: I began taking photography seriously in 2000 when I attended a workshop in Santa Fe. I met some other people, we put our work together and had an exhibition in Chicago. We then had two more shows. They taught me a lot about editing work, working collaboratively and presenting work in a professional manner. It was a great experience and one that I will always cherish.

Q: What are specific highs and lows of your career?

A: Truthfully, I can’t say I have had many lows. Sometimes a rejection stings a little bit, but it feels good to get up, wipe off the dust and keep on going. Sometimes I will have a review that is not favorable, but that’s OK too; viewing and doing art is so subjective — it’s OK if not everyone loves or understands what I do. It’s my experience, my perspective and my expression; all I can do is share that and hope that it creates a healthy dialogue about something. As far as highs, I’ve had so many. Every time I have an opportunity to exhibit and talk about my work, it is a wonderful opportunity. Specifically, asking to show my work at the Butler has been a shining light in my career and having another solo exhibition at the New England School of Photography in Boston in the spring is pretty exciting to me. Also working closely with my gallery, Anne Loucks Gallery, has been a great experience — it challenges me always to think about creating new work. But many of the highs come from within. For example, facing technical challenges, having a concept that I have no idea how to execute or waiting a long time for precisely the right light or right moment. Those are the fist pumps.

Q: What inspired you to want to take photos as a career?

A: In 1999 I went to an exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and saw a photo retrospective and was so moved by, I came home, told my now husband I wanted to quit my job and be a photographer.

Q: What drew you to add the Butler Museum to your list of stops?

A: It is a goal of mine to get the “Revisiting Rockwell” all over the world. The Butler is an esteemed institution in the arts, and it felt like a place that may understand the various levels of the work. Not only is the subject matter timely, but there is also humor, ambiguity, social and political undercurrents. The Butler felt like a great place to foster a dialogue about these pieces.

Q: What all will you be doing during your visit?

A: I’m not coming in for very long — just 24 hours. Apparently, there is a Rockwell exhibition occurring in Guangzhou that I will try to check out, and I have a good friend nearby that I am hoping to see. Also, there is an artist’s reception Sunday, Jan. 15 from 1-3 p.m. I will be heading to the airport shortly after the reception.

Q: Is there any advice you’d like to give to students aspiring to become photographers?

A: Yes: you can do it! Never stop learning. Listen to podcasts, watch videos, play with film, new cameras, old cameras, etc. Most importantly, build your community. Most of the best advice and opportunities I get comes from other artists. Be open minded about others and their work. Share yourself generously.