Maasai Rees-Tabari


Liberator MagazineFall 2014


Death of a Caterpillar | Digital (11x17)


Talking Canvases: The Art of Maasai Rees-Tabari

 Writer V May

When I gaze upon a work of Maasai Rees-Tabari, I see a subject that exists in a place with no space or time.  Her paintings are modern but without a chronological frame of reference, the works could be from the past, present, or future or from no time at all. 

The subjects are many times solitary and in some state of contemplation.  They present a complex idea and intricate visual that are multidimensional. This communication between the artist, the subject, and the viewer is visceral.

Maasai and I had a chance to chat. The following is the gist of our conversation:

VM: Female figures, alone or in relation to each other, seem to be featured prominently in your work. Why the dearth of male figures?

MRT: The male image doesn’t express the kind of emotion that I’m trying to express. In terms of relating to imagery, we can relate non-judgmentally to a woman who is pained and/or vulnerable more so than seeing a male image that way.

We are conditioned to be empathetic to the female image. So, my subjects are many times female or androgynous to be less threatening and to garner more sympathy.

Baby - Birth Series | Acrylic on Canvas with Oil Crayons (20x24)


The adult and child renderings could be familial or could be representative of the adult and their child-self. I leave the interpretation up to the viewer. The viewer can draw upon their history, experiences and perceptions to give the images a personal meaning.

VM: Your works in color are somewhat reminiscent of the bold dynamics of Fauvism. However, many of your pieces convey a softness as opposed to a harsh brashness. How do your choices of color and blocking subtly convey your message?

 Toe in the Past | Tempura, Oil Crayon on Craft Paper (42x60)


MRT: In developing my style, I’ve enthusiastically experimented with varying hues. I’ve always been interested in working with colors in a non-realistic way. The emotion expressed via the images can be conveyed by the colors I use. I don’t have to draw a literal expression of emotion when I use certain colors that can elicit in the viewer that feeling.  For example, I can translate anger into a color. I can tell a story with color.  So, initially for me, first it was color, then imagery, then story telling.

Circles of Life - Birth Series | Acrylic on Canvas (48x48)


Once I formalized my style, I really didn’t need to have color first. I became more interested in the story telling. I didn’t change the imagery because that had, along with my coloring, become a part of my style.

So, the storytelling became prominent. The color was a part of the storytelling but could be taken out. In the main, color can be crucial in telling the tale. However, it is not essential to the tale.

Birth - Acrylic Paint, Paper on Canvas (36x48)


VM:  I see that when viewing some of your renderings in charcoal. Regarding your black and white pieces, when you remove color, what does that mean?

MRT: I found, when I took the color out, I focused more on the story telling.  I could expand on the imagery telling the tale without the assistance of color.

Without the color, the composition has to be strong. The storytelling has to be paramount. I really want the viewer to be somewhat perplexed and to ponder what it is all about.

A Place of Burden | Digital (11x17)


 D I G I T A L   A R T





Pancakes & Booze Group Exhibit, Los Angeles, CA


Artist Studio Residence Group Show - Beacon Arts Building, Los Angeles, CA