Artist Maggie Shafran began her graduation program on a farm in the English countryside during the height of the pandemic. While she was there, she was inspired by the blooming flowers.
“It was the desire to capture and preserve all these little moments of beauty that would go away,” says Shafran. “Flowers bloom and die in cycles.”
The idea of death returns in much of his work.
“It’s always there,” says Shafran. “As soon as you start thinking about things deeply, the themes of fear or the unknown come up a lot. This can often be related to death and endings.
Death is inherent in the symbolism of still life painting, one of its most important disciplines. “It’s to remind you of the fleetingness of beauty and life in general,” says Shafran.
Maggie Shafran won gold for best artist in our 2022 Best of the Valley poll.
“Ms. Shafran is an extremely diverse artist, who brings a keen and balanced eye to every medium she approaches,” said Yanna Lantz of Friesen + Lantz Fine Art. “I particularly appreciate the posture and presence of her works. We are fortunate to have such fresh, fun and exciting talent in the area. “
“Maggie’s passion for art is contagious and I’ve seen her encourage a younger generation of Ketchum to engage with local galleries, events, the museum and so on,” said Lily Martin of the Gail Severn Gallery. “While the valley may not be metropolitan, it strikes way above its weight, boasting an incredibly rich and diverse art scene supported by hardworking visionaries. Independent artists like Maggie strengthen this creative community, broaden the spectrum of talent this city has to offer and pave the way for those to follow. “
Sunlight pours into Shafran’s art studio in downtown Ketchum. Sounds can be heard through the open window, which spreads out onto sleepy Main Street. He assures me it’s usually a lot messier. Leaning against the wall, there is a black and white photograph exploring the uninhabited spaces of a Bratz doll lying in a doll’s house. The disembodied hands occupy an otherwise empty bird cage. In the bathroom there is a nude “family portrait” depicting a group of roommates.
“It makes me laugh,” says Shafran. “I like how she looks.”
His portraits are often of close friends. “There is a desire to have a foothold in the relationship, a way to meditate on how I feel about the person, what they mean to me,” says Shafran.
He uses various mediums to highlight the personalities of his subjects, from collage to colorful painting.
“The medium is very connected to the message,” says Shafran. Large-scale graphite equalizes the visual plane, she says, while working in oil the figures seem fleshy and present.
“An eye is rendered in the same way as a leaf in the background: graphite is more of an impenetrable space. There is something between you and the artwork, ”says Shafran. “The oils dissolve that boundary.”
Lately she has gotten closer to photography and plaster casts.
“Photographs are a way to freeze and preserve a moment. I wanted to take it a step further, so I made those casts, put it in a more physical form, a copy of something that existed, now exists in a separate form … That idea of preserving moments, objects, people, which I guess is still connected to death, ”laughs Shafran.
However, in any discipline, his delicate and disturbing style is unmistakable.
“It’s impossible to part with art because it’s something I do,” says Shafran. “It reflects what interests me, as physically my hand is always in it.”
A fragmentary illustration of a bewildering bouquet of flowers stretches across the wall, attached by magnetic paint. Each panel tells its story.
“I have improved a lot in terms of skills; some of the former are not as good as the newer ones, ”says Shafran. “I haven’t decided yet how everything will turn out.”
Working on it since last January, he finally turned down the sketch part.
“It was a great time,” says Shafran. “This is the longest time I’ve spent with a single piece. It’s something I’m very excited about ”.
He started with a digital rendering of a Jan van Huysum painting from the early 1700s. He wanted to add his perspective to the Dutch still life artist’s work.
Wearing his influences on his sleeve, he has an artist blog he reveres. While his work is now largely informed by the art of appropriation, recontextualizing existing images and common objects to create new pieces, this has not always been the case.
“I’ve always found certain types of art irritating in a way,” says Shafran. “The art of appropriation was one of them. It bothered me so much. “
It bothered her enough, in fact, she swore to find out what exactly makes it art.
“It actually has a serious purpose,” says Shafran. “Get people to think and expand their ideas of what something is.”
In college, he wrote extensively about Pictures Generation’s Robert Longo, a loose movement that came of age in the late 1970s and early 1980s interested in examining and destabilizing images propagated in the age of mass media.
“He could do it while having a very high level of skill as a creator,” says Shafran. “Some contemporary art has that level of thought provoking that is really intriguing, but it doesn’t really strike aesthetically, visually … it could do both.”
This autumn he will return to England for his studies.
“I am thrilled to be returning to education. I know there are other artists here, but we don’t all go out, ”says Shafran. “I do not know why. I think we’re all working in our own little worlds. “
Part of his program includes a number of writings. She isn’t quite sure if she likes to explain her art to her.
“It’s as much about being able to talk about your work as it is about writing about it,” says Shafran. “Putting something in writing is a little difficult because that’s how I feel about it on that given day, and it might be less relevant in a week. Quote critic Jerry Saltz, whose advice was to stop clarifying your art.
“Sometimes, I’m not in the mood,” says Shafran. “Sometimes I could talk about it for hours.”
In terms of how others interpret his work, he knows it’s out of his hands.
“Sometimes they think it’s cute, and that’s good enough,” says Shafran. “Sometimes they see something from a completely different perspective, and that’s great too.”
Growing up, Shafran moved in and out of Wood River Valley.
“I have certainly always felt very, very attached to the valley,” she says.
In high school, he never imagined that art would be his profession. At a young age, she was given a step-by-step instruction book on how to draw horses. “I was obsessed,” says Shafran.
She holed up and drew some Pokémon. Her parents supported her pursuit of her art.
“I was never particularly coordinated, so football was never going to be my thing,” she laughs.
They sent her to the art field. At school, she took lunch breaks in the art room.
“I’ve had it in my life for a long time,” says Shafran. “It’s been important for a while.”
When she finished her graduation, she drew a portrait of her stepmother’s chubby dog as a Christmas present. It spread from mouth to mouth. Soon many people wanted portraits of their pets.
Her father told her: “You have a degree in art. You can work in a cafe and try to get as much art as you can in your spare time, or you can suck it off and draw dogs.
As it turned out, many people in this city adore their dogs.
“Drawing animals wasn’t necessarily my passion, but being able to connect with people and help bring joy through the artwork I was making was incredibly rewarding,” says Shafran. “It gave me financial freedom and time to work on other projects more inspired by what I wanted to do.”
Her sister helped her build her website.
“I follow a lot of artists who make careers on Instagram, and I have yet to really crack that nut,” Shafran laughs with a crooked eyebrow.
More than anything else, success has allowed her workspace.
“Getting people in and talking to them is key to making money in this city as an artist,” says Shafran.
He exhibits his works in the Gallery Walks.
“For such a small city, we have a truly amazing array of galleries,” says Shafran. “This is home and I love this community … I will always be connected in some way. I also love my friends here ”.
One of these friends is local musician Zach Herbert. They have supported each other in art for more than a decade.
“Maggie is a sincere friend and a very talented artist,” said Herbert. “I think that no matter where he was, be it a city or a small town, it would take a real effort to ignore the glaring talent and craftsmanship in his work. The fact that he chooses close friends as subjects of many of her pieces say a lot about the kind of human that Maggie is. Just as she is a caring and devoted friend, those traits extend to her creation process, who and what she paints and the care she places in how those subjects are depicted. ”
In addition to the musicians, Shafran is also close to local event planners, photographers and chefs.
“Art and creativity take many forms,” says Shafran. “I think there are a lot of creatives in the valley. The more we could be together, the better ”.
Although he splits time between multiple locations, he has no plans to leave Wood River Valley forever.
“I went and went back a couple of times,” says Shafran. “Things change, but they also remain the same. In a way, I like this one here.
For her, the sky is the limit.
“Ideally, forever I will be able to make art and people will want to buy it so I can live and continue making art,” says Shafran. “I don’t have high and crazy goals, it’s just about continuing to work and supporting myself with it.”