She's a Zine artist and critic, photographer, illustrator, video artist, curator, and––as Jeremy and I found out when we visited her Brooklyn apartment––a collector of peculiar things. Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of Maggie Lee.
Alexandre Stipanovich: So your mom and dad used to be in a circus?
Yes, my mother and father ran an acrobatic tour; she was an acrobat, and my father, a magician.
AS: Did you ever go on tour with them?
ML: At that time, I wasn’t born yet, I was just an idea. But originally my dad wanted to name me Magic, and my mom was like, “You cannot call our baby Magic.” But if my name were Magic, it would be like Magic Lee––magically! [Laughs] So they named me Maggie because it was the closest thing to Magic.
AS: Did they ever teach you any tricks?
ML: Yeah, like the trick where a person disappears in a box while another person pushes spears through it––those kinds of tricks. The secret is, the person is curled up inside the box like a croissant, eating a croissant.
AS: Can you tell us about how you came to live in New York?
ML: I came to New York to study fine arts at Pratt Institute. That was in 2005. I originally wanted to pursue painting, but I became obsessed with printmaking and the idea of publishing––making multiples and stuff. I have always been obsessed with zines, so that’s really where my interest in publishing came from.
AS: And now you do everything.
ML: Making zines forces one to be the editor, the printmaker, the artist, the intern, the whipping boy––everything. Knowing how to work every part of a magazine is what makes independent publishing so special. Working on your own publication forces you to learn everything and it's also the best because you have the most control.
AS: And how did you become involved in the art scene here?
ML: Well, when I was in high school I would always come to New York from New Jersey. Cutting class and coming into the city to see matinees at ABC No Rio
became a ritual. When I was six, my sister––who is twelve years older––would take me to hardcore punk shows. We’d see Rorschach and Sick of It All. And we’d always visit galleries before the shows and stuff like that.
AS: How did you come to shoot your first cover, the Vice 2008 Fiction Issue?
ML: I was in class when Jesse Pearson, who was the editor of Vice
at the time, called me. I had to run out of the class. He was like, "I need a cover by tonight! Can you shoot it?" We spent all night shooting in my room, which, at the time was a lofted bed in a closet. I got my best friend to model and my other friend Alex to stand on top of a ladder holding a desk lamp.
AS: Can you tell me a little bit about your friendship and collaborations with Weirdo Dave, the artist behind the zine Fuck This Life?
ML: He always comes into aNYthing
, the store that I manage. We work on photocopying together and one day I shot this slice of pizza that he had, and we turned it into a T-shirt. But it was mostly his idea. I also took some photos of his collages and his cut-outs for Top
AS: I see a lot of references to rituals, religion, and stuff like that in your work. Are you influenced by Kenneth Anger or Jack Smith?
ML: Yeah, I love Kenneth Anger. Gotta love those colors and that saturation—I’m totally obsessed with them.
AS: Can you tell us about the video show you recently curated?
ML: Video Syrup
is a show I curated of emerging and well-established artists. Kathy Rose, for example, was a part of it. She has been making psychedelic videos and animations since the 70s. Also, a lot of my friends I've met through art schools on the east coast have been making these amazing videos that no one has seen. So I really wanted to include those too.
AS: How did you put all of it together?
ML: For some artists, I knew exactly what works to feature. For others, I went to their studio and saw what they were making. For the screening, there was an overall great flow and consistency, and everyone was having a good time. My boyfriend made the music––it's awesome working together; we push each other to make things.
AS: Was there a theme behind the videos?
ML: Mostly visual, some works poetic, and others documentary. All very stimulating.
AS: What are you listening to nowadays?
ML: Tannerie Dream's Thief
, Wendy Carlos's Switched-On Bach
, and Daniel––DJ Physical Therapy
AS: Your top three movies?
by Dario Argento, Hausu
by Nobuhiko Obayashi, and The Cement Garden
by Andrew Birkin.
AS: What projects are you working on right now?
ML: Workin' on a book, some blogging, a photo shoot, a new zine, this interview, workin' at MoMA's Print Studio––you should come! You know, just goin' with the flow.
All photos by JEREMY LIEBMAN