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Meet Jay Maggio

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jay Maggio.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
My story starts in my hometown of New Roads, Louisiana. More than 300 plus years old New Roads is a town with a wealth of history and outlined with lush beautiful live oaks and very tall pecan trees. It’s easy to see that the trees of my childhood have influenced my paintings.

I really could draw very good as early as around five or six years old. I never thought much of my talent primarily because of the mindset of the rural area where I grew up. The mainstream thought at that time was: “son, it’s great that you’re talented but you better get a real job”. Fortunately, there was a very wonderful nun, Sr. Ann Constance Lividais, SSJ that took me under her guidance and I believe saw something special in me and nurtured my talent. Sr. Ann taught art at the local Catholic school and also taught various art classes for a few individuals after school hours.

I never actually dreamed of becoming a fine artist. I originally wanted to design automobiles and pursued that line of study attending LSU. Naive and poor I was unaware of the requisite or finances for pursuing a career in automotive design. As a result I studied applied design in the fine arts department at LSU. Distractions and full-time employment to pay for school forced me to drop out of school after three years as a result of a lack of finances. I sat out school and worked in my dad’s auto business for a year, saved money and then shifted course by attending Northwood University in Cedar Hill, TX and acquiring an associate’s degree in automotive marketing. Homesick for gumbo and big trees I returned to Louisiana and worked for various car dealerships in Morgan City, Franklin, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans before returning to the Dallas area in 1990 to work for a software firm specializing in automotive related programs. Unfortunately, this proved to be a dead-end path for me in the automotive field at which point a career in art was my last resort.

I had a painting of a large oak in a wide-open yellow field that I had done to decorate my apartment here in Dallas. This painting received accolades of praise from numerous friends that saw it. Not knowing the protocol, I took that painting with me in hand and started calling on galleries in Dallas to see if any would be willing to represent me and sell my art. You can just imagine the response I got from some galleries. I had some art directors actually walk me out the door without ever so much as glancing at my painting. Others simply laughed at me and what I thought my painting was worth. But then there was this wonderful Irishman that was the art director of Victorian Gallery, Alan Barnes. I walked into his gallery while he was on the phone. He grabbed me by the arm and said don’t go anywhere. When he got off the phone he grabbed my painting and lifted it up and said that’s magnificent! He then said: “if you do a few more of these I will give you a show”. He then asked: “who are you”, LOL! I was blown away!

Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough for a show and my paintings take a very long time to do because of the detail. That was 1995. For several years I moved into survival mode doing all sorts of odd jobs until settling on bartending which provided me with the luxury of painting in the daytime and working evenings and nights. It was the fall of 1999; my last job bartending was terminated but I finally had amassed a few paintings. I hadn’t talked to Alan in four years yet he remembered me as if it was yesterday when I had first walked into his gallery. We worked it out that I would have a show at Victorian Gallery on Fairmount Street in April of 2000 along with Miss Ireland. No kidding, I forget her name but she was stunning and she really was a recent Miss Ireland at that time. Very talented also.

For weeks before the show Alan and I went back and forth on pricing. The yellow painting with the big oak would be the center/star of the show. It was on the invitation. At first Alan suggested that we price it around $10,000. I said great, I could make a living doing this if it sells. A few days later Alan suggested that maybe we should ask around $2500 for that painting. I then said, if that’s all I can get for it the this would be my last show. It was simply too time consuming to make it worthwhile for so little money. It was the day before the show was to open and we still hadn’t settled on pricing.

I was there in t-shirt and jeans helping Alan hang the very last painting when a couple drove in from Ft. Worth and wanted first opportunity to look at the paintings and possibly purchase one. Alan introduce me and I then left the gallery and went home. My anxiety at this time was exceptionally high. Alan encouraged me to spend an extra $2000 on some nice frames. I was now nearly maxed out to $20,000 in debt on credit cards with no source of income for several months. About an hour after I had left the gallery Alan calls me, he says that he had just sold the yellow painting to the couple from Ft. Worth for $7500! Not sure there are any other moments in my life that compare to the joy, excitement, and relief I felt at that time. I really jumped up and down with excitement tapping on the roof of my apartment. Since then it has been mostly uphill. I now show at galleries in Dallas, New Orleans, and Provincetown, MA.

Please tell us about your art.
Oil on canvas and trees are my subject. My paintings are almost like portraits of trees. I take photos of trees that inspire me and then try to paint them as realistic as possible but create an imaginary landscape around the tree(s). People have described my paintings as surreal or hyperreal but the application really takes on a pointillist and sometimes very impressionist style. I choose trees because they’re a very safe subject matter. I think most everyone likes trees. I’m really inspired by the beautiful lush trees of my youth growing up in the very old Louisiana town and by the wide-open spaces of North Texas where I have lived for the past 28 years. I like to say that my paintings are a marriage of my past and present life. I paint happy, I want the view to smile when they view my painting.

Given everything that is going on in the world today, do you think the role of artists has changed? How do local, national or international events and issues affect your art?
I believe artists careers are very fragile and can easily be affected by changes in the economy or by political influences on society. I suffered greatly as a result of the last recession. There is no difference in my opinion between the expression of art and the freedom of speech. Censorship, the lack of educational opportunities, the cost of materials, transportation, or changes in the economy can have significance results regarding an artist’s career.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
I am currently represented by Craighead Green Gallery in Dallas, Sutton Gallery in New Orleans, and On Center Gallery in Provincetown, MA. You may also view my art on my website: You can view each gallery’s inventory and obtain their contact information through my website.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Jay Maggio

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