A little while back, muralist Magda Love sat down with us to talk about her art, work, and intentions.
Born and raised in Buenos Aires, Magda has lived around creatives her whole life. Growing up she liked painting, playing guitar, dancing ballet, and opened up a clothing store when she was 19. She pulled the trigger on moving to New York at 21, and from there she got bigger.
Magda kept designing clothes, but also drew, painted, collaged, worked with photographers, and art directed. When she started taking her own photos and painting with them, she was offered her own solo show at a gallery in Brooklyn, and around the same time won a residency at another. After her first show, they asked if she wanted to do a mural on a big wall there, and from there other opportunities started popping up.
“I think that’s one of my best anecdotes that I can tell is like I thought I sucked at drawing, and now I draw six story murals.”
And they’re sick.
Magda’s focus on murals was unplanned. “You try everything in this life, and this is it. Something was ringing the bells, like this is it you’ve found it!” And her motivation is to inspire goodness in communities. “I think when you surround yourself with good people, it always comes back to you, and you always end up working with people that understand that. And I think that’s a really big part of the work that I do. For me, my work really represents how I feel about the world and how the world should be; we all should be a little more loving, and nice, and smile at strangers…”
“I think that’s something that I actually learned to survive in New York, is the better your vibe that you put out there, it just really returns to you.. I have so many friends [and] all the work I always get is from people I see. I hug everyone I work with, and now I can’t, it sucks!”
Encouraging acts of kindness through her art is an important thing to her. “I think making others feel acknowledged… it’s a lot. I mentor a lot of kids…and I think for me, growing up around a lot of people that were talented- in a way everybody is seeking to be heard.”
Her biggest mural to date happened alongside her mentees. “I did, before, the front of a school, and I used to mentor a lot of the children in that school… Basquiat used to go to that school. And across the street you have one of the few murals left by Keith Haring. I was like ‘This is a super iconic place,’ a school that I feel like I really connect with, a lot of the kids there are very creative and sort of feel misunderstood and stuff, so I volunteered and gave classes of public art.
“I had a few interns that were seniors, and if I’d go to meet with Red Bull, you know I’d bring the kids with me so they could get a feel of how to have a meeting with clients, how to work in a studio, go get paint, help them prepare their portfolios and stuff like that. So I already had a built relationship and I knew there’s not a lot of schools like that, and I’m a parent of a teenager, so I felt like this school is a really special place. How can we highlight it? And I was looking to get a really big wall for a long time…
“I don’t wanna say bigger is better, but you know for murals, I just also feel my work looks best really big. I met with the people from Red Bull TV and they were like ‘Ok we can do this documentary, we can do this…’ We pitched a lot of people, until I got a collector that was like ‘Oh my god, just so you can shut up about this wall, I’m gonna give you a $15,000 check to buy paint and get a lift and everything.’ And we started painting and then, you know, we had permits missing, so they were like ‘Either you get off that lift and stop painting, or you get arrested’.. It was mortifying seeing your mural half done for so long, it was a nightmare. And I was gonna do all the walls. Then this girl from Chrystie’s contacted me… And we raised money again…“
Once she started getting a little more recognition outside her murals, she started doing cassette tapes with small messages. Now that she’s working on a project back in Argentina, she’s been doing them in Spanish too. “I was putting really romantic and optimistic messages for New Yorkers… I wanted to kill them with love and kindness!”
“I wanted to kill them with love and kindness!”
And if it doesn’t, it won’t happen. She explained, “The work you do has to feel good, if not it’s just not worth doing it anymore. I think I now try to focus on that every project I choose, ‘Is this gonna feel good? What is it gonna provide for me?’”
Especially when it comes to working with others, or doing a collab, it has to mean something. Reaching out to people is her first step. She described her process as “sending emails and busting their balls until they listen to me.”
The content of those emails are: “I really wanna make this happen. I think it really goes in line with what you guys are doing.”
“I also do a lot of research, I don’t just contact anybody. I try to contact people that I really, truly align with in our missions. I think it’s really important to take time and do research into people that are going to go for your work. I think collaborations are very important in that both parties are getting something out of it… It has to be something that benefits both parties, somehow, some way.”
An example is Red Bull’s MAVENS project. “I think with Red Bull, [and] I’ve had this conversation before with [others], it’s like you need more content about women… There’s another audience of people and I think Red Bull really went for that. And because of that it created the show Mavens, about all strong girls doing stuff. It was me, the founder of a magazine, all women and they created a whole series about it. I was just happy to be the person to pursue it and help others get the same thing.”
Her work has also crossed borders.
“I did a lot of work in Mexico, I went to Cambodia, China, I did a lot of work in different places. I think the most important thing is to be open and to listen to people and see what is needed in that place. I think I learned that a lot when I went to Cambodia. I worked with an organization that rescued girls from sex trafficking. I just sat there and created classes and everything and then I did two murals as a gift in the houses there. As exciting as it is to paint in big cities, to do projects in places that nobody goes, for me they’re much more transformational for people… When you travel you just have to connect with people to represent in the best way possible.”
She continued, “I painted with a lot of kids that years later they text me like ‘I’m still painting’ or they send me emails. That’s the work that really transformed not only the way I paint but the way I feel about the work. Culturally all the places are obviously different… The more you reflect the place and the people you had experiences with, the more they’re gonna protect that work and the more it’s gonna become a part of the place. You’re gonna leave the mural, but the mural is gonna stay there…”
On her work within the culture stateside: “In a way I always felt accepted, but, you know, my work is very different from the street culture. So it never really fully fit or became big within the street culture. But I also have gotten a lot of respect because of that as well. I also don’t like to be classified into something- since I was little I never felt like I belonged anywhere, and I felt like my art in a way has the same feeling as when I was little. Like I’ve done [huge projects], I’ve done art shows in places that have nothing to do with street culture.
“And I kind of like that, because from every place you show and get a different experience, you also discover a different facet of your work. I love painting murals because I love the energy I get from it and I like talking to people when you are painting and just passing by everyday and telling you how much that mural impacted them. Of course a big mural in New York for me, was like a home run. I fought for five years to do [a] mural before it became a reality, like I really pushed for it. And I remember a lot of famous muralists were like ‘Oh just let it go, nobody has walls of that size in the city,’ and I’m like ‘But I will,’ I fought for a really long time…”
She gave us an idea of one of her goals (there’s a lot) for the future, and it’s more immersive than her murals. “I really enjoyed the experience that I had working in a museum… I think that’s a really big goal that I have. I really enjoy spending time in the studio and working on pieces and setting up experiences in a room. The show that I’m working on now in New York, they’re not just paintings, they create experiences.”
“There was one time that I patted myself on the shoulder, and I don’t do that a lot. I’m a huge nerd and I’m a big fan of Ted Talks. I did a ted talk painting instead of talking. And I was like, ‘Fuck I was part of a Ted Talk!’ And then I got home walking my dog, and starting emailing more people again… But there’s always bigger things to do. I like to be the little fish in a big ocean.”