Ingrid Magidson moves from sales into the creative realm
July 5, 2007
ASPEN In her teen years and her 20s, Ingrid Magidson discovered a taste for sales. She worked first for a computer firm in her native Texas, and then for a series of high-end shops on Rodeo Drive. What attracted her was the stuff that most people find dull about selling: following up with customers, building relationships with clients. When she took a job at Magidson Fine Art some 15 years ago – and then married the boss, Jay Magidson, and became a co-owner of the Aspen gallery – she specialized in selling, leaving the seemingly more dynamic task of handling artists to her husband. Ingrid finds more satisfaction in selling than in the “glamour” job she had as a teenager – modeling, in Dallas and then Europe, usually in tandem with her twin sister, Sybil.It wasn’t exactly an artist’s temperament, then, that lived in Magidson. When she said, in an interview with The Aspen Times – “They eat, drink and sleep it. They’ll sacrifice anything, even their families, for their art. That’s the passion Jay and I love.” – she was speaking about the artists that show at the gallery. She most definitely was not referring to herself.But that statement was made a little more than two years ago, just as Magidson was staring at the final days of being in her 30s. A few weeks later, she had turned into a different sort of being.”When I turned 40, something snapped in me,” said Magidson. “I withdrew into myself, and I didn’t know why. I didn’t feel like I was living my life. I started to dig deep inside and wrote poetry, really profound poetry.”If you asked me, at 39, if I would be going crazy like this, I’d say, ‘Yeah, right.’ But I fell into it hard.”That fall into the creative realm has meant many nights in a tiny studio, where she has traded sleep for the pursuit of her art. It has meant tuning into the voices she hears in her head; it has meant anguish and frustration, cigarettes and booze.And it has translated into a body of work, the first Magidson is ever showing publicly. Her art – which combines her poetry, appropriated Renaissance-era images, butterflies and a computer-driven, three-dimensional technique that she declines to reveal in any detail – is featured in a show at Magidson Fine Art which opens with a reception Saturday from 6-8 p.m.
Ingrid Magidson – then Ingrid Hill – was surrounded by art as a child. Her father, Irving, is an inventor and artist, who now lives near Redstone. Her mother, Elaine, is an artist. Ingrid herself messed around with her father’s materials, making 3-D boxed sculptures out of scraps of frame. She mostly abandoned actually making anything, but the creative process seems to have continued between her ears.”She’s been thinking of these ideas for years,” said Jay Magidson, whose own creative desires are expressed in running the gallery, and in writing sci-fi. “And then they came into a culmination, to a focal point, and it breaks out into the physical world. That happened a year ago, when the technical stuff worked out and she just took off.”In her inner vision, Ingrid had ideas of what she wanted: transparent images, illumination, music, butterflies, images seen through other images. Translating that so others could see it was an often agonizing process.”I was smoking and drinking and just going crazy,” said Ingrid, the mother of two kids, 9 and 6. “Those were very hard times for me. It was trial and error, sitting in my studio all night, lots of nights, frustrated, trying to figure it all out. Thank god I had friends I could call at 4 in the morning.”And there were the sorts of friends who you can’t get on the phone at any hour. Magidson’s collages are inspired by beings she likens to angels: Joan of Arc, the surrealists Salvador Dali and René Magritte, Puccini. (Other inspirations are those who do pick up the phone: Ingrid’s husband and parents; Eva Cellini, an 82-year-old artist who shows at Magidson Fine Art.)”I love people who do great things in life. I’ve met people who have such a profound impact on me, and I take what I feel, what I read,” said Magidson, who is presenting her work under the name Ingrid Dee (Dee is her middle name). “I take their energy, what they do for me, how they lift me, and put it in the work.”The first piece from the current exhibit that she completed was “Voices in My Head,” something of a self-reflection. The piece is relatively uncomplicated, but in the scribblings of verse in the work is conveyed the energy Magidson brings to the art, and even the breakthrough that the piece represents.”This was an intense night. This was the discovery of all this,” she said. “It was me going crazy.”The technical breakthrough was a relief, but also a challenge. “This fear set in. This fear – did I want to keep going there? Did I want to spend all the money on materials?” Magidson said.She did continue, and a sense of peacefulness came into the art. Where “Voices in My Head” contains an unbridled energy, successive works became more about a complex, considered ideal of beauty. The pieces – “Queen of the House,” dedicated to her mother; “La bohème,” for her husband, an opera enthusiast; “Surrealism Lives in Me,” for Dali and Magritte – combine sheet music with found objects and borrowed portraits by Renaissance giants da Vinci, Correggio and Titian in a captivating layered effect. Magidson prefers to address the emotional impact rather than the process.”Art today is so literal and angry and about war and hate,” said Magidson, who credits Jay for helping her work out the computer side of the technique. “I understand artists are trying to express themselves. But I want the beauty of the Renaissance period. I wanted to bring that back. I want people to feel beauty – or sadness, some kind of intensity.”Bringing other worlds – the past, the hidden – into this world is a big part of Magidson’s motivation. “I become a voice for these souls,” she said, referring to the Renaissance painters whose images she uses, and the figures who have inspired her work. “A lot of these paintings, these people, nobody gets to see them anymore. They’re tucked away in storage, in museums, and I want people to see them in a new way. “People should ask these profound questions: Are there soulmates? What happens after we die?”
More or less hidden in the art are the butterflies. But each work has a butterfly image; in “Alive in Me,” the butterfly appears as a mask. At tomorrow’s opening reception, Magidson plans to release a swarm of butterflies. (There will also be a string quartet from the Aspen Music School performing.)Magidson talks about the butterfly as a symbol: “Butterflies are something that are here so briefly, so delicate and fragile and beautiful. That’s sort of my signature.”But she doesn’t specifically relate the butterfly to herself. She doesn’t point out the connection between the butterfly and her own mental fragility that has had her despairing over her life’s purpose, spending sleepless nights in an eight-by-12 foot studio that barely fits her art.Maybe that’s because she isn’t so fragile and short-lived. Magidson considers her dark period at an end. There are still nights spent awake, but there is a different quality to them.”I thought, ‘OK, I’ve figured it out, now I’ll be OK,'” she said, referring to overcoming the technical hurdles a few months ago. “No. Now I’m driven to produce the work. I don’t sleep anymore. Because I can’t stop working. “But the frustration is gone. I’m at peace, understanding where I’m going with it.”Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is email@example.com