We had the good fortune of connecting with Maria Haag and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Maria, can you share a quote or affirmation with us?
Years ago, I was reading Blaise Paschal’s Pensées and ran across this line: “Man is so necessarily mad that it would be another twist of madness not to be mad.” It’s something I think is true about everyone – we’re all a little crazy – and is the perfect lens to view the world as an artist. Everyone and everything has its own quality of uniqueness (or insanity). That’s what makes life so strange and wonderful. It’s a way of seeing ordinary things in a different light. Pieces of trash that blow across the road as I drive on I-35 up to Denton are no longer just trash, but the secret citizens of a fairytale that I can catch a glimpse of if I just open my eyes. A long translucent string of plastic catches on to the radio antenna of the car in front of me, floats behind and billows in the wind, and for a moment the car becomes an iron-clad knight charging whatever monster its driver is challenging that day. Then the plastic flits away towards me and catches on to my car which takes its turn at transformation. I love it when objects or people catch my attention and speak a new language, for a moment. It’s something I find endlessly inspiring.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My practice is focused on the idea of life as an unavoidable journey through which persons and societies are forced to travel. For me, the journey begins with suffering, seen as a sort of storm: a wrenching out of the common through a series of events, active or passive, which create a puncture in what is in order to open space for what could be. The fragility of things and persons is what inspires my drawings, sweeping lines and crusted layers of paper, charcoal, paint and collage. I draw on my memories of growing up in the American Midwest, watching smoke curl up from burning fields, the green and brown swirling skies giving birth to tornadoes, and the ever-present wind transforming the waving grasses and carving away at the land and its inhabitants. Another experience which greatly influences my thoughts and my art practice is the time I spent working as a nurse aide in a nursing home and in a group home for physically and developmentally disabled adults. It seems that the storm tosses some people around more violently than others, and as people get older the damage the storm wreaks on their bodies and minds becomes more pronounced, more beautiful and grotesque, reflected on their very skins. I try to make drawings that reflect the power of an oncoming storm, yet also the subtle fragility of aged skin and a quiet nursing home room which has witnessed years of patient suffering. I layer the back of my paper with gesso and coat the front in layers of gesso, paint and shellac so that it takes on the feeling of long-suffering skin. Our skins are constantly marked with our experiences within life’s storm tunnel – the older I get, the more I notice changes on my own skin which can be caused by something physical or even emotional or mental. Trying to make enough money to live on as an artist isn’t easy, and the stress of that struggle definitely enters my work as well. But I’ve discovered that making art is something I need to do; if I don’t, it feels like there’s an itch I desperately need to scratch, and I can ignore it only at the expense of my own sanity. There’s no better feeling than a productive day in the studio.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’ve lived in Fort Worth, Arlington and Dallas for only six years, so I’m still discovering and exploring. A few of the places I take friends to when they visit are Bishop Arts in south Dallas and the Dallas Arts District. The Crow Museum of Asian Art is one of my favorite spots just to exist in, to soak up the quiet atmosphere and the carefully curated selection of work. Getting mexican seafood and tamarind margaritas at La Calle Doce on 12th street is a must – their seafood soup is pure heaven. And of course standing in line to get delicious street tacos at the Taqueria El Si Hay stand on Davis Street. I’ve also taken friends to the Winspear Opera, always a fun experience. My favorite part of the metroplex, however, is Fort Worth. It has the best atmosphere. On my days off, taking a trip to Fort Worth is my favorite way to relax. First stop is Avoca Coffee on Foch Street, then right down the street to the museum district. The Kimball and the Modern museums are always a joy to visit. Finally, back west to a little strip mall on Beach Street to get a bowl of spicy noodle soup from Thai Charm and boba tea from the teahouse next door.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My family (my large immediate family and my many cousins) are the bedrock in my life – even when they don’t understand my crazy studio work, they always support me. I’m also grateful for the wonderful friends I’ve made over my life who are trying to establish their own creative careers. We can share our anger and excitement, feed off each other’s enthusiasm, and goad each other forward. Here in Dallas, a special shoutout to everyone I taught with at Founders Classical Academy of Mesquite. You all are some of the most sincere, intelligent and inspiring people and I’m so grateful that I met you!

Website: http://mariahaagart.com/

Instagram: @mariahaagart

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutDFW is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.