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An Interview with Darrin Maier

Haley Laningham

Abstract black-and-white human figure receding into the  distance
Codeine, 2020


See more of Darrin Maier’s artwork in Vol. 40.1 here.


photograph of the artist: a bald, white man with black glasses and a beard

Darrin Maier (b. 1985) is a mixed media artist who works and lives in South Jersey. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in graphic design and an Associate’s degree in photography. Darrin has been drawing and painting since 2014, and taught himself through experimentation with different mediums and self-directed study. For our 40.1 issue, we selected eight pieces originally produced in grayscale. Of his own work, Darrin says:

"I explore abstract concepts in my work, with focus on feelings and ideas rather than details. I work primarily in black and white and find the limitation liberating, as I feel that color further complicates my work."

In our interview, Darrin elaborates on the choices he makes in his pieces. Specifically, we talk about his frequent return to distortion in his representations of the human face and how his own psychology has put pressure on this impulse.

-Haley Laningham


Haley Laningham: In the literary community, there is this common question as to whether we start with plans for our plots, stories, poem arcs, etc., or if we let the piece itself guide us. There is usually a diversity of answers to this. With ink and very dark oil paint, I imagine you can’t as easily start without an idea of what you want to happen. Is this true?

Darrin Maier: I usually have a plan as to what I want to do, but oftentimes it doesn’t turn out as planned, or I get another idea midway through making the piece and change directions. I usually don’t make multiple drafts. I make the piece once and how it comes out will determine whether or not I use it.

monochrome ink-and-collage imagine of a head, featureless except for two oversized rows of teeth
Nothing, 2020

HL: Which artists have acted as your primary touchstones in the time you’ve been doing art?

DM: I’m definitely inspired by Jesse Draxler and Wayshak and a lot of modern artists. I tend to look at artists who do black-and-white work to see what’s possible, but I also look at oil painters who use color as well.

HL: In many of the pieces we’re publishing here, such as the piece for our cover, Portrait, as well as Nothing, Good Wife, and Loomer, there is some kind of human resemblance. More specifically, you seem to be working a lot with the theme of uncanny faces. Where do you think this impulse comes from?

DM: I think faces are interesting, and I’m drawn to that human aspect. I love to see how I can distort or represent the face and the figure in an interesting way.

HL: What do you think could be the conscious, or maybe subconscious, inspiration behind this artistic impulse?

DM: I distort the human face, I think, because it’s a way to express emotion within the subject without relying on reality. I like to make the distortion be part of the person’s emotion as well.

Abstract blog suggesting a human head and neck against a black background. The only recognizable feature is a pair of heavily-lidded eyes.
Loomer, 2020

HL: Weird question, but do any or all of these pieces feel like self-portraiture? If not, who are they to you?

DM: Some of them actually are self-portraits. Usually, I try to create a mood and a feeling in my work. A lot of my work deals with isolation and mental health issues, which are issues I experience myself.

An abstracted portrait of a human face. Many features, particularly the mouth, are obscured.
Portrait, 2020

HL: Getting as personal or not as you wish, why do you think you are drawn to grapple with those problems in a specifically creative way?

DM: Given my chaotic upbringing, I think I want to do work that represents me and my various emotional states. I was never able to express with words how I felt, but drawing was always easier.

HL: Another common feature of your work is the singularity of the figures. The subjects are always alone, and in some kind of emotive relation with our watching world. I try not to get super topical with my curiosities, but “isolation” is ringing pretty loud for me as a factor in the pandemic, too. How did the pandemic shape or change your work?

DM: I do deal with isolation in my work. Often I feel these effects in the work are a result of dealing with mental health and my own feelings of isolation. In terms of the pandemic, I started getting serious about my work then, and while isolation was always a theme, working primarily in black and white came to mind during that time. My current style was something honed during the lockdown. I look back at my artwork during the last two years and I actually still like it—before, I would hate the work that I did.

HL: What’s next for you? What are you working on these days?

DM: I’m still just getting started in my career, so I’m just working on a new body of work that I hope to submit to shows and publications to get my name out there.

An inky, amorphous shape in grayscale.
Vertebrate, 2020

You can see more of Darrin’s work on his website,


HALEY LANINGHAM is a PhD student in Poetry at Florida State University and holds an MFA from the University of Oregon. She acts as the Art Editor for Southeast Review.


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