Missouri Heights artist tells the truth with a paintbrush
ASPEN – When asked about her past, Missouri Heights artist Maggie Mae Butler was friendly and open – and adamant. What matters to her is the present.”I don’t want to go through a litany of my life and what I’ve gone through,” she said. “What it’s come to is where I am right now.”
Right then, Butler, 63, was in her studio at the Red Brick Center for the Arts in Aspen. On all sides of her were her big, bright paintings. As she talked about her work and her feelings about the world, she was refreshingly off-the-cuff. “I’m kind of an eccentric, crazy woman. But that’s okay,” she said with a laugh.It’s that off-beat energy, she thinks, that has kept her moving and growing the last six decades. Without going into detail, she dropped anecdotes about those years. Born in Denver, she’s lived around the country and traveled as far away as Italy and Egypt. Back in 1969, she was a teacher in a rough-and-tumble section of Oahu, Hawaii. At the age of 20 or so, she took home the title of “Miss Congeniality” from the Miss Denver pageant. In lieu of a traditional talent performance, Butler had displayed one of her paintings to the crowd.As she spoke in her recent interview, she seemed at home amidst the creativity of her surroundings. To hear her tell it, however, this wasn’t always the case. Though she had always wanted to be a serious painter, things changed sometime in her 20s. She got scared, backed down and let it go. Butler hardly picked up a paintbrush again until she was in her early 50s.It was then that a Colorado Mountain College professor coaxed her back into creating.”Oh, sit down and enjoy it,” Butler remembers Chris Anderson saying.Butler took it to heart.
“Just all of a sudden, stuff just started pouring out,” she remembered.The fears of her past – competition, the challenge of a blank canvas – still get to her today, she admitted. But she seems comfortable in her skin, able to deal with it now. Her oil pieces, loose and vibrant, mostly depict women. Some are deep in thought. Others are kicking up their heels. All tell a story. And each lady feels potently present, like Butler herself.So, what is she trying to say?”Nothing,” Butler replied, without pausing. “Maybe joy in the world. That’s what I think. I’m trying to put some joy in the world.””It’s a human thing,” she continued. “I don’t have any great message.”She said she doesn’t really know what keeps her painting. Sometimes people buy her work; sometimes they don’t. Last night she hated her pieces. This morning, they feel like old friends. So far, she has stuck with this artistic roller-coaster, and understands there’s no telling where it will lead her.Of course, she acknowledged, it would be lovely to have some big success, a benefactor, even. Her true concerns, however, are much greater than all that. Regardless of what’s going on her world, she wants to stay honest, to live in the moment, enjoy “what is.”
“Tell the truth, that’s my main thing in life,” she said. “Tell the truth, and then you’ll know what to do.”One look around her packed studio, and it’s clear. She’s living by her own words.Editor’s note: Butler’s work appears in the annual Wild Woman show at the Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Contact Stina Sieg: email@example.comPost Independent Glenwood Springs CO Colorado
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