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Based in Vancouver, Canada, Lyle Reimer is a mixed media artist known best for his self-portraits. And by self-portraits, I mean Reimer turning himself into “Lyle XOX”, a beautiful shapeshifting alien-like being straight out of a fantasy novel, with masks and headpieces hand crafted out of recycled ‘garbage’. Coming from a makeup background, with 16 years of working for MAC under his belt, Reimer clearly has a knack for finding and bringing out beauty, even in places where it would appear pointless to an untrained eye. Have you ever looked at a disposable fork, or a muselet and thought “that is beautiful, I want to adorn my face with it”? Well, Reimer has, and frankly, nobody looks better with forks on their face.

How old were you when you first knew you were going to work in beauty and the arts? I knew I would work in the arts from the time I understood what “career” meant, in the early years of elementary school. I didn’t know that it would be in the genre of beauty until I was 19.

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You previously worked in the makeup industry. When did you first start using non-makeup items as part of your looks and how did that come about? I have always painted, and over the years of painting I began to experiment with mixed media. When I began doing makeup, it felt like a natural extension to incorporate other things into the looks that were not cosmetics. I grew up in a household where my mother would do crafts with us as children, and she always emphasized the beauty of recycling things and turning “garbage” into art. It is that fundamental philosophy that I have nurtured in my work and now use 100% recycled “garbage” and found objects to create the pieces.

What are some of the most unexpected items you’ve found yourself using? Children’s orthodontic headgear. Deodorant sticks. Tuna cans. Pieces of fabric from my grandmother’s housecoat. Soy Sauce Packets.

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Your work is usually made up of makeup, hair / wigs, intricate headpieces or masks, and individual items and pieces. Do you have a usual starting point or is it always different? The process truly varies from image to image. I feel that once things become routine, the work is no longer authentic and is not enjoyable to create. It is the process that brings me so much pleasure. The one thing that is a constant though is the blocking out of my eyebrows. Each look I start with putting on a wig cap and blocking the brows to give a completely nude canvas to work on. It is through this process that I see myself not as “Lyle” but as a blank canvas to create “Lyle XOX” on.

In terms of the actual facial sculptures that I create, I am in my studio every day (unless I’m travelling), and am working on new pieces. I never know how they are going to be used, but just want there to be a constant flow of creativity and uncensoring of ideas. Then when I am going to shoot a look, I have all these pieces to choose from to incorporate into the image. It is truly an organic experience, as I have no idea what the end result is going to be.

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What are some unorthodox sources of inspiration? I like to “channel surf”, quickly flip through channels on the television; never watching something for more than a split second. I find that as the images begin to blur together from channel to channel, I begin to create concepts in my head and formulate ideas. People from all over the world now send me boxes of their garbage to incorporate into my work. These boxes of random things are always inspirational to me. I’m always hunting for new music and artists from all over the world. Music is such an important part of the process and evokes many different moods that influences colour palette, textures, and shapes.

The colours, shapes and structures of your work already let you appear like an otherworldly being, and when hair is displayed in non-traditional ways it can add a certain sense of uncanniness. Is this done intentionally? I love mixing elements of humanity in with pieces of a totally synthetic world. Hair represents the humanity, as well as a type of animalistic quality. The mission is to always create work that is both relatable and bewildering at the same time.

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What is your own relationship with your hair like? I have always loved hair, hair styling, haircuts and have a very large collection of wigs (all of which have been gifted to me from people from all over, getting rid of their old costume box etc.) There was a time when I really considered working in the hair field, because I was always so fascinated by the hair stylists on set. I have a huge appreciation for hairdressers and the unique talents that they possess. Creating mixed media sculptures, I can incorporate hair, and having no formal training that guides what can and can’t be done with hair, I have absolute freedom to experiment and play with the medium of hair. My personal hair (outside of Lyle XOX) is very important to me and I am in the salon every two weeks for upkeep. I used to colour it and played around with every colour of the rainbow, and now for the last 10 years I prefer to just embrace the natural and not hide all the grey that is marking its territory on my head!

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Tell us about your book. And what are some upcoming projects to look out for? Rizzoli just published a collection of my work (which was released in March). Fabien Baron and his team did the art direction for it, and the designers Viktor & Rolf wrote the foreword. Working with this group of individuals has been an absolute dream come true. Not only having a book, but having collaborated with people and companies that I have looked up to and admired for many years was truly a bucket list moment for me. It was a labour of love, and I am so thrilled that the reception of the book has been so positive. I feel incredibly grateful.

There is a documentary coming out on July 20th that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has produced about my life/work. It will air in Canada, and after a year will be able to be released to other channels on a global scale. I am working on my first solo art exhibition that is on Sept. 7th (a collection of 25 large scale prints.) And am in discussion with Bergdorf Goodman for more collaborations (I created two windows for them in March to celebrate the book launch) and now will be doing more. Also, more masterclass presentations and more book signings and other things that are on the horizon. Not enough hours in the day – never a dull moment.

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Credits

Mixed Media Portraits Lyle XOX Reimer
Interview Katharina Lina

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