Attempting to define “art” in a group of people can often lead to a heated debate similar to discussing religion or politics. For some, art is something that is hung in a frame on the wall of a gallery or museum. To others, art can be the mundane details of everyday life, like blinking or the way hair collects in a drain. Regardless of your personal definition of art – it’s impossible to look at Lyle Reimer’s body of work without respecting the skill, technique, and creativity of his artistry.
Lyle Reimer is the mastermind behind the hugely popular Instagram account @Lylexox. Here, the artist paints, glues, sculpts, trims, shades, and ultimately poses to create snapshots of highly intricate, unique characters. Basically his artwork is like the the club-kid Michael Alig version of Cindy Sherman…minus all the murder.
By day, Reimer works in Artist Training and Development for MAC makeup brand, teaching makeup artists around the world how to create the brand’s innovative looks. By night, he transforms his face into a canvas, utilizing makeup, paint, wigs, and a wide array of found objects. Each mixed-media art creation is then photographed before being immediately washed away, leaving only photos and specs of glitter behind. He then crafts witty backstories for the characters before posting them to Instagram. Aside from Halloween, Reimer keeps his characters to the confines of his own home.
His artwork combines painting, multi-media sculpting, and photography, and leverages the exposure one can only gain on social media. Forever excited by someone who transitions their creativity from hobby to career, we asked Lyle a few questions about his artwork…and what he plans to dress as for Halloween.
Q: Where does your inspiration come from?
A: Inspiration comes from the most random things. It can be a color or a shape, or the mood of a song I’m listening to. […] I like the idea of referencing fashion but using totally mundane objects of everyday life to create a picture. I find a lot of inspiration in channel surfing as well. I like flipping through channels really quickly, and allowing my brain to piece the visual fragments into something whole. Truly, at the end of the day, inspiration is constant for me, and I always remain open to any and all triggers.
Q: Do you sketch the characters first or do you just have a crazy collection of objects laying around to play with?
A: I don’t sketch things out because I feel it limits the experience and part of the fun for me is the journey of creating the look. It’s hours and hours of makeup, and styling, and playing to achieve the final look. I only stop once I feel the picture is complete.
I play great music while I’m working in the studio, have occasional spontaneous dance breaks (don’t judge), and really just let the look evolve. I am always in my studio creating a headpiece or some form of accessory, or styling wigs – so when I have a day off from my 9-5 then I have lots of items to choose from.
My studio is filled with so much color and randomness that even that physical space inspires me.
Q: Do you only use MAC products? Do they support your artwork and provide you with free materials?
A: I use mostly MAC, but there are some other brands that have made their way into my collection. Also, brands are now sending me products to use so it’s a great way to see what all is out there. MAC also sends me cool products when I’m doing shoots or special projects (which is always so helpful, and is done at a moments notice!)
Q: Do you really create these characters and then just wash them off?
A: Yes, I take hundreds of pictures to capture the look and then immediately go to the shower to wash it all off. It’s during the time in the shower that I can think about the look and begin to create the story/character to accompany it.
It’s funny, sometimes when I’m at the hair dresser, she’ll have this inquisitive look in her eyes and then cautiously ask, “uh, Lyle you have something stuck to the back of your ear…” Then it’s always this awkward moment trying to explain what’s going on. I think by now she just expects to find large amounts of glitter sticking to my ears.
Q: Have you ever damaged your skin creating a character?
A: Yes my skin takes a beating on the regular! Recently, I was in Amsterdam shooting a 14 page editorial (coming out next month) and I had glued children’s orthodontic headgear to my chin. After they had got the picture, I was in such a hurry to clean off and start the next look that I just ripped it off. Apparently the adhesive had really done its job that time, and so I was left with a small cluster of broken blood vessels on my chin! Painful, but nothing that makeup couldn’t cover.
Q: Who are three of your favorite characters that you’ve created?
A: I love the Basquiat look, the “piñata’s [sic] made from back issues of vogue”, The Chanel meets Barnum and Bailey, and the recent “Favorite Colour Peach” look. But honestly, it’s hard to pick because each one at the time felt like a little celebration and I have thoroughly enjoyed doing each and every one!
Q: Have you been commissioned to work with a lot of photographers, stylists, or fashion brands?
A: Instagram has opened up a whole new world! I was commissioned to work on a children’s book with Bea Akerlund (Madonna’s long-time stylist) that will be released soon. I’ve had media interest from all over the world – I will be in CANDY magazine (which we shot in Amsterdam), and am going to Munich in December to shoot for Tush Magazine.
Celebrities and Fashion industry individuals “like” and follow my work (Vogue, Proenza Schouler, Beth Ditto, Edward Enninful, Eugene Souleiman, Cher, etc.). And at the end of this month, a luxury Italian fashion house (who has asked to be strictly confidential) will be sharing a collaboration we did.
Honestly, I feel so incredibly grateful and honored that people are interested in my work and want to sit down with me to discuss my art. At times I get incredibly overwhelmed with emotion. People have been so kind with their words that it reminds me of just how many lovely people there are in this world!
Q: Your website says you also do multi-media art, how does it differ from what we can see on you Instagram?
A: I consider what I do in terms of “makeup” to be multi-media, but I also paint large portraits that are multi-media. I use acrylic paint and aspects of magazine collage, beads and sand, as well as pen and ink.
Q: Ideally where would you like your creativity to take you?
A: I would like to be showing in galleries; an exhibition of large scale Lyle xox images with pieces from my studio (like earrings and headpieces, etc.) to accompany the exhibition. I also want to have a coffee table book of my work and am currently looking for a publishing house.
I see myself being a freelance artist and art director lending my hand to a variety of projects… Anything from fashion collaborations to magazine editorials, to window design for luxury retailers. I just love to create, and want to live my life in a way that continues to push me and stretch my creative arena!
Q: Finally, what are you going to be for Halloween??
A: My partner and I will be going to LA for the week of Halloween (it’s a yearly tradition), and going to the street party in West Hollywood. This year we decided to go as Punk Pradalators (punk-meets-PRADA-meets-gladiators). We spend months planning and creating and just love the entire experience!
If you’ve never checked out Lyle’s Instagram, I strongly recommend a scroll through. The characters he creates with makeup and found objects are seriously impressive, and his short bios about each are hilarious. Social media has propelled many people to internet fame, but Lyle is someone who truly deserves it.