Toronto-based artist Maxwell Burnstein knows how to work the runway – cutting, pasting, and combining images of the fashion elite into surrealist collages that naturally comment on the politics of the industry. But in his most recent project titled “Crossing Party Lines” on view at W Washington D.C., Burnstein has made politics uniquely fashionable. Collaging images from the American capital’s historic past with photographs of the recent Presidential election, the young creative gives politics an artful twist just in time for the inauguration.
We got real with Burnstein about his new series of collages, his innovative process, and the long lost art of working by hand.
How would you describe the artwork you make?
Maxwell Burnstein: I am an analog collage artist, exploring traditional techniques by hand with an x-acto knife. Layering the single pages of papers I deconstruct into multidimensional forms, the artworks form and space evades traditional perspectives in art and photography. Producing or acquiring third party photography with rights, each series is developed utilizing original source material, ensuring each artwork is authentic. The final artworks are always scanned, formed into a digital state to allow for multiple applications, making my fine art collages accessible in new mediums, from window applications to social media.
How did you start in this medium?
MB: In the last term of my Bachelor of Design at Ryerson University’s School of Fashion in Toronto, Canada’s premier fashion Institute, I undertook a 30-day art challenge. During this time I tasked myself with creating an original artworks everyday and to share it on social media. Within 18 months, my handmade multi-dimensional collages had prompted international artist residencies in New York, Washington D.C. and Thailand, as well as collaborations with leading fashion publications including Elle Magazines, Harper’s Bazaar and digital advertisements with Perry Ellis.
What was the first piece of art you made?
MB: The walls of my room from childhood through university were always covered in analog collages. Transitioning from the pages of publications to sourcing original artworks for my portfolio, my first project was in January 2015 with Elite Models in New York City and their SS show package. Covered by models.com, it helped me pose a stance as Canada’s premier artist to emerge from the fashion industry.
What artist are you currently obsessed with?
MB: Patrick Waugh (@PatrickWaugh) is an analog collage artist, sparking recent attention from his collaborations with Versace’s latest collection, debuting at Milan Fashion Week. He uses blunt edges and has a keen eye for balance in his signature aesthetic, having his own zine called BOYO. He is an artist to follow.
Where can we find you on a Friday night?
MB: You’re not going to find me on the red-carpet or in the booth at the hottest bar, I am in my studio. Career driven to a fault, my laser focus has me solely poised to produce artworks for the numerous exhibits, print publications and fashion brands I work for at any given time. Embarking on the third year of my career, my fast rise to prominence is a reflection of the all-encompassing time I dedicate to my career.
If we’re going to buy you a drink, what should it be?
MB: Vodka Cranberry.
A song you have stuck in your head these days:
MB: James Black’s “Radio Silence” from the album The Color in Anything.
Your favorite city for seeing art?
MB: Paris, France. I’ve made every effort to return time and time again to dive into the changing art culture of Paris.
If you could travel anywhere in the world where would it be?
MB: Iceland. I want to explore the desolate landscapes and natural phenomenons of the growing attraction.
Who’s your style icon?
MB: John Targon (@JohnLovesPineCones), one of the two designers behind luxury street wear line” Baja East”, oozes opulence. Sleek and comfortable clothing coveted by Vogue to Lady GaGa. I had the opportunity to work with Baja East on my first Artist in Residence at W Union Square in June 2016. Working in tandem, the show sparked a friendship with the “so hip it hurts” designer Targon. I enjoy watching him dazzle, a gold Baja East icon always bouncing off his chest, from his base in New York to the global markets he “thrives” in (a signature phrase of the brand.)
What’s an insider tip on a cool artist to check out?
MB: I like to support my fellow artists and help use my platform to grow their audiences. The community of analog artists re-contextualizing art in fashion are few, but each is distinct in style, from Spain’s Pablo Thecuadro (@thecuadro) to the California’s Patrick Keohane (@RevolvingStyle).