Defining Identity with Self-Portrait Artist Lyle Reimer


“It really is beyond the realm of makeup,” Lyle Reimer tells CR, speaking about the avant-garde self-portraits he creates. For each of the mixed media sculptures, Reimer blends elements of art, fashion, and makeup. His face acts as the foundation for his artwork, where he places carefully selected found objects and applies theatrical makeup. Reimer becomes unrecognizable under his work, and yet, when his various so-called self-portraits are taken as a collection, like in his soon-to-be released portrait book Lyle XOX: Head of Design, his artistic style and hand are unmistakable.

The book, which catalogues many of Reimer’s mixed media collages and facial sculptures, displays his limitless imagination and unfettered talent. Through the visually transformative process of creating his facial sculptures, Reimer becomes Lyle XOX, establishing himself as an entirely unique and imaginative artist with original personas created for every facial sculpture.

The line between art and artist are especially blurred for Reimer. Because he is a physical part of his art, the Canadian artist has had to grapple with this question of boundaries as he gains more attention in the fashion and art worlds. On Instagram, where he’s gained over 130K followers, he’s just purely Lyle XOX. His own visage remains shrouded beneath the layers of makeup and found objects that construct his sculptures–including scraps and even unused product sent straight from designer ateliers like Moschino and Gucci–making his art the only way through which his audience encounters the artist.

Not only is Reimer mediating between identifying himself as the creator from the creations, but also the type of artist for which he wants to be recognized. After 16 years working at MAC, first in the training department and then in artist relations, Reimer easily claimed the title of makeup artist. His past projects, including a children’s book and a collaboration with a beverage company, allowed Reimer to gain recognition for his self-portraits and personal creative work. However, he began rethinking his artist’s statement and decided to drop the makeup prefix and “live as an artist,” he says. The makeup remains an important component to his artwork, but the sculptures are mixed media, after all.

“Although I use makeup as a vehicle to get from point A to point B, it’s not the main source of transportation,” he says. “So it’s so much more heavily involved in terms of the sculptural pieces and all of the facial adornments that I create.”

Identity also comes into play as Reimer builds individual personas for all of his self-portraits. Along with each creation, Reimer goes through a stream-of-consciousness process to build a character for each of his sculptures, which come together as succinct and clever Instagram captions that share the “biographies.” Ascribing these caricature-like personalities to each sculpture is a part of the art, according to Reimer. For him, crafting the quippy stories for characters like Glays Molebec, a “business owner and spiritual guide for the St. Posturepedic Parish” who is distinguished by facial contours made out from strips of memory foam, is one of the final steps in his artistic process.

The avant-garde nature of Reimer’s self-portraits, coupled with their eccentric, collage-like aesthetic and the theatrics of their personas, has attracted the attention of fashion industry names, including Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren of Viktor&Rolf (who wrote Head of Design’s foreword), Jeremy Scott, Gucci, and most recently, Bergdorf Goodman. It’s the latter for which Reimer recently installed two windows on 5th Avenue in celebration of his book release that are currently on view: Lyle XOX: Head of Design

Lyle XOX: Head of Design by Lyle Reimer, designed by Fabien Baron, and published by Rizzoli New York will be released in April 2019.


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