You wouldn’t be wrong if you called Lyle Reimer a make-up artist… technically. He is technically a make-up artist. And, yes, he technically works at MAC Cosmetics’ artistry and development program in Vancouver. However, after a cursory perusal of Reimer’s Instagram account, and after learning that he alone styles each and every portrait (these, ladies and gentlemen, are decidedly not selfies) from the make-up, to the wigs, to the accessories fashioned from the detritus of everyday life, one cannot help come to the conclusion that Lyle Reimer is a visual artist… period.
His work has been compared to Cindy Sherman’s, and though his multiplicity of characters contain an undeniable Shermanesque quality, Reimer relishes glamour and beauty (whether that beauty is at times classic, garish, macabre, or comes with a side of fries) in a way Sherman does not. He is above all else an esthete searching for the sublime in everyday life and transforming it into beautiful portraits that contain a haunting immediacy.
What sparked your interest and passion for makeup?
My Aunt, who I absolutely adore, was my cultural influence and being the world traveler that she was, always brought back a larger world view to my small town roots. She worked as a makeup artist and also worked in the fashion arena in a multitude of roles. She would come to our home during breaks from work and share the most inspiring stories to my siblings and me.
I remember seeing her makeup bags filled with Chanel and felt like I had died and gone to heaven! She saw my keen interest in her craft and nurtured that spark through demos of all sorts. To this day I feel so much gratitude towards her and her ability to be such a source of inspiration to the small town boy I was.
How did your work on Instagram develop? Have there been any changes in your life due to the recent explosion of your social media presence?
The work on Instagram came as a direct result of a training that I was part of rolling out in our region. The exercise was about getting the artists to think outside of the box and challenge themselves creatively. I figured that if I was going to tell them to do it, I was going to lead by example and just go all out! I began the “5 day challenge”, and I [received so much feedback that it] turned into a “55 day challenge”. As time went on, it became a drug for me and every waking moment (when I wasn’t in the office) was an opportunity to be creating or planning a look. I feel so incredibly grateful for Instagram. It has given me a platform for my art and has allowed me to reach people who I never dreamed that I would be able to reach. When Gucci contacted me and asked me to be part of their “Guccigram Project”, stating that Alessandro Michele had given his stamp of approval on my work, I had to hold back the tears. I truly feel thrilled that people are interested in all the crazy that goes on in my mind on a daily basis.
Would you call your work on Instagram selfies or portraits? Walk us through your creative process. Where do you find inspiration?
I refer to what I do as self portraits. I spend most of my time when I am away from my 9-5 job, working in my studio space. I am constantly creating accessories, or styling wigs or making some form of facial adornment. Then when I have a day off, I will go into the studio and begin the look. I have no real plan or map of what I am doing, I just let it happen and trust in my instincts. What I have learned through all of this is to never doubt your intuition; it will always lead you to a good place (however insane that might be). I listen to lots of fun music. I may occasionally have a glass of wine. Inspiration comes from the most mundane things in life. It can be from a simple tube of toothpaste or it can be something fashion related like the color palette from the latest Marni collection. I believe that inspiration is all around us, we just need to tune into it and never put boundaries on what may or may not be beautiful. Because I work with mostly found objects, friends and family and my partner are constantly bringing me bags of “garbage” for my creations, and that too serves as a wealth of inspiration.
Do you view makeup only as an artistic medium or do you also
wear it in your everyday life?
Makeup for me is an art form, and in terms of everyday life… I only use it to cover blemishes when I’m working. Outside of M.A.C, I prefer to just be totally natural. People on Instagram think of me as this club kid or drag performer, and really that couldn’t be further from the truth. I remember making a top 20 list for club kids in NY and I just burst out laughing, because the only time I go out in disguise is for Halloween!
We’ve seen you identified in a few publications as a “Drag makeup artist”, is this how you self-identify or do you eschew labels? Is there a Drag icon that has most influenced you?
I have never thought of what I do as drag. Although I use that hashtag in my posts, it is merely to attract people that I feel would appreciate the theatrics of my looks. I want to be known as an artist, that’s all. I don’t take offense to the references of “she” or “drag”, because people will always want to categorize what they are viewing into something that relates to their schema. I don’t have a drag icon, but I do appreciate drag performers who continue to push the envelope as to what drag can be.
Who are your favorite designers (living or otherwise)?
I love Consuelo Castiglioni, Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, Riccardo Tisci, Dries Van Noten and Miucci Prada
Favorite iconic editorial shoot, a movie, an artist, a book.
One of my all time favorite editorial shoots was “Wasted Luxury” shot by Steven Meisel for Vogue Italia in March of 2011. I also loved “Mad Magic” shot by Steven Klein for Vogue Italia in 2004. One of my all time favorite movies is “Sound of Music”, and a complete opposite film that I love is “Misery”. I love the work of Wangechi Mutu, a collage artist who creates beautiful and gruesome work and takes me to a surreal place. I’m not a big book guy, but I am a big fan of Simon Doonan and his “Confessions of a Window Dresser” is one that I just adore!!!
What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
I feel turned on by people, artists, and creators in general who are so incredibly passionate about what they do (in whatever forum that may be) that one can’t help but pause and take in their incredible extension of self. People who are authentic and who dance to their own drum keep me in constant pursuit of what that looks like for me and how I can continue to do the things that feel intrinsically like “Lyle”. I’m a romantic at heart and feel so inspired by the concept of love and how we express love to one another on this planet. I feel lucky enough to be in a 16 year relationship with someone who I feel accepts all of me and for whom I feel so blessed to have in my life. He maintains that he is my biggest fan (though, my mom would probably challenge him on that one), and he gives me the ability to explore all the crazy ventures that my heart desires.
When/where have you been at your happiest?
I am happiest when I am with my loved ones. I live for those heart to heart connecting moments, and so any time or place that those moments are present I feel recharged and incredibly grateful for each of them. I have met amazing people throughout my life and owe so much to all of them who have shaped me.