More than color, shape or subject, art for Blair Maffris is meant to make people stop and think.
Though he has his own ideas and inspirations behind putting paint on the canvas or sculpting a piece of rock, the 34-year Webb art teacher wants his work to inspire unique thoughts and reflection in each person who looks at it.
“My pieces are visually complex,” he said. “I like to think of my works as objects of contemplation.”
Maffris’ art incorporates different textures and shapes, often incorporating themes from nature. He gets much of his inspiration from the textures of rocks, the paths of rivers, and other land forms viewed from high above.
Maffris said his favorite and most common source for inspiration is sand, which he uses in almost all of his work. He uses the material to create textures, layer it in sculptures, create receptacles for it out of wood, stone and bronze and enhance his installations.
“Sand is beautiful. It’s everywhere it’s throughout the universes. You go to Venus and it’s there,” he said. “It’s a very elemental thing and it reflects the passage of time. It’s always shifting and changing and it’s the product of weathering of rock. It’s very primal.”
Maffris also translates the tangibility of artwork into his teaching, stressing the need for both mental and physical engagement with art. Making art is an intellectual process.
“I’m a really big advocate of people learning to work with their hands,” he said. “I think there’s a connection between the development of human intelligence and working with your hands. Having young people work with their hands gets them away from the computer and actually doing something.”
Though he has shown in some local galleries, most of Maffris’ work can be found in office buildings, private residences and even around Webb. Maffris said he likes the idea of art being something people see around them every day – not just in a museum.
“I like the idea that my work affects you just like a piece of music affects you,” he said. “I know hundreds of people are seeing my pieces every day and it’s a good feeling.
Always stressing art’s physical influence, Maffris said he is especially intrigued by a painting’s relationship with the space around it. He especially enjoys working with his son, who is an architect, to create artwork that becomes part of a building’s makeup.
“A good painting isn’t something that just hangs over the couch,” he said, “but it alters the space.”
Whether it’s in the hallway of a Webb dormitory or on the side of a building in downtown Los Angeles, Maffris wants his art to begin with his brush, but continue with a life of its own.
“A painting can be more of a gateway to your own thoughts,” he said. “A painting takes on its own life after it leaves the artist. A lot of times people look at it and they see something that the artist doesn’t see.”