Margaret Garrett is an American artist and dancer whose abstract paintings and videos explore movement, shape, rhythm, and the unfolding of contrapuntal patterns. Born in North Carolina and raised in Pennsylvania, she grew up training to be a dancer. At the age of sixteen, she left home to join the Pennsylvania Ballet and later danced with the Cleveland Ballet as a soloist. In her early twenties, she discovered painting, finding something spiritually akin to dance in the movement of line and color and from that time on her focus has been on visual art.
Garrett’s approach to painting is strongly influenced by her early training in dance. “When I begin working on a new piece, I see the paper or canvas as an empty stage and the line as movement. Texture, form, the way that colors interact, all are different manifestations of motion, rhythm, and energy.”
Garrett continues to be fascinated by patterns—rhythm, movement, line, and the interplay of shapes. While abstract, her work can at times evoke shapes and patterns found in nature. She often works in ongoing series, developing a language and following it as it morphs and evolves. Some of her series are more driven by mark making and layers of color, and in others the shapes and the way they interplay are the dynamic force, but in all her work there’s a preoccupation with movement and the overall music of the piece.
In 2017, Garrett started dancing again, filming herself dancing and using clips from that footage to create choreographed, collaged videos and prints. This began as a quest to find new shapes for her paintings, but quickly evolved into a rediscovery of her first love, dance, and a way to incorporate that into her art.
“I have become fascinated with the visual language that this combination of technology and the moving body creates. In my videos, I use my body as a paintbrush to draw and create shapes. Then, I use the filmic editing process to ‘choreograph’ what essentially becomes a visual collage: a self-portrait dance, working with the same compositional elements as my paintings. I realized that I had stopped dancing for many years, internalizing the cultural cue we give to women as they age—to take up less space, to become increasingly invisible. In making these self-portrait pieces, I am following in a tradition of women artists who have used photography and video as a way to explore their identity and claim control over their image. With this work, I am pushing back against the societal norm of invisibility, as I believe that this is actually a powerful time in a woman’s life and one that deserves to be celebrated.”
Margaret Garrett’s work has been exhibited in solo and group shows in galleries and museums across the United States and is held in numerous private and corporate collections in the United States and Europe. Museum collections include the Parrish Art Museum and Guild Hall Museum. She currently lives and maintains a studio on Shelter Island, NY.