Meet the artist

Abby Rose Maurer on lines, light and the movement of drunk people

By Eva Buttacavoli

Photo: Artist Abby Rose Maurer in her studio; photo: Eva Buttacavoli

The Swiss artist Paul Klee defined “line” as “a dot out for a walk.”

I’ve been following Abby’s jittery figure drawings only for a few months, but was immediately struck by the confidence of her line. For drawers – and those who love them – the more idiosyncratic, stylized, yet seemingly effortless line made on the paper, the better. For some, drawing this line is innate. When you look at a lot of art you become attuned to which lines come naturally and which come from formal training. The best drawers however, often come from the combo of the natural plus the trained, minus most of the training. This line results in imagery that can be like a glimpse, an impression, a dream – and you marvel how it can capture not necessarily what something looks like, but the idea or essence of the thing.

Abby’s best work merges the figure in an abstract, seemingly careless way. But she reveals both her innate ability and her formal training – with two of our region’s best young drawers Erin Holscher Almazan and Jennifer Rosengarten – in her quick gesture drawings in smooth, chunky charcoal and pastels, often completed on large, inexpensive sheets of paper. You can just imagine her arm moving fluidly, with bold mark-making, not worrying about mistakes.
Maurer grew up in Sidney, Ohio, was a typical kid, into sports and not really into art, but she knew early on she could draw well. She remembered being noticed and pushed by her high school art teacher. She decided to study English and psychology and followed her brother to the University of Dayton, but quickly transferred to art. Her father was an artist at heart, but never pursued it. Recently, she realized how similar her line is to his. 

She graduated in May with her BFA.

An outspoken artist with a sort of free-wheeling gypsy spirit, she is out and about supporting fellow artists, dreaming up collaborations and figuring out her place as an artist living and working in Dayton. She currently works with longtime Dayton-based artist Mike Elsass, helping manage his gallery and studio. Next up, the two are organizing the Stray Light Art Series running concurrently at three locations (Mike Elsass Gallery in The Front Street Warehouse, Rhoads Gallery and Color of Energy) in June and July featuring the work of both Elsass and Maurer, along with Bob Rhoads, Jeffrey Cortland Jones, Darren Haper and Jeff Stapleton.

Maurer just moved her studio into Front Street, located at 1001 E. Second St., and was just getting settled in when I visited her during a sudden downpour in early June.

Tell me about your typical work day?

I work at the studio [Mike Elsass’ Front Street studio] or gallery [Elsass’ Color of Energy] all day. Then I take a break, maybe walk down to the Oregon. Then I come back and work in my studio for about five hours. I like working this way, but I find I need to have certain rituals to separate my work with another artist and my own. – Abby Rose Maurer

How do you choose your subjects?

Many are the models in figure drawing classes and workshops. Some are friends. I also love to sit and sketch people sitting at the bar. Lily’s, Blind Bob’s, Century. I love to draw peoples’ movements and gestures when they’re drunk. – AM

Favorite material to work with?

Charcoal. I love how it feels. When I first touch the paper with it my mark is so hard it always breaks off. But I like it better than compressed. I also like using oil pastels, sometimes nupastels. I like using them and oil paint together. – AM

Work with music or in silence?

I have a few playlists. When I was pulling all-nighters in school I would have friends come sit and talk with me as I painted. But now it’s just me and my music. – AM

Favorite contemporary artists?

Egon Schiele, Michael Mazur, Cecily Brown, Jenny Saville, Alice Neel. – AM

What do you collect?

Art that other artists throw away. Paint that other artists throw away. – AM

If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?

Vincent Van Gogh’s “Café Terrace at Night.” – AM

Is painting dead?

No. In school I was told I was a damn good painter, but to make it as an artist I would get more attention as sculptor. But I am a painter! My painting professor, Jeffrey Cortland Jones, would tack anything on the wall – a napkin, a paint bucket lid – and call it a painting. Like Duchamp said, “painting is a mindset.” I like that. – AM

How is social media changing the art word?

I used to be private, but I’ve found I like getting feedback. People stop me on the street to tell what they think about an image I posted. It’s cool. I’ve also sold pieces directly from posting works in progress on Instagram. – AM

You can view a selection of Abby’s recent figure drawings at Lily’s Bistro, located at 325 E. Fifth St.

For more information about Abby Rose Maurer, please visit her Instagram page, @abbyrosemeow.

A Dayton transplant from Austin, TX, via Miami, Florida and Brooklyn, New York, Eva is Executive Director of the Dayton Visual Arts Center. A curator and arts administrator for over 23 years, she previously served as the first executive director of FilmDayton; the curator/ director of exhibitions and education at the Austin Museum of Art and the director of education at the Miami Art Museum. You can reach her at

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