Contemporary figurative art - Megan Read -
Detail of "Faith" (below) by Megan (Mae) Elizabeth Read

Meet this week’s top Realism Today Ambassador, Megan Elizabeth Read.

Megan (Mae) Elizabeth Read (b. 1982) is an American figurative artist living and working in Charlottesville, Virginia. Largely self-taught, she now works almost exclusively in oil, with pieces ranging from small still lifes to large-scale paintings focusing on the female form.

Mae has exhibited nationally in both group and solo shows and was included in “Painting Today/Pintando Hoy” at the Museum of Modern Art (MEAM) in Barcelona, Spain, and the ANJE at the Wausau Museum of Contemporary Art in 2019. Her work is held in a number of private collections, has been included in various publications, and won the first place award for Imaginative Realism at the 2019 International Art Renewal Center Salon.

Figurative Art - Megan Read -
Megan (Mae) Elizabeth Read, “Resistance Resilience,” 2017, oil on canvas, 60 x 48 in.

Over the last few years I have been exploring primarily the concepts of expansion, contraction, vulnerability, protection, and the unwinding of self.

This painting was conceived primarily as a conversation about creating and retaining vulnerability, warmth, and softness during dark times or when under duress. It speaks of the yearning for connection when the impulse is to turn inward, of our often conflicting urges.

Contemporary figurative art - Megan Read -
Megan (Mae) Elizabeth Read, “Faith,” 2019, oil on linen, 84 x 60 in.

My newest paintings, including “Faith,” focus on a phase of withdrawal, turning inward, and incubation. This particular painting is about coming to the decision that the life you have made may no longer be for you, and sitting with the possibilities. It’s about the time in between and preparing to leap from “THIS” into the unknown and a new phase of life. As with previous work, it is in some ways an aspirational portrait of multiple selves: where you are, where you want to be, and all of the you’s that constantly coexist.

Contemporary realism - Megan Read -
Megan (Mae) Elizabeth Read, “Layers,” 2018, oil on panel, 36 x 48 in.

“Layers” was created along with three others and was part of a larger narrative, but as a single painting has its own significance. Within the folds of this fabric, there is an onion which is symbolic of revelation. As each layer is peeled away, one comes closer to the truth. So within the layers of fabric, there are the layers of the onion, and deep within that lies the thing for which we are searching.

Learn more about the artist at

Related > Browse portrait and figure workshops in the style of realism here.


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