More Than a Well-Made Classical Subject

There is a lot of superb contemporary realism being made these days; this article by Allison Malafronte shines light on a gifted individual.

Contemporary realism - MEGAN (MAE) READ, "Just Keep on Walking," 2020, oil on linen, 48 x 30 in., 33 Contemporary Gallery, Chicago
MEGAN (MAE) READ, “Just Keep on Walking,” 2020, oil on linen, 48 x 30 in., 33 Contemporary Gallery, Chicago

The paintings of MEGAN (MAE) READ (b. 1982) offer dreamy, melancholic escapism in a world that is more multi-dimensional and complicated than meets the eye. These weighty paintings, which usually feature a nude female form with metaphorical meaning, are more than just well-made classical subjects.

As the artist explains, they offer a place of reprieve and contemplation, not only for viewers but also for herself. “The tensions, contradictions, and complexities of simply existing here and now often seem too big, too dissonant, and too surreal for me to grasp,” says Read. “My attempts to paint them are my way of trying to find an order in things and often lead to these layered portraits. I try to use the work as an avenue for reduced noise in a chaotic time and an opportunity to slow down and pause. To breathe.”

Read has been an artist from a young age. She grew up in rural Virginia and could usually be found sketching and drawing the farmland and woodlands surrounding her. In her 20s, she began working in the design and tech industry.

She later moved to Los Angeles, but after a few years she felt called back to her home state, and, after several more years as a designer and front-end developer, she also felt called back to her first love, painting. In 2017 Read decided to dedicate the rest of her career to it, and she has since become internationally recognized by exhibiting in museums and galleries. Her highly sensitive nature and nuanced ability to observe closely lend themselves to this vocation and the imaginative realist style she has chosen.

The painting illustrated above is emblematic of many of Read’s works and her motivation for creating them. “’Just Keep on Walking’ represents the journey through this interstitial space between our beginning and our death,” she explains.

“It is, in fact, about finding, walking, and often stumbling along that path. The lamb, to me, represents the vulnerable self and also walking this path gently, with empathy for ourselves and others. Where we are traveling is still unclear to me. I am unsure of a god in any traditional sense. I am unsure of many things. This is what it is to me, but I also like that people with a more religious background might have a different association.

“In fact, while I was painting this, a song I hadn’t heard in years kept repeating in my head, the chorus of which goes: ‘God, give me strength to keep on walking; God, give me strength to keep on, keep on.’”

This article was originally published in Fine Art Connoisseur magazine (January/February 2021). Megan (Mae) Read has also been featured as our contemporary realism Ambassador of the Week here at Realism Today. Connect with the artist at:

> Visit (Publisher of Realism Today) to learn about opportunities for artists and art collectors, including:

  • Art retreats
  • International art trips
  • Art conventions
  • Art workshops (in person and online)
  • And more!