Margaret Kilgallen aka META / Matokie Slaughter

A couple of weeks ago I watched Beautiful Losers, a short film by Aaron Rose documenting the NYC art and graffiti scene in early 90's and celebrating, "the spirit behind one of the most influential cultural moments of a generation".

There are many talented artists in the film including Shepard Fairey, Barry McGee, Jo Jackson and Mike Mills, but for me it was Margaret Kilgallen's work that really stood out. I had seen some of it before, but had no idea who was behind it. The giant, typographic murals really struck me, they're fantastic - the colours, the scale and the typefaces, I just love them.

Her work was heavily influenced by American folk art which can be seen in the illustrations and colour palettes. She valued craftmanship and loved old hand-painted shop signs, something that clearly inspired her murals.

"I like things that are handmade and I like to see people's hand in the world, anywhere in the world; it doesn't matter to me where it is. And in my own work, I do everything by hand. I don't project or use anything mechanical, because even though I do spend a lot of time trying to perfect my line work and my hand, my hand will always be imperfect because it's human. And I think it's the part that's off that's interesting, that even if I'm doing really big letters and I spend a lot of time going over the line and over the line and trying to make it straight, I'll never be able to make it straight. From a distance it might look straight, but when you get close up, you can always see the line waver. And I think that's where the beauty is."

Margaret did many colaborations with other artists in the film including her husband, Barry Mcgee. She was also a grafitti artist on the freight trains, influenced by Hobo tradition, she worked under the tags 'Meta' and 'Matokie Slaughter'.

Sadly in 2001 Margaret Kilgallen died aged 33 of breast cancer just weeks after giving birth to her daughter, Asha. She was a talented and inspirational artist and I'm so pleased to have found her work. I really want to see it in the flesh and retrospectives do pop up now and again, but until then this Flickr group has a great collection of her work.

Images copyright the authors - from the Margaret Kilgallen Flickr.

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