LyleXOX Gives New Life to Discarded Objects Through Art
Cher follows him on Instagram, and you should too.
August 29, 2018
“Literally as we’re speaking, I have an X-acto knife in my hand,” Lyle Reimer (LyleXOX) says over the phone on a busy Monday morning from his Vancouver studio. “I’m taking apart a very old used soccer ball that was just sent to me the day before yesterday.”
The creation process never stops for this mixed media self-portrait artist, who has gotten majorly internet famous (94.7K followers on Instagram, a recent photo shoot with Jeremy Scott and Moschino for Vogue Italia) for making elaborate headpieces from found objects and recycled garbage using a seemingly endless list of random items: an old housecoat from his grandmother, laundry detergent bottles, orthodontic gear—and the list goes on. Each look, a mélange of textiles, makeup and detritus, also always embodies some sort of inspirational character complete with a rich and elaborate backstory (“In my senior year I was voted ‘Least likely to be drafted into a major league sports team,'” reads the caption under Reimer modelling a deconstructed baseball glove headdress and nose piece). Stumbling across Reimer’s LyleXOX Instagram account can be a confusing and happy accident—where does this come from, what am I looking at, what is he doing and why would someone ever glue lightbulbs or a FedEx package to their head? Read on for Reimer’s answers to all this and more.
From Makeup to Mixed-Media Masterpieces
A makeup artist by trade, Reimer first started fooling around with the form of art when he was a little kid. Back then, around grade two or three, it was mostly clown makeup and that sort of thing–an ongoing experimentation that made Halloween his favourite time of the year. And after living in Cuba for a year post high school, where he taught visual art at a culture house, his soul searching always led him back to the art. He realized he wanted to do something he really loved and had always been passionate about so, shortly after returning to his small hometown in Saskatchewan, he applied to makeup schools in Vancouver.
“That would have been in 1999,” he shared. “I’ve basically been doing makeup since then, like professionally–a little over 18 years.”
At Blanche MacDonald, where he attended makeup school, he saw value in learning all the technical aspects of makeup. As the classic saying goes: once you know all the rules, you then have permission to break them–and he loves breaking all the rules.
He brought this rebellious outlook with him to his career at MAC, where he worked for 16 years. There, at the pro store on Robson Street and the office in Yaletown, he had plenty opportunity to communicate with others, practice his craft, play around with product, and learn to standout in all the best and most creative ways possible.
Once you know all the rules, you then have permission to break them–and he loves breaking all the rules.
These days, Reimer dedicates himself to LyleXOX full-time, which was a big change for him. He only just left his career in artistry and development at MAC in January of this year, as it was becoming increasingly difficult to balance all his creative tasks. MAC is still a big supporter of Lyle and his career, but lucky for us–we now get a broader glimpse into his creative lifestyle that he continues to remain humble and grateful toward.
As he prepares to cross more off his bucket list, appearing on screen, paper and large canvas prints in his near future, Reimer may also be exploring the streets of New York City as the deadlines for his book approach. His top-secret-titled book will be a coffee table-style collection of his work published by Rizzoli in March of next year. Fabien Baron (Baron and Baron) designed the cover and designers Viktor & Rolf wrote the forward for the book, which the Vancouver-based artist feels greatly honoured for.
Equally important conversations are also taking place about his work being featured in galleries and museums internationally, and a documentary being filmed about his life will feature it all as it comes together simultaneously. The documentary follows the creation of the book, and will also show Reimer in his Saskatchewan hometown to film Thanksgiving at his parent’s house, where he hasn’t visited in about eight years (though his mother has continuously been a huge support in his life).
Rise to Insta-Fame
It all happened very quickly. Within a year of posting his work to Instagram, Reimer began receiving attention from big celebrities in the industry–something he still describes as flattering and very surreal. Gaining attention from name’s like Cher (yes, THE Cher), B. Åkerlund (fashion activist who has styled Madonna, Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé) and Vogue Italia opened up many doors for him all around the world—from Japan to Paris to London.
“Travelling all over and meeting amazing people–it’s definitely my favourite thing about what I do. It’s just really incredible to meet people who are likeminded and to hear their stories or to watch them work or collaborate with them. It’s very enlightening.”
As Reimer finds inspiration in these collaborations, people feel connected by contributing to his work. He receives boxes of garbage and cool, random pieces from fans that like knowing they can contribute to his art. When it comes to his family and friends, they are constantly collecting too. Reimer himself always has a bag with him during his travels in case he picks up something that is interesting in colour, copy or material that he knows could be used somewhere down the road.
The Method Isn’t Just in the Makeup
With his work as LyleXOX, Reimer doesn’t refer to his creations as “makeup.” Yeah, there’s makeup involved, but he doesn’t see makeup art as the main mode of transportation. It’s more like a vehicle to get the end result.
Beginning the process with makeup (getting rid of his eyebrows and putting on a foundation) gives Lyle a blank canvas from which to get inspiration–an empty road that leads to whichever direction he chooses. He never really knows what he’s going to do when he begins, he just stares at his reflection among the many creations around him in his studio until inspiration forms from a piece.
“You just have to trust your artistic instincts to create the piece knowing that it will form the way it’s supposed to form,” says Reimer. “To just allow that to happen and to trust every move that you’re making is going to be the right move.”
In developing his own process, he gives new meaning to mundane objects of everyday life that have been discarded–objects in which others saw no perceived value. By being open to seeing things in a new light, the artist proves inspiration can come from everywhere and that perceivably worthless “junk” can become something beautiful.
Those beautiful sculptures allow Reimer to take on a different identity each time–creating character stories that he falls deeply in love with in the moment, making it hard to choose any favourites.
As a Pisces, inherently a water sign, Reimer easily finds inspiration by being in the water. As he sits in the shower removing the remnants of LyleXOX to become Lyle Reimer again, he thinks about who the character of that look is going to be.
“I only know it’s done when I find myself kind of laughing. And then once I find it funny, then I’m like, ‘Well someone out there will find it funny as well.’ So, that’s where I go from,” he laughs. His eccentric character creations are an important part of the art, in which they are not complete without.
Finding Your Voice
He was right about one thing: someone out there did find it funny. Actually, many someones found it funny among inspiring, intriguing and strikingly imaginative. He now has close to hundreds of thousands of people laughing along with him and appreciating his masterpieces of art and wit–spreading his one-of-a-kind aesthetic across a large audience of admirers.
“This is my life and I can’t imagine doing anything else but this,” he shares. “The challenge right now, to be transparent with you, is trying to have enough hours in the day to do everything because it’s a lot of work.”
Though there never seems to be enough time in a day, Reimer makes the most of it by constantly producing work. Upcoming deadlines for his book definitely aren’t stopping him from creating new looks or taking stunning photos on a daily basis (all of which he does himself). Plus, travel in itself is a huge inspirational tool as he constantly looks through books and magazines and immerses himself into other cultures to open his eyes to different things. After all, the sum of our parts and subjective life experiences are what make us who we truly are–and add to creating our unique artistic voice.
“Once you have your own voice in your art form, whatever that may be–then really stick to that,” Reimer shares confidently. “Develop that and nurture that voice. Otherwise, you just start looking like everybody else.”
As time continues to tick away, there’s still so much the Vancouver artist wants to do that continues to motivate him every day. Now, he knows they are all possible–no matter how crazy an idea may seem (like successfully turning trash into treasure).
“The things that you thought were never even attainable or achievable–you realize they actually are. You just have to work very hard and be very dedicated to your craft, to the mission, and then things happen.”