What's a Big-Matto? / by Meg Saligman

My site-specific art is typically made of paint, glass, light, buildings and people. This remains true in FIGMAGO, an immersive art installation created in collaboration with Brian Sanders.  For this work, the site is my own studio and it includes a tour which, much like the artistic process, progresses in unexpected direction. You begin your experience by learning about the “behind the scenes” of the making of a mural, but before you realize it, you have moved from a passive observer to a participant.  You walk through an artist’s closet, leaving standard practice behind as you find yourself immersed in the mind of an artist.


In case you were wondering, FIGMAGO is a word that came out of the brain of Brian Sanders, one of my favorite artists ever and anywhere. Last Spring, Brian and I were brainstorming in the space that would eventually become FIGMAGO (then it was my empty studio garage). The garage door was still open to the outside and two elderly women walked by on the sidewalk using their grocery carts as walkers. They seemed quite curious as they stopped and looked at us. Brian called to them, “Hey, do you know what a FIGMAGO is?”

The louder of the two ladies responded, “WHAT? What’s a big-matto?”

Brian and I laughed and he prodded on, “What if I invited you to see it? Would you come?”

The ladies looked at one another and the louder one again answered back, “Sure- we would like to see it- but what is it?”

Test balloon released successfully- Brian seemed quite sure FIGMAGO was something we needed to make.

figmago-006 (1).jpg.jpeg

It's incredibly fun bringing people into our studio space for an immersive art installation, it's super thrilling that people can't quite figure out how to describe what they have experienced after they visit. For so many years Meg Saligman Studio has been traveling out into the public interacting with people places and things all over the world. It seems thrilling and somehow risky to now take this practice in the other direction by bringing the public into my own shop. In a traditional studio tour, the public has the tendency to view the artists’ studio as they would animals at the zoo: you admire their elegance, perhaps inquiring to your tour guide about the lives they lead, but there is always a separation between your world and theirs.

At FIGMAGO, however, we have decided to go about this process a bit differently. We have removed the separation, cordially invite you to come into our studio and play with us.

The largely sold out run of FIGMAGO Alive this past Summer and Fall has been a blast. I never get sick of seeing visitors delightfully surprised, and ultimately content with their experience. OK... there were a couple bad spells of claustrophobia, a minor kick in the face from a rowdy table dance and a few guests who came out of the performance a bit wetter than they’d have liked, but those little hiccups were Brian’s fault, not mine. Having our visual art working space filled with actors and performers was a blessing, a unique cross collaboration.

FIGMAGO-Email Insert.jpg.jpeg

We hereby reserve a space for engagement and beauty within our studio walls. Is holding and tending this place something that will benefit the outside community we have been trying to influence for all of these years? I believe it will. Sharing our studio with a generosity of spirit while holding an intention of access for all is what we aim to do.

FIGMAGO will live to see another day as it continues through the Fall of 2018 and beyond.  We hope to see you again or soon as we continue to morph and create in an artists’ space. I am excited to see where FIGMAGO takes us as it fulfills one of the core tenants of Meg Saligman Studio: mutual benefit.

Mutuality of reward is essential in successful transformation and collaboration. In this immersive experience, our work alters and grows from your participation and support. You celebrate, learn and enjoy the artists’ space. We exchange, create, observe, have a blast and, if the magic is right, we transform together.