Artist shares work with all of Pinedale

Joy Ufford photo

PINEDALE – Max Mahn is one of those lucky people whose family supported and even enabled his artistic growth, from spray-painting expressive rubbery faces inspired by train-car graffiti as a teen to a windowless shed for a studio.

Mahn, who worked with Pinedale High School art students this month to teach them about silk-screening and art, gave a short presentation and displayed his original event posters on Friday, Oct. 22 to a couple dozen people.

He recalled being fascinated by the spray-painted graffiti designs seen on trains rolling through his hometown of Missoula, Montana, and in high school he “painted a lot.”

“Probably thousands of dollars of paint,” he said. “Spray paint. My parents were very supportive.”

Mahn designed stickers, learned block/printmaking and as he “tried to work faster, not harder,” his mother helped him create his first screen print. He trained himself to work with two colors, and added more. Someone gave him the book, Art of Modern Rock: The Poster Explosion, and Mahn was immediately enthralled with psychedelic concert posters of the 1960s and ‘70s.

“That’s what I want to do, I want to make fun things,” he decided.

While working at a shirt shop, he began crafting “gig posters” – emailing band managers to offer concert posters for next to nothing and building up a portfolio. He began making money and transformed a shed into a studio, where he pours everything into his work.

Mahn listens to the music for inspiration, sketches several “third-grade drawings” and sends them off. The band picks one, or suggests something entirely different.

“Bands have an image to represent,” he said. He often references the 60s and 70s with fonts, designs and colors or comes up with his own weird, sometimes unattractive concepts. He might trace over an element to save time. He works and reworks and every poster is “pulled” by hand.

“I draw in ink on a paper, scan it in and start to plan where to place colors,” he said. “I do it on the computer, messing with colors until I get a final design.”

Life was great until March 11, 2020, when his concert poster for the next night became obsolete with COVID shutdowns and cancelations. Still, Missoula was “very good to me,” he said, with jobs coming in for “a weird drive-in theater show,” online concerts – and most recently the artist’s residency at Pinedale High School.

“These kids were so energetic and involved with everything,” Mahn commented. “Who’d a thought I’d come to Pinedale, Wyoming and print with a bunch of kids?”

Joy Ufford photo