Lyle Reimer is far from your typical makeup artist. In fact, referring to the body of work displayed on his Instagram account @lylexox solely as makeup artistry would be a huge understatement. A graduate of Vancouver’s Blanche Macdonald makeup school who spent 16 years as a MAC Cosmetics trainer for artists in British Columbia, Reimer—who originally hails from small-town Saskatchewan—painstakingly embellishes his own face with avant-garde installations that creatively fuse makeup, found objects, and recycled garbage.
Reimer’s otherworldly and beautifully bizarre self-portraits are wildly arresting, and are so well-constructed that, upon first glance, you hardly notice they’re made from the most peculiar rubbish. Think everything from bleached turkey bones and bungee cords to vintage hair curlers and deconstructed designer shopping bags.
How exactly does one continuously collect a varied trove of castaway materials for ever-evolving 3D looks? “People from all over the world send me care packages of their garbage,” reveals Reimer, who shares that his mother instilled an eco-conscious ethos in him from a young age. “They’ll clean up their junk drawers and send little love notes say- ing, ‘Hoping you can use this in your work, Lyle.’” And with his strong adoration for storytelling (each facial collage is paired with a detailed character description in its Instagram caption), these fan gifts fuel Reimer’s boundless creative juices. “I love the idea that many, many hands touched the pieces of garbage prior to me getting them. Whether [I] know them or not, these hands have stories that are woven into the actual pieces,” he expresses. “There are all of these possible narratives that are embedded into my work that I find very fascinating.”
This standout artist’s handcrafted works of app art all began with a five-day work challenge back in 2013, when Reimer was still a trainer for MAC. “One of our incentives was to get the artists to stretch their creative muscles and post their looks on Instagram,” he explains. Wanting to lead by example, the then-instructor decided to do the same. “If you look at those original images, they look completely different to what the work is now,” he comments on his early bathroom selfies.
Reimer’s initial five looks were met with much fanfare, which led him to continue (five days turned into 10 days, which morphed into two months), until the artist had a career epiphany. “It just quickly became its own entity, and I had this moment in my bathroom while working on looks where I thought, ‘This is actually what I’ve always wanted to do.’”
Over time, Reimer’s account, which today has well over 140,000 followers, began to amass an engaged army of fans, including high-profile and well-respected admirers like Cher (@lylexox is one of only 21 accounts the icon follows). Two years ago, the visionary took the leap to leave his job at the cosmetic giant in order to carve out a full-time path pursuing his unabashed love for turning junk into Instagram gold. “I knew that if I didn’t do it [then], I would forever kick myself. It was just one of those big life moments where you reassess everything,” says Reimer, who hasn’t looked back since. “Now I’m doing this, I have my own studio space filled with all sorts of things, and it’s full steam ahead.”
It’s this drive, married with undeniable talent, that has seen the Vancouver-based artist travel the globe to collaborate with many big-league names, including on commissioned projects with luxury fashion houses Gucci, Moschino, and Viktor & Rolf. Coincidentally, Dutch design duo Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren even wrote the foreword to Reimer’s first-ever coffee table book, Lyle XOX: Head of Design, which was released in March and designed by renowned French art director Fabien Baron. What’s more, Reimer celebrated his visual tome with a book launch at the landmark Bergdorf Goodman department store in New York, complete with accompanying window displays he designed in his signature aesthetic. He even had his own CBC documentary air in July.
With many other exciting projects well underway, the multi-tasking Reimer isn’t one to take his growing success for granted. “I cannot be more happy and grateful for what’s happening,” he beams. “The fact that things are coming together, and there’s this embracing and supporting of the work, you can’t help but feel this immense sense of gratitude.”