He shared the stage and partied with Marilyn, exchanged correspondences and artwork with Jackie O., and introduced The Twist to India. The son of a New York City truck driver and Pinos Altos gold miner's daughter, dancer and artist Richard Maitland was born in Bisbee, Arizona. He spent his formative years—and much of his life, for that matter—on the road. In the year of the Great Depression, his family moved to San Francisco. That's where he got his feet wet as a dancer—performing in his first production at the age of 8.
Before settling in New Mexico in the mid-’60s, he worked in movies and Broadway productions with the likes of Ethel Merman and Richard Burton. He taught and performed ballet in India for six years with support from Indira Gandhi. That's also where he started showcasing his artwork, as well as where he met Jacqueline Kennedy, who fell in love with his paintings and became a collector.
Those colorful memories inform and consume Maitland's artwork and his world. He is a self-proclaimed nostalgist, who in an interview with the Alibi in 2011 said about himself: "I've been living in the past since I was a kid.”He is a performer and storyteller of the highest degree, and it's an exercise in futility to draw a line between the man and his nostalgic surroundings; they define him, and he embodies them.
It's also hard to put a stylistic label on Maitland's work. A self-taught artist, his pieces run the gamut from surrealism to folk art, always inhabited by complex and personal narratives. He uses doll parts, bones, feathers, old photos of himself—just about anything he can get his hands on to convey his messages. His ideas are dark, grotesque, whimsical, beautiful and bittersweet. Along with a quality of vivacious celebration for a life fully lived, there is often an infinite sadness in his work.
There is an undercurrent of sociopolitical commentary persists in much of Maitland's work. "I make comments on politics and religion," says Maitland. "I'm very much a secular humanist. I hate fanaticism, and I hate bigotry and narrow-mindedness. I love nature and animals. And I think love is what rules the world."