Trey Speegle: Living by Words and Numbers By Emily Diamond
It was fashion, not art, that originally drew artist Trey Speegle to New York City. In the 1980s, he started working for major fashion magazines like Vogue, Vanity Fair and Allure. At the time, Speegle lived in the East Village and he says, “it was a booming art and nightclub scene. It was fun to be in my twenties in the 1980s. You do the math.”
A native of Houston, Speegle was the art director and advertising director of his high school’s yearbook and newspaper. He and his best friend got jobs with Houston City Magazine while still seniors. The magazine was bought by architect Francois de Menil who hired Kezia Keeble and her husband Paul Cavaco to do the fashion spreads. At 19, Speegle was designing layouts with Bruce Weber photos. Keeble, who had worked for Vogue editor-in-chief Diana Vreeland, told Speegle he had to move to New York.
“Paul called me a year later to tell me there was a position open at GQ, so I dropped everything to come to NYC to interview. I didn't get the job but a year later, I was working at Vogue.” He did art direction there. These days Speegle keeps an apartment in the Meatpacking District. He loves the area, which is close to some of the best attractions in the city--the Whitney Museum of American Art, the High Line, Chelsea galleries and the Village. He goes back and forth between his country home, a renovated barn, and the city.
Speegle has a personal collection of over 3000 paint-by-numbers, the lovably-kitschy painting kits that became popular in the 1950s. Speegle’s large-scale works marry evocative text with imagery taken from these vintage pieces. He says, “it’s kind of organic how the word meets image...I can never predict. A phrase can float around for years before it lands.” In 2009, Trey created a massive 18 x 32 foot mural to serve as the backdrop for Stella McCartney’s Paris runway show. Speegle has also done collaborations with Anthropologie, Fred Perry, and Squarespace.
Words are not just a prominent feature in Speegle’s paintings. He writes almost daily for The WOW Report, the blog for the World of Wonder production company that created shows like RuPaul's Drag Race, Million Dollar Listing and Big Freedia. He covers any and all topics: pop culture, art, design, architecture, LGBT issues and politics saying, “if you keep up with what is going on, you might as well write about it.” When he isn’t writing, painting or preparing for the launch of his first book, Transform Your Life with Color By Number (out in November), Speegle likes to be in upstate New York. His gorgeous country home, which will soon be the location of his studio, is a haven for being with his dog and “doing nothing as much as I possibly can.”