Sunday, October 4, 2009

Mike Brown's Absurd Portraits

If you've been following along since the early days of Erratic Phenomena, you already know a little about the gifted Mike Brown, whom I profiled last year. Since he is such a man of mystery, I decided it would be worthwhile to delve deeper into what makes him tick (or paint, rather). Fortunately, he was amenable to the idea, and agreed to lay his soul bare in the pursuit of a better understanding of his work. As expected, I learned a great deal from Mike, and I think you will, too.

"Fawn of War"

Erratic Phenomena: Tell me a little about your experience of growing up in a blue-collar family in the rural village of Trumansburg, New York. Is that where your affinity for the natural world was formed? Were there people in your life that nurtured your imagination and talents, and encouraged you to look beyond small-town life for inspiration?

Mike Brown: The town I grew up in was very small, without even a stoplight, and our house was about 4 or 5 miles outside of town. There wasn't the type of entertainment you would find in a city, so we found ways to entertain ourselves. I spent a lot of time fishing, riding my bike, building forts and fires and helping out on the neighbor's farm. We had a few acres of land, and my mother had planted a very large vegetable garden and many large flower gardens. It was really quite amazing, when I think back about it.

My father was a mechanic and truck driver, and he was always in the garage or shed tinkering or building something. I guess both my parents really nurtured my imagination, even if it wasn't always that direct. We weren't allowed to watch much TV, so if I was inside I was usually in my room drawing or outside riding my bike, trying to jump it over something or getting away from the house.

There wasn't a need for anyone to nurture my life beyond the small town. So many people were somehow affiliated with Ithaca College or Cornell that there was a community mentality that stretched far beyond the small town. It was actually a much more worldly community than you would imagine, or than I've ever experienced in most other towns and cities where I've been.

"Albrecht and the Felt Hat"

EP: When you were growing up, you were fascinated with the grotesque, slavering, hot-rod-driving caricatures drawn by Kustom Kulture godfather Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, and you emulated his work in your early drawings. In fact, you have an affection for automobile modification to this day. Your father spent many hours of your childhood working with cars. Do you think your embrace of Ed Roth's world was in part an attempt to get closer to your father?

MB: The funny thing is that the influence that Ed Roth had on me did not stem from my father at all, but instead from the T-shirts that came out when I was in 2nd grade, or around that time. I remember some of the farm kids wearing them, and I thought they were the coolest thing in the world. I mean... my dad had some early flaming eyeball stickers and Thrush stickers on his old Zündapp Bella in our garage, but I didn't really think about that much... it was the farm kids.

My father's interest in automobiles was more as a mechanic, but my interest in cars has always been about the way they looked and how much I wanted to drive them. I was always drawing cars, making up my own designs, jacking them all up and having flames coming off their tires and out their sidepipes. I was just amusing myself and having fun making cars look cool (or what I thought was cool, as a young country hick).

I was also counting down the years until I could drive, and I did this from 2nd grade on. When I graduated from school I got my first car, and that was the point that I started to learn how to work on them. My dad was the brains and I was the brawn. That was when we started to have a car connection, but prior to that I always felt like my interest in cars was mine and it didn't really matter what other people thought.

"Four Star"

EP: In the past, you've hinted at some dark history in your childhood which left you with "a profound lack of understanding of how the world works." What can you tell me about the events that affected you so deeply?

MB: Well... this kind of goes with the previous question. When I was 4, my parents had just installed a new in-ground pool. One weekend, my parents had friends over and we were all swimming. My dad jumped in and hit his head in the shallow end and became paralyzed. I guess it was a very traumatic experience at the time, but it really affected my understanding of the reality of life. I knew from a very early age that what you hold as stable or true can change in an instant, and you have no control over that, all you can do is accept it, adapt and just keep going.

When I was a freshman in college, my mother died in a very terrible car accident on the way to work. This was a much more difficult event to come to terms with for me. On the day of the funeral, I was told to go back to school. From this, I began recognizing the existence of different worlds of context. My growing-up world was very different than my school world, and the only context to both was me. It was like I was shifting from one bubble to another. I became an observer of life – of its strangeness when everything appeared normal. From that point on, I realized that nothing ever is what it appears to be, and it all became so strange and foreign. The anchors of my life (parents) no longer possessed that ability, and I could no longer rely on what I had previously known to be true. I felt very much outside of life, as if I were watching fish in an aquarium. It was a shared experience, but I was outside of it observing, trying to make some sense out of it.

I think it is important to note here that I have a sister who is a year younger than me, and she is also a very accomplished artist/photographer. Our work is strangely similar, even though we rarely tell each other about the projects that we are working on. I feel that the process of making art has been a way for each of us to try to make sense out of the absurdity of life.

"Memento Mori"

EP: It seems that as a result of these experiences, you were transformed into an absurdist, in the philosophical sense of an acceptance that comprehension of the meaning of the world – if such meaning even exists – is beyond our grasp, although the pursuit of meaning is all we have with which to fill the void we feel when confronted with the silent, indifferent universe. Camus said that when painting from an absurd standpoint, one must refrain from depicting the slightest glimmer of hope, or any form of judgment. Would you agree with this assessment? How do you think this idea is reflected in your work?

MB: I guess I could be considered an absurdist. Things make sense only because we give things/experiences that understanding. As I have matured, I have increasingly lost any grasp of the meaning of much of anything. Beauty and Ugliness went away a long time ago, and in recent years, I don't even know if ART exists anymore.

I don't completely agree with Camus. I think you can offer hope and judgment, but you have to show all the various facets at the same time. Personally, I enjoy showing hope and despair at the same time – this is what makes it all so strange, absurd and ultimately amusing. When you can see opposing understandings of something simultaneously, you can recognize how it cancels itself out, even though both understandings could be recognized as holding equal value. Then you are forced to try and determine what to believe, and it exposes life as the greatest practical joke that exists.

"The Lion and the Lamb"

EP: According to Camus, the consequences of embracing the absurd are revolt, freedom and passion – "What counts is not the best living, but the most living." He likens man's existence to the eternally recurring task of Sisyphus, but concludes that the struggle itself can be enough to make life worthwhile. In his notebook, he once wrote, "I ought not to have written, 'If the world were clear, art would not exist' – but if the world seemed to me to have meaning, I should not write at all." Does that idea resonate for you? Are we driven to create by our inner need to synthesize meaning? If so, does that make all creative people lonely voyagers, building islands of meaning that no one else can ever truly access or understand?

MB: Of course this idea resonates with me, but it is also something that I struggle with. Ultimately, if nothing has any meaning, why do we feel so compelled to find meaning? I think it's not a matter of using this as a tool to find meaning, but instead, and more importantly, to make meaning. Are all creative people lonely voyagers? ...shit... All people are lonely voyagers trying to make meaning.

I don't think it is the artist's responsibility to make work for everyone to understand, but we can, at times, out of the commonality of being human. It's rather silly to think that we would be able to understand what art is about. What is the Mona Lisa about? Who the hell knows, but there have been many interpretations of it through the years. I think the responsibility of the artist is to provide a pointer for the viewer to find meaning, whether it is what the creator intended or not. On top of that, we just seem to be compelled to create as an exercise of community, as a means of seeing ourselves in a different way.

"The Prince"

EP: When did you first realize that you had something unique to say with your vision of the world?

MB: I have never thought that I did have anything unique to say with my vision. I don't create out of a need to say something to anyone, but instead to make connections between various bits of information so that I can re-view or re-see the world. I think another driving force behind my work is my desire to amuse myself. I use the act of making more as a social experiment, so that I may better understand what it is that makes us human.

"The Pauper"

EP: Your paintings are usually set in a world of perpetual night, stripped of color and seemingly barren. Often the only illumination is a tiny pool of light, or a brief harsh glare as if from a camera's flash. Is this enigmatic void, briefly enlightened by small flares of insight, a metaphor for your personal perception of the universe? Were these chiaroscuro environments inspired by anything in particular?

MB: First, I would like to address the idea of perpetual night. I don't think of it this way, because "night" as a symbol usually carries some negative or pessimistic connotations. Instead I use a dark background, much like a theatrical element, to create visual drama for the characters or events that they are involved with, as well as a means to emphasize what is in light. More specifically, it also references Renaissance portraiture and the use of chiaroscuro to create drama. Even though my early influences were Ed Roth, "Big Deal" and the flying machines of WWII, I was also deeply affected by the great masters of painting. I guess no matter what I am painting, I am looking at it as a portrait, as a thing comprised of a series of events (as if a series or the accumulation of events could be represented as a single thing).

"The Standoff"

EP: You once characterized your paintings as portraits of characters in a story. Do you see your work as occurring within a single overarching narrative, or as a series of fables? Will we ever see deeper into your personal mythology, or do you prefer to confine the viewer's experience of that world to these cryptic glimpses?

MB: When I am creating work, I am never trying to confine the viewer's experience. I guess I've never concerned myself with that at all. When I am making a piece of work, the idea is unfolding during the making of it. I have no idea what the outcome is going to be. It always starts with the loosest kernel of an idea that develops throughout the process of making it. I can safely say that there have only been a few instances in my artistic career that I had a specific idea in mind before making it. Once the work is complete, I can see it as a single piece, as well as in context with all its predecessors. In past years, it seems to me that I have been developing the characters and location of the "play" – now I suppose it is just a matter of creating the story. Maybe I have just been too deeply interested in the complexities and nuances of the single aspects of whatever the story may turn out to be.


EP: Most of the creatures you paint – be they rabbits, stags, hummingbirds or octopi – have rather human eyes, which they usually fix on the viewer with a resentful, accusing glare. What does this choice represent for you?

MB: I don't agree with the standpoint of the resentful accusing glare. Indeed the creatures' eyes do have a human-like quality, but the stare is one of observation, awareness and scrutiny. I am trying to establish another way to see ourselves through the portrayal of other species. By giving them more human eyes, I believe it allows a certain distance and recognition of self, while also being able to convey the absurdity of self-importance.

It is not my intention to create a subjective standpoint with the images. Instead, I think that it only exposes the psychological state of the viewer.


EP: Obviously you love to paint soft, white fur. Is that mostly an aesthetic, sensual choice, or is there some deeper meaning for you in depicting a world covered with a luxurious white pelt, inhabited by furry albino beasts?

MB: The decision is indeed partially aesthetic. I have a mantra that I follow... lure them with beauty, hold them with intellect. It is not that I love to paint the soft white fur, but instead I am using it as part of a vocabulary to support a greater conceptual framework that functions as the umbrella of meaning that has evolved in my work. It represents the duality of good and bad simultaneously – as spirituality, as the failure of thought in the pursuit of the universal. It is a specific recognition of Hitler's pursuit to create a master race – white power, if you will. However, the pursuit of eugenics in any measure is a failed idea. Within trying to create an ideal anything, there has to be a recognition of certain parameters that are best suited for that given situation, environment or philosophy. The failure resides in an inability to recognize that we cannot generalize or average out a situation or environment. Change is inevitable and power or sustainability resides in variety, not in commonality.

The color white is representative of a failed ideal. White is pure and empty.

It is also influenced by albinism. I am deeply fascinated with this. It is recognized as a good omen, and at the same time, biologically, it is something we must avoid. It comes with physical disadvantages that greatly increase an inability to survive in the world. It is opposing positions on the spectrum simultaneously. This fascination stems from growing up near the Romulus Army Depot, which unintentionally houses the largest population of albino deer in the world. It was common to see up to 12 white deer at one time, while just outside the fenced perimeter would be a regular brown deer. This has been such a strange, magical and profound experience for me, ever since I was young.

"Romulus and the Crown of Thorns"

EP: A series of recurring elements appears throughout your body of work – matches and dynamite, marshmallow bunnies, plastic googly eyes, jewel-like beads of water. Do these items have a fixed symbolic meaning for you? Is their frequent recurrence rooted in your personal history?

MB: There is definitely a recurrence of symbols in the work, but the meaning of the symbols has evolved over time. Nothing is static. It is the combination of the symbols that has allowed me to re-see the world and gain new or different insights, which in turn affect my understanding of the meaning of those symbols and what they are referencing. It lends itself well to the lonely voyage, but makes the journey that much more interesting.

I don't know how to answer the second half of the question... On one hand, yes, of course it does come from my personal history, but some of the symbols I just see or find and give them meaning and use them in my work. They make sense to me at the time and I incorporate them, even though when I decided to use them they did not hold any significant personal meaning.

"Double Bunny"

EP: Tell me about your fascination with Joseph Beuys and his rabbit.

MB: I agree with Beuys' belief that the role of the artist is to provide a deeper understanding to one's community. I believe that the artist does play the role of shaman or seer to his/her community, and they provide the information that the community needs to know, rather than what they might want to know. However, I also struggle with my interest in Beuys, because I find it a bit arrogant that he would call himself a prophet and step in as preacher to the community that would listen.

I am not saying that I think I am this (prophet), or play the role that Beuys claimed to play, but I recognize how our similar approaches have the ability to expose the various sub-layers of context and meaning to the world, and that if you can see things differently, the world takes on greater dimension, depth and clarity. It is a very fascinating thing, as if I have been given a pair of special glasses that allows me to see the structures that support the superficial qualities or façades of what we recognize as being the real. (I know this sounds a little out there, but… I can only state what I have grown to recognize as being real.) Nothing is as it seems, and through the process of making, I have been provided the gift of seeing beyond the surface.

"The Tree of Life"

EP: Your series of stump paintings is disturbing and poignant. The wood has the quality of a life cut short, or twisted and maimed by experience. Occasionally, man-made objects – a snowglobe, a dreamcatcher – or living beings – a swarm of pale green butterflies, a white raven – enter the composition. Sometimes the trees resemble antlers that have begun to shed their velvet. What do these truncated remains of fallen giants represent for you?

MB: The trees symbolize the idea of government or governing principles. By creating certain restrictions and rules, a recognized aesthetic can be applied. We can see this idea in the art of bonsai. Something naturally perfect and beautiful is made "more beautiful" (in principle) through manipulation and restrictions. This is a basis for all existence. The fur is the rabbit, the marriage of spirituality and governing states. They are one and the same.

I find interest and amusement thinking about "what if" scenarios. What if George Washington had cut down the Tree of Knowledge? What if Plato was wrong? Oh dear! So these images become a signifier of the potential to consider things in a new way, disguised as formal exercises of movement of form and balance in space.

"Cave Dweller"

EP: Many of your paintings address the concept of classification and ranking, as well as dominance and submission. Why do class and power hierarchies intrigue you so much?

MB: These seem to be the laws in which all things function. It's as if we can't get away from them – it's a deep-seated part of our biological understanding and navigation in the world. Think about all the various ways we size one another up so that we can determine if we are good or bad, pretty or ugly, strong or weak, etc. We are constantly classifying one another so that we can understand who and what we are in context to them, so that we can recognize if we should run or fight. It's actually very interesting to me. We all play these roles and we are fully engaged in determining our place in these hierarchies. That, of course, is referential to us being human, and I am not sure if these are laws that are true, or laws that we perceive as being true.


EP: Your work has shifted direction fairly drastically over the past several years, veering from figurative work involving oddball people and stuffed rabbits pursuing inexplicable actions in medieval-looking environments, to abstract studies of billowing technicolor gloop, to your strangely mystical Dutch-masterly rabbits, deer, swans, bees and hummingbirds. What – if anything – ties these phases in your body of work together? Do you anticipate that these violent evolutions will continue, or are you now settling into a visual language that will sustain you for a while?

MB: I believe that art, in the greatest sense, is about exploring a variety of ideas. I look at my work as a series of conversations. I choose the appropriate colors, scale and mode of painting in accordance to that conversation. I get bored fairly easily and the idea of making work that all has a similar aesthetic doesn't hold my interest very long. I like the discoveries found in the process of exploration.

I don't find the evolutions to be that violent either. There is always a thread that binds one body of work to the next for me. Galleries/directors/instructors would have artists believe that it is important to create work that is similar throughout its evolution, because they are in the business of selling a product. If Honda decided in the middle of the production year to stop making great cars and start making butter, the people that buy Honda products would freak out, wondering "Why butter?," and if it is supposed to be used on the cars.

"The Story of the Bird"

MB: The one thing that is common to many famous artists is that once they were recognized for a certain style or mode of conveying information, they ceased being artists and were merely the producer of a product to keep a recognized (buying) audience happy. The products are all the same, they just look a little different. This is not my interest. The fact that my name is common and my pursuits are selfish allows me the freedom to create in the manner that is the most interesting for me at the time. This is the mode that I work in, and I can enjoy what I am doing.

I do anticipate continued shifts in my work, as determined by the ideas that interest me at the time. There is always a thread for me from one conversation to the next, much like how we might interact while talking about any number of things in succession from one person to the next, and I find that the language of ideas influences the variety of work that I create.

"A Rose Is a Rose"

EP: What ideas will you be exploring in the work you're preparing for your next show?

MB: I will be having a solo show in May at the Rymer Gallery in Nashville, and this body of work is going to be exploring the subjects of creation and destruction happening simultaneously, while showing their opposites and trying to expose the idea of infinite dimensions. I'm pretty excited about it, really. I don't know how to explain it any better than this, but it makes sense to me, enough to try and flesh out with paint.


EP: For an artist looking to make an impression on the public, having a name like Michael Brown might be something of a liability. It appears that there are at least four other artists out there with the same name, not to mention the infamous "Brownie." Did you ever consider taking a nom de guerre?

MB: If anything, I would change my name and make MikeBrown all one word, seeing as most people have resorted to calling me this. However I'm not terribly concerned about changing my name. True, it is a very common one (not as bad as Michael Smith, however) and I am certain that there are more than 4 other artists with this name, but my artistic pursuits aren't driven by a desire to stand out and be recognized through people's recognition of some fancy name. It's about the work and ideas. I serve only as a medium to try and make an intangible thought or idea tangible. This is my role.

"The Titanic"

EP: Tell me a bit about your conceptual process. Do you do a lot of research, experimentation and sketching, or do these ideas arise full-blown from your subconscious?

MB: My conceptual process is very random, really. It can be completely frivolous – like creating a series of "Jeebus paintings" out of boredom and a need for amusement, or it could be an article I read many years ago in some science magazine discussing some mathematician in England who believes that there are infinite dimensions – and the idea just sticks in my head, percolating. I do some initial research, but most of it occurs throughout the process of the painting, because I don't really know what I am going to be making when I start.

I very seldom make drawings as part of that process. On occasion, I might scratch out a few very crude and small things to deal with formal issues and to acquaint myself with the arrangement of shapes, but I like the magic of just working straight to canvas and creating out of my head. It is all about creating a dialogue with the ideas, materials and image, so that the painting can evolve throughout the process and provide an outcome of greater discovery.

"JeebusFink" (work in progress)

EP: Your impeccable technique allows you to achieve very realistic soft plushy textures while at the same time preserving the luminous, reflective qualities of liquids. Can this be attributed in part to specific attributes of the acrylic paints you use, or is it all in the way you use them? Which aspects of your aesthetic call for the use of the airbrush, and which for more traditional painting methods?

MB: Whether I paint in oils or acrylics or automotive paints, these materials become a means to an end. I am an image maker. I use paint to make these images. I used to paint solely in oils, but 5 years ago I decided to quit my job and move to California. I had a studio, but didn't know for how long, and I wanted something that didn't smell, dried fast and was easy to clean up in case I needed to close up shop and find a new studio.

The funny thing about painting with acrylics is that most of the time people think it is oil, which I find interesting. I use an airbrush to help make smooth color transitions in my paintings. Oils and acrylics are similar like a donkey and a zebra – they have similar characteristics, and then they are nothing alike. I just have never found a way to get acrylics to blend like oils, and that is a romance that I miss, so I use tools like the airbrush to try to recapture that familiar love.

I also have found that the airbrush works great to help create images similar to the way the eye/brain sees/perceives things. We have such a small focal field. When our eyes focus, the area is about the size of a 50 cent piece, and everything outside of that is increasingly more blurry. The airbrush creates a range of fuzziness that I can come back to with a paintbrush to give an image focal clarity. Plus, it makes the whole painting process that much quicker, and I like the idea that people equate airbrushes with crappy mall-painted T-shirts and license plates, while I am using it to participate in the world of Fine Art. It takes away a certain arrogance of art for me.

"Orange Devil"

EP: One overarching theme of the pop surrealism movement – besides a return to the technical ambition of those who painted in the centuries preceding our own – is a nostalgia for a simpler, more innocent past. This has been reflected through a fascination with vintage ephemera, especially childhood toys and games, an interest in turn-of-the-century commercial arts, such as studio photography, poster art and children's book illustration, a fetishization of the cartoons and creature features of Hollywood's Golden Age, and a quasi-religious focus on the birds and beasts that mankind's relentless consumption has placed in harm's way. Does this notion of a generation of artists longing for an irretrievable past speak to you at all? Do you have any objections to being lumped into the pop surrealism genre, or to the categorization of artists in general?

MB: Am I part of the pop surrealist genre? What makes my work pop surrealistic? Is it because I show in galleries that show that type of work? What about the galleries I show in that don't show pop surrealist work? How does this affect the way my work is defined? I honestly haven't spent much time thinking about how my work is or will be defined.

I do, however, find it an interesting to think that other people could define my work this way. I don't see my work as being Pop Surrealist, but I also don't see it as the Highbrow work that has also influenced my work and ideas so thoroughly. I guess I feel like my work is a bridge between the two, with both influences being recognized. I just try to paint in a way that is most appropriate to the idea I am trying to convey at the time.

"King Lord"

EP: You've mentioned Botticelli's "Birth of Venus" as one of your earliest influences, as you spent countless hours examining in your encyclopedia as a child. In fact, after you graduated from SUNY New Paltz with a degree in painting, you traveled to Florence... where the Venus lives at the Uffizi Gallery. What was it about that image that spoke to you so profoundly? What did you learn about painting – and about yourself – when you were living in Florence?

MB: Truth be told, as a horny little kid growing up in the middle of nowhere to pretty conservative parents, Botticelli's "Birth of Venus" was my first girlie picture. I studied it so intently, because she was naked and I could see her booby. It was in the book of B and it was on page 486 or something like that. I had completely forgotten about that, too, until I walked into the Botticelli room as an adult and saw it covering the back wall of the room. I got all red and started sweating like a banshee... I got all embarrassed and thought everyone else in the room knew my secret. It was funny, I'm sure, but also pretty amazing.

The most incredible thing about living in Florence was that all the stuff I had learned in my art history classes was right there. So much history. I could touch things that were made by Michelangelo... it was as if time didn't exist and I was shaking his hand. It was amazing! I wasn't even painting then. I was just there living and learning and experiencing what I thought at the time was the most profound and relevant aspects of what I had decided to dedicate my life to.

"The Tempest"

EP: What other painters or illustrators from the past move you profoundly, and what aspects of their work do you find most intriguing?

MB: This is a big question, because there have been so many that had significance during the various stages of thought and process. Of course when I was young it was Ed Roth, “Big Deal,” Botticelli and the other Italian Masters, Joel-Peter Witkin, Leon Golub, Bacon, and of course Joe Beuys. As I have grown, it has been people like Donald Roller Wilson, Odd Nerdrum, Emily Eveleth, Inka Essenhigh, Will Cotton, Ugo Rondinone, David Bierk, Darren Waterston and Larry Gray. I know there are soooo many more, but I can’t think of them as I am writing this and trying to remember right now.

What I have found intriguing would be technique and their attention to a personal aesthetic – this is, of course, in relation to the ideas each is expressing, from the serious to the most ridiculous. I think that I am interested in artists that have found a way to express something in their work that I recognize as being important to what I am trying to figure out in my own work. I mean, really… aren’t all of our interests purely a reflection of what we are, rather than what they are? I know I’m guilty.


EP: If you could hang just one classic painting from history on the wall of your studio, what would it be?

MB: Ha! That would be impossible. There would be two… no, three. Sir John Everett Millais' "Ophelia" painting, "The Battle of Issus" by Altdorfer, and a small painting I think I remember seeing at the museum in Cincinnati years ago of a very large male lion lounging in front of his den with his mouth opened wide, roaring at a small blue butterfly passing by. Brilliant! [Editor's note: Jean-Léon Gérôme's 1889 "Lion Snapping at a Butterfly," currently at the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh.]

"Old Colossus"

EP: After a few years of wandering in the figurative wilderness, you decided to get your MFA in Painting from Savannah College of Art and Design. Later, you joined the faculty there, and are now a painting professor at the SCAD-Atlanta campus. You once said that you started to teach because you had a "debt to pay" to two teachers who affected your life and work profoundly. Could you tell me more about these two people and how they changed you?

MB: The first person was Judy Mariano, my high school art teacher. She went out of her way to provide an environment and means of working and developing my skills as a very young artist. She was the one that took me to portfolio reviews and college campuses when it was time to start the application process. She really believed in me and my desire to one day succeed as an artist. Looking back at the work I did then is rather embarrassing, but she saw something in me that she felt was worthwhile to nurture.

The other was one of my undergraduate professors, Henry Raleigh. He was truly an amazing man. When we were in school, he was a salty old dog. He was an incredible painter and a deeply brilliant man. His life experiences included fighting in the Korean War, getting a doctorate in Philosophy, and reading Tarot cards, which was completely bizarre to me at the time. He was always upfront with his thoughts, and never found it necessary to decorate his words in order to sacrifice a student's feelings. He made us think about things in ways that still affect me today.

Because of these two people and their effect on my life as a person and an artist, I have always felt it was my obligation to try to maintain and foster the qualities they distilled in me, and pass on these qualities to future generations of creative artists.

I owe them so much.


EP: Is there anything else that's having a strong influence on your work right now?

MB: The only thing right now I am trying to understand is the space between creation and destruction and the illusion of three dimensions. (I am not sure it exists, even though my perceptive organs would suggest otherwise.)


EP: What's on the horizon for you? Hopes, dreams, plans for the future?

MB: Good question. First I am going to marry Kate Huber, and then I am hoping to evolve from working as a teacher, and start creating an artist/thinker, studio/work/show space that would include people of all ages working among one another and sharing ideas to help each other grow technically and intellectually at an elevated rate. I just want to create a place that can provide inspiration to the people that participate in it. I don't want it to be limited to artists, either. Art isn't about art. Its about life, and this is what makes art interesting.

I don't know where this will take place, but I know that the time is perfect. The art world has taken a significant hit by the recent blow to the economy, which allows people to use their creative abilities in new ways to create new venues for inspiration and growth in the way we look at all things. Times of duress create new beauty.


Troot51 said...

Great interview. I discovered quite a few new insights into Micheal, although I have know him for a good nine years. One thing I am sure of : he won't be categorized or pigeon holed happily by the art world.His range of thoughts and therefore his
explorations in art are much too varied and complex (even random) to ever fit into a cozy niche. I like that about him and what he produces... it reflects more closely the way life comes at you.

BlondeShot Creative said...

Fantastic interview! Really enjoyed reading it.

anthony t w myers said...

those are so amazing, thanks for sharing!