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Faculty Exhibition: Michael Flanagan

Michael Flanagan
Acrylic on Wood, Deer Hooves, Tar, 8” x 62” x 8”

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Artist Statement

Passing a farmer working in his field, a neighbor commented, “Looks like rain”. The farmer replied, “But tomorrow is supposed to be sunny.” A few days later, the neighbor greeted the same farmer with, “Beautiful sunny day!” to which the farmer replied, “Heard it is supposed to rain tomorrow, though”. 

Perception is everything, I suppose; I am sharply aware of and relate to the multiplicity of viewpoints featured in this anecdote. In life, we are capable of simultaneously seeing both the good and bad in all people and situations. Illusionistic space and representation are simultaneously created and negated in my work; I equate this with the faith and doubt inherent in my approach to both life and art-making. The mixing of two and three-dimensional form pushes this tension even further.

When I play a jig or reel on the fiddle, by simply changing speed, I can emphasize a tune’s inherent joy or sadness and introspection. In a similar way, landscape-based painting is capable of saying almost unlimited things.  Growing up in the west, the sky and land were an overarching presence. It seems natural and inevitable for me to paint some form of landscape. One consistent presence in my work is an underlying nostalgic quality. I’m drawn to the bittersweet feeling of time passing.  Even as time seems to distill only the pleasant highlights from our past, it simultaneously taunts us with its irretrievability. The generally “historical” feeling that can pervade my work at least partly reflects my long-time exposure to historical artworks in my profession and absorbing their look and feel.

Animals (or parts of them) frequently appear in my work.  This connection goes back to the earliest days of my childhood. My parents were very understanding when I brought a dead bird to the dinner table convinced, like a good Catholic boy, we could bring it back to life with bread and prayer. Or when I later took correspondence taxidermy lessons, practicing in our basement. Or brought home a baby raccoon to raise. (Word to the wise: wild animals never make good pets!)

I imagine lots of personal emotions are to be found on my artwork: humor, spirituality, optimism, pessimism, urgency, mystery, etc., - though a specific outcome is never predetermined. “Content” is determined by each individual viewer after all.