From Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
Artistic “Games” planned for New Year’s Day
Painter Michele Mikesell will open a new exhibit Saturday at JRB Art at the Elms.
Art lovers are invited to celebrate the dawn of 2011 with fun and games at one Paseo art gallery.
JRB Art at the Elms is continuing its tradition of debuting a new exhibition on New Year’s Day with Saturday’s opening of “The Games We Play,” featuring oil paintings by Dallas artist Michele Mikesell. The gallery also will open Saturday an exhibit of works featured in its 2011 calendar.
The gallery’s eighth annual New Year’s Day exhibit and celebration will be from 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday, and guests will be encouraged to feast on traditional black-eyed peas, ham, turkey, collard greens, assorted salads, dips and pastries while enjoying art.
Mikesell, who earned her bachelor of fine arts at Texas Women’s University in Denton and her master’s degree at the University of Oklahoma, often meshes human personalities and animal traits in her narrative paintings. In comparing and contrasting animals with the universal human experience, she explores themes like irony, humor and tragedy.
“I see animals in human nature all the time, as well as ‘human’ attributes in animals. This comparison is fascinating to me on so many levels. It’s sometimes humorous, sometimes dark, sometimes profound — but always interesting to me. I feel the most successful when I hear someone come to a painting of an animal and say, ‘Wow, I know that person,’” Mikesell said in an e-mail.
In “The Games We Play,” Mikesell depicts slyly satirical apes, birds, fish and other creatures engaged in favorite childhood games, from matching playing cards in pairs to solving the crime in the board game “Clue.” Mikesell discussed her goals for the show and the coming year this week in an e-mail interview:
Q: Why have you decided to showcase “The Games We Play”? What familiar games will people see represented in your artwork in the show, and what is the meaning behind our games?
A: Doing a show about games is something I’ve thought about for a while. It parallels so many other themes that I have worked with in the past like the circus, fairy tales, and idioms. It’s another universal experience that I think is very rich in tradition and meaning, and I’ve just barely tapped the potential of material that is there.
Some of the games loosely represented in this show are Duck, Duck, Goose, ‘Clue,’ matching cards and a crossword puzzle. There’s always an irony, though. The ducks are deer, and the goose is not, which gives the question, ‘What role is the goose is playing?’ ‘Clue’ has always been a pretty sinister game to me, and I’m presenting three characters as playing pieces. In the crossword puzzle, I’ve made the viewer a bird by presenting a bird’s eye view of three birds working a futile crossword puzzle. And in matching, a cat and a rat have been overturned. I’ve left it up to the viewer to decide if it’s a match or not.
Q: Please explain your distinctive artistic technique and why you prefer to paint with that method.
A: I’ve always had a very sacrilegious approach to paint. I didn’t own a ‘real’ paint brush until long after I was out of college. My painting method was and still can be summed up by the phrase ‘by any means necessary.’ I’ve used everything from pH-balanced rust, boric acid, roofing tar and fire. in my paintings in the past. … Now I use sanding and implied damaged surfaces to form a dialogue with my subject, and create another dimension of irony and comparison and contrast. However, there is a certain rawness that gets lost in refinement; I’m always trying to get back to the rawness.
Q: How have you grown as an artist in the past year, and how do you think that growth is reflected in this show?
A: I’m always trying to find a different, better way to say the same things I’ve always said. This year instead of putting animals in human costume, I’ve concentrated on putting the human in the animal form. Compositionally there’s a lot to work with there. I’ve been looking at classical painters and a lot of the street art going on out on the West coast. I’m just kind of trying to figure out what one has to do with the other, and what the possibilities are of merging the two in a sort of visual paradox.
I think this past year I have grown by allowing myself to do what feels right and giving myself the freedom to move away from painting animals exclusively. This is the first body of work I’ve done that I feel confident animals as a subject and humans as a subject work together to form one congruent idea. I’m hoping the viewer will seamlessly be able to go from a painting of a monkey to a painting of a human face and not consciously make any distinctions between the two. I can’t really say how I’ve grown, I’m still working and as long as you’re moving your growing, right?
Q: What are your resolutions as an artist for 2011?
A: To find some balance and be more realistic about how much I can realistically accomplish, and I’m sure I’ll also make the annual resolution to be more organized.
“The Games We Play” by Michele Mikesell
When: Saturday-Jan. 28.
Where: JRB Art at the Elms, 2810 N Walker, Paseo Arts District.
Events: A New Year’s Day opening reception is set from 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday. Another reception is planned from 6 to 10 p.m. Jan. 7 during the monthly Paseo Gallery Walk.
Information: 528-6336 or www.jrbartgallery.com.