In the October 2010 issue of The Artist’s Magazine, artist Mikel Glass is featured in the article “Looking through Glass.” Here’s his fascinating story behind his painting I Once Was Lost (below, oil, 46×44):
I was a good kid until about the age of 9, when I started getting into lots of trouble. I grew up in a tiny town on Cape Cod where there wasn’t much to do for about nine months of the year that didn’t involve mischief. That mischief rapidly bloomed into full-blown criminal behavior, and at the age of 13, in an attempt to save me, my parents shipped me off to boarding school. That moment is represented in the painting by the doll—my mother—handing me off to the receptive hand of the institution—Milton Academy—represented by the glove.
While the glove takes a human form, it cannot replace the personal touch of family. Rather than being cured, my misbehavior went underground within the confines of this institution and took a dangerous turn inward, for which I was woefully unprepared. A blackened glove extrudes from a waste pipe in the rear of the “institution” adjacent to me as I, now Willy Wee Wee, look terrified—confronted by a scary monster under a cloudy and turbulent sky.
By now in real life I was abusing drugs and alcohol and practicing self-destructive activities. But I got through this phase and maintained a straight appearance to the outside world, though I felt like an empty shell—now represented by the sullied yellow and blue paint roller with ball perched atop—the product of institutional reform.
Together, the upstanding paint rollers represent the institution of marriage, a realm to which my wife and father-in-law accept me. It’s through this union that I’m eventually able to take flight, now a big, healthy, winged Bart soaring over this scene of my past and reaching out to extricate myself—little Bart, just as a baby careens down toward the scene riding a glove—my new nuclear family coming in to obliterate my past. The spaceman, just barely physically connected to the scene by a toe, is my father.
The cool part of the story is that I didn’t interpret this myself. During my one stint in psychotherapy, the therapist to whom I showed the painting narrated the story to me. In reality, I had scraped together a bunch of junk that was lying around my studio and assembled it into this composition. I was consciously only concerned with aesthetics and was completely unconcerned with content.
Being a skeptic, I would have dismissed the interpretation as mere rubbish had it not been spot-on accurate. The entire exercise is a case study in the potential yield when trusting the unconscious to determine subject matter and composition.
Meet Mikel Glass
In addition to painting complex figurative works, still lifes and commissioned portraits, Glass is also a sculptor. “I can’t recall a time when I didn’t make art,” he says. “I remember my father scolding me as a child for creating a sculpture out of raw hamburger meat.” Glass has a master of fine arts degree from the New York Academy of Art and has shown his work in numerous solo and group exhibitions. He’s married to a professional cellist and together they have 12-year-old boy/girl twins and a 10-year-old son. Glass loves sports and plays in recreational softball and soccer leagues and coaches his children’s baseball, soccer and basketball teams. His website is www.mikelglass.com.
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