I was made in Hawaii and raised on the Chesapeake Bay and Oahu. I’ve lived and worked in Seattle, Washington and on Deer Isle, Maine. My Chicago studio is a short walk to Lake Michigan. Water, light, and color strongly influence my work.
A big chunk of my being is music. A typical 70’s kid with a passion for Hendrix and the electric guitar brought me to the Berklee School of Music as a young man. There I realized that I don’t listen to music as much as I see it. I see color in it. It’s physical to me, something I can touch. Ultimately, holding something I made is why I fell in love with carpentry—crafting objects people interact with every day. I spent much of my professional life as a stair builder and carpenter. These experiences fuse together in my art.
I don’t listen to music as much as I see it
I’m committed to finding a way to interact and engage with sensations and experiences that I find interesting and compelling. I love music and I love art and I want to participate with all that great work out there. I try to pay attention to things that move me. Sometimes my experiences are ordinary and simple and sometimes I don’t understand what’s happening. Maybe the moment is profound, or maybe it isn’t… but something is resonating. I like the creative space that’s not bogged down by words and explanations.
Often when I listen to music I get an idea and I follow it. I’m into hearing music and seeing colors, feeling and seeing rhythms. So I use those experiences. Adobe Illustrator is great for playing with certain colors and shapes and I know carpentry so I use those tools. I like using my hands and I paint on wooden forms and shapes that I build and bend. But, what I’d really like is to be able to do, is swim, float and live inside color and sound. I suppose we already live there sometimes. I just want to keep that going.
It was really thrilling to do a show inspired by the music of Bill Frisell at Method Gallery in Seattle. I created a play list of some of his music and then I listened and looked for ideas. I played with Illustrator and bent up a bunch of wooden shapes and painted them. The whole process was an incredible experience for me. He and his wife came to the opening! A few days later I was hanging one of my pieces, “White Fang”, in his living room and talking art with the wonderful painter Carole d’Inverno. Hearing him play is a powerful experience. It’s very moving… and finding out that he’s into what I making…Man, that’s affirmation!
I feel really fortunate to be making art and I’m excited to dig in even more. Now, I’m just trying to keep up with all my ideas. I could probably spend all my time just making work based on his extensive recording catalog, however, the last four pieces I completed were inspired by the beautiful singing of Elis Regina.
It might sound strange but Francis Bacon drew me into visual art, but my work has evolved into what may be seen as hard-edged abstraction. Although the influences of Josef Albers, Johannes Itten, and even Bridget Riley are evident in many of my pieces, I’m not concerned with maintaining a strict tie to any one academic theory or artistic ideology such as minimalism.
I’m looking for a way to engage with life. I work with things I enjoy, things I find compelling like color, water, music and quotes like this:
“OUR INTENTION IS TO AFFIRM LIFE… NOT TO BRING ORDER OUT OF CHAOS NOR TO SUGGEST IMPROVEMENTS IN CREATION, BUT TO SIMPLY WAKE UP TO THE LIFE WE’RE LIVING.”
– John Cage
Learn more about Michael Finnegan at his website.