The Artist's Corner: Meeting Michael Moen
Greetings! Welcome back to The Artist's Corner, New Richmond's most unconventional column.
This week's featured local artist is Michael Moen, a versatile creative and an all-around great guy. I met Mike at the Dunn Bros. Coffeehouse a few weeks back. I was working behind the
counter when he came in for his usual coffee. The cup he brought with him featured his own
crazed illustrations — and when I inquired further about them, it occurred to us that we ought to
have a sit-down and make a column out of it.
We ended up discussing his artwork, the nature of creativity, and George Carlin stand-up
specials for approximately two-and-a-half hours. He also brought along some of his paintings to
Mike's work is unique, colorful and delightfully surrealistic. The first painting he shared with
me features a banjo player and a fiddler in the foreground, with a few dancers having fun in the
back. This may appear as a fairly normal, down-home Americana scene, until you take into
account that the colors of the people are not what one would consider of human complexion. The people in the image are pale white, pink or a pallid blue. Their arms are elongated and pencil-thin, equipped with an ability to bend at odd angles. The room in which the music is taking place is so warm and inclusive that it seemingly reaches out to the viewer, as if saying, "Let's get strange. Come join in on the fun!"
He also produces "papercuts," which is an art form composed solely out of layered, multi-color
papers, assorted in such a way as to produce a vibrant picture. His papercuts are so lively that
one may easily mistake them for not being composed out of paper, but of paint, or perhaps mistake it for a photograph. One papercut picture features a scene with various rustic objects
stranded in a foreign landscape. Kelp has grown all around the objects. Just as one is awed by the intricacy of pointillism (paintings composed of thousands of tiny dots), one is awed by the sight of the kelp, as it is composed out of many hundreds of pieces of paper layered over each other to create an illusion that is impeccably life-like.
Mike especially enjoys observing how other people experience his art. He informs me that
people often have unconscious assumptions or prejudices which they project upon whatever they see. For example, if one puts a number of vibrantly colored fish in a painting, the viewer is apt to believe the painting is of an underwater environment (since logically that is where fish belong).
But in a work of art, must it be so? Mike's work proves very interesting in this aspect. Much of
the time he will insert a few beautiful fish into a landscape which seemingly has nothing to do
with fish or water — it is only people's logical prejudices with fish that colors their perception of
the painting or papercut. It can be said that these abstractions, combined with his ability to create images which delightful disorientate, tend to make people feel like "a fish out of water"
One of the frequent questions which come to my mind when viewing his art is, "where am I?"
and "what is reality?" In the midst of these questions arises the possibility of a new location for
one's being, as well as a new perspective concerning what may constitute reality. Hence, one of the many beautiful aspects of art — it has the ability to make us think differently, and to reveal
solutions as at long last conceivable, and therefore, possible.
Interested in viewing some of these creations for yourself? Stay tuned for Mike Moen's work to
be featured in the Dunn Bros. Coffeehouse, starting (tentatively) Nov. 1 through Jan. 31, 2019.
You may also mark your calendar for all of June 2019, as his work will be featured at the Stillwater Art Guild Gallery, located at 402 N. Main St., in Stillwater.
And now we shall sign off with our creative quote for the week, this one from the great surrealist
painter, Salvador Dali: "Surrealism is destructive; but it destroys only what it considers to be the
shackles limiting our vision."